Epic Fortnite games make metaverse investment to scale even higher

While the word “metaverse” pops up so often in my inbox now it’s essentially the email equivalent of white noise, when Epic Games has made a specific investment in the metaverse, that’s when you want to start paying attention. Epic is investing in metaverse infrastructure developer Hadean as part of its latest $30 million funding round, and it could have big implications for the company’s future.

Epic Games, creator of Fortnite, is the owner of one of the many video game-based metaverses that already existed before the term became popular, along with other games like Roblox and Minecraft. Unlike the mostly barren, blockchain-based metaverses that made headlines for selling off plots of NFT land a while back, games like Fortnite have thriving ecosystems and massively attended virtual events for their communities.

Now, it looks like Epic wants to scale those events even higher and make sure their metaverse ambitions aren’t limited to the 100-player Battle Royale sum total we usually see from them. Here’s Epic’s VP of Unreal Engine Ecosystem Marc Petit on the investment:

“Hadean’s computing power will provide the infrastructure that is needed as we work to create a scalable metaverse,” Petit said. “The company’s technology complements Epic’s Unreal Engine by enabling massive amounts of concurrent users and unlocking new tools for creators and developers. We are pleased to contribute to the growth of Hadean and look forward to continuing to work together to lay the foundation for the metaverse.”

So while this may directly affect Fortnite, it’s implied that it can be used to expand Unreal technology more generally, as games using Epic’s engine want large-scale community events and more and more players at once. .

You can see the current issue within Fortnite. Epic can have a live event on the Fortnite map, a Travis Scott concert, or a scripted monster battle, but it must be split into instances of just 100 players each, the maximum map. In the quest for greater scalability, Epic believes Hadean’s “open platform for distributed cloud computing” can be part of the solution. And I have every confidence that Epic plans to expand Fortnite dramatically beyond its battle royale focus in the future, building a more complete metaverse-like world for players to exist in, though they have yet to announce specific plans for that. This technology may be part of how it comes together, in the long run.

While Hadean has worked with web3 metaverses and uses blockchain technology in part, the full extent of the role blockchain may play in all of this for Epic is unclear. While Minecraft has banned NFTs and Steam doesn’t allow blockchain games, Epic Games has been a bit more open to the concept, allowing at least some web3 games on the Epic Game Store. But it doesn’t seem like this technology represents a massive shift to relying on blockchain or anything like the introduction of NFTs to the Fortnite ecosystem. The main point here is to achieve scalability beyond what Fortnite and the Unreal Engine as a whole can do now.

“Today’s virtual worlds are a limited experience: small-scale, isolated and insecure,” says Craig Beddis, co-founder and CEO of Hadean. And you’re right, given the limits we see on the number of players, which means that large virtual events need to be broken up into hundreds of thousands of instances for everyone to experience the same thing. This may be the way to change that, but it’s unclear how long it will take to see the fruits of this investment specifically for Epic.

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