The idea isn’t much of a stretch.
While “Fortnite” began life as a relatively mundane game it continues to evolve, first by adding a battle royale mode, and then by leaning on the game’s massive install base to turn the title into something more akin to a social platform that can host concerts, tell stories, and inspire creativity.
Sweeney points to the game’s popularity as a “mass-market streaming phenomenon,” the moment when “Fortnite” player teamed up with musician Drake in-game, and when the game played host to about 10 million people in a live, in-game Marshmello concert.
“We feel the game industry is changing in some major ways,” he said. “‘Fortnite’ is a harbinger of things to come. It’s a massive number of people all playing together, interacting together, not just playing but socializing.
“In many ways ‘Fortnite’ is like a social network. People are just in the game with strangers, they’re playing with friends and using ‘Fortnite’ as a foundation to communicate.”
Flush with a relatively recent $1.25 billion investment from a half-dozen investment firms and the steady flow of cash from both “Fortnite” and Epic Game’s Unreal game engine, Sweeney has big plans for the company.
“We feel now is the time and we have very large ambitions,” he said. “Even with our game engine, our business with the Epic Game Store, we’re still nowhere near the size of Google or Facebook. We really aspire to be that level of a supplier to the developers of the world.
“When you line-up ‘Fortnite’ with the other things we’re doing we are a business very well positioned to do that.”
With more than 7.5 million installs of the Unreal engine — which is used for game creation, movie special effects, and design — Sweeney said the company plans to “pour a lot of resources” back into expanding the Unreal Engine team.
Currently, most of the company’s more than 1,000 employees are working on “Fortnite” development, though Sweeney said that Epic is also “entertaining some experimental projects.”
One of the big pushes the company seems focused on lately is the expansion of its own game story, a move that was built off of Epic’s game launcher and massive install base for “Fortnite.”
While the company received some backlash surrounding its use of exclusives in the store, during a talk at the Game Developers Conference, it said that exclusives weren’t part of the long-term plans for the store. Epic also announced at the show that Humble Bundle would soon be selling all of the games sold on the Epic Game store, whether it was exclusive to the store or not.
Sweeney pushed back at the notion that Epic’s Game Store was bad for the game industry or competition.
He said that the store is simply a natural extension of Epic’s long-held philosophy of support game developers.
“We are a game developer ourselves and we built everything we need for our games,” he said. “We share everything we built including our game engine. Over time what we have needed has evolved. The Epic Online Service — which powers ‘Fortnite’s” almost 250 million players, friends lists, matchmaking, storage — and the Epic Game Store began as a means for us to distribute the Unreal Engine, ‘Paragon,’ and connect with our customers.
“Now thanks to ‘Fortnite’ we have a huge economy of scale and we’re opening that up to all developers. It’s just another tool.”