The Walt Disney Corporation has just put a lot of money into Epic Games, all to make a new universe. Disney announced today that it’s purchased a $1.5 billion stake in Epic, with the latter working on a “new games and entertainment universe” for the former.
The announcement from Disney says it will be a multiyear project, for a new persistent universe that will be a “world class” games experience and also interoperate with Epic’s ever-popular pop-culture mash-up machine, Fortnite. This new universe will have opportunities for people to “play, watch, shop and engage” with the likes of many of Disney’s franchises. From classic Disney and Pixar to Marvel, Star Wars, and somehow James Cameron’s Avatar, it’s all here.
All of it will be powered by the Unreal Engine. And the deal is, of course, subject to regulatory approvals.
“Our exciting new relationship with Epic Games will bring together Disney’s beloved brands and franchises with the hugely popular Fortnite in a transformational new games and entertainment universe,” said Disney CEO Bob Iger in the release. “This marks Disney’s biggest entry ever into the world of games and offers significant opportunities for growth and expansion. We can’t wait for fans to experience the Disney stories and worlds they love in groundbreaking new ways.”
A whole new world?
It’s not the first time that Disney and Epic, or even Fortnite, have crossed paths. Epic’s battle royale has featured skins, weapons, and events for several Disney properties through Marvel and Star Wars.
Heck, Disney’s own video game efforts feel like they’ve been steadily ramping up. Disney Dreamlight Valley has been capturing its own mindshare within the life sim genre, and games ranging from Disney Illusion Island to Marvel Snap and Jedi: Survivor have all been notable in their own rights.
Epic itself has been in a peculiar position. The company’s been steadily churning out Fortnite, and recently launched increased efforts for a games ecosystem within Fortnite, through Festival and Rocket Racing. The tech giant also cut 16% of its workforce last year, amid the wave layoffs we’ve seen throughout the games industry. And the Fortnite maker also fought long legal campaigns with Google and Apple over their app store practices.
“Disney was one of the first companies to believe in the potential of bringing their worlds together with ours in Fortnite, and they use Unreal Engine across their portfolio,” said Epic CEO Tim Sweeny in today’s announcement. “Now we’re collaborating on something entirely new to build a persistent, open and interoperable ecosystem that will bring together the Disney and Fortnite communities.”
A partnership with Disney lines up. But $1.5 billion is a huge investment. And a new persistent universe, tied into Fortnite? I’m curious what this ends up looking like, and whether this is a sign of where games are headed in the next five or so years.