Disney takes $1.5 billion stake in Epic Games to create ‘entertainment universe’ with Fortnite

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LEGO Fortnite is only two months old, but Epic Games has already come out with an even bigger collaboration.

Epic and Disney announced today that the companies will partner on an “all-new gaming and entertainment universe” that will bring characters from Disney’s vast catalog to life through a tie-in with Fortnite. Disney will take a $1.5 billion stake in Epic Games as part of the deal.

The scope of the project seems enormous, to say the least. In a press release, the companies described the upcoming project as “an entirely new universe of games and entertainment” offering players a way to “play, watch, shop and interact with” Disney characters and storylines, Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar and others. The collaboration will use Epic’s Unreal Engine and plans to be “interoperable” with Fortnite, tying into Epic’s existing online social gaming infrastructure.

“This marks Disney’s largest entry into the world of gaming and provides significant opportunities for growth and expansion,” Disney CEO Bob Iger said of the partnership, which apparently grew out of the past by Epic in a Disney Accelerator program in 2017.

The collaboration with Disney is a surprise, but fits perfectly into Epic’s current roadmap. The company has significantly expanded the scope of Fortnite in recent years, and what started as a popular battle royale game (technically a player versus environment game before that) has exploded into a hub of user-generated game modes and brand collaborations.

“Disney was one of the first companies to believe in the potential to bridge their worlds with ours by Fortnite, and they use Unreal Engine across their entire portfolio,” Epic CEO Tim Sweeney said in the announcement. “Now we’re collaborating on something entirely new to build a persistent, open, interoperable ecosystem that will bring the Disney and Fortnite communities together.”

In December, Epic further signaled its commitment to expanding Fortnite beyond its roots as a multiplayer shooter with the addition of Lego Fortnite, Rocket Racing and Fortnite Festival – three full standalone games in completely different genres than the original Fortnite. On Disney’s side, a deep partnership and significant investment will open up Epic’s refined toolbox for creating online social worlds where many people can build and play together at the same time.

Epic’s lucrative Fortnite store, where players can purchase in-game outfits called skins as well as dance moves and emotes, also provides valuable infrastructure for what could be a limitless digital mall filled with character-inspired merchandise beloved Disney. Disney and Epic are also already working closely on brand collaborations within Fortnite and many popular characters from Star Wars and the Marvel Cinematic Universe are available as collectible skins in the game. The companies also co-produced previously an in-game live event known as Fortnite Nexus War in 2020.

The result of Disney’s surprise investment doesn’t yet have a release date beyond “soon(ish),” but that at least implies that gamers won’t have to wait several years for this ambitious collaboration.

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