Ariana Grande’s Fortnite concert wasn’t the fanfest I expected, but a sign of the future of the game

The first half of the Fortnite Ariana Grande Rift Tour concert does not include music by Ariana Grande.

The Rift Tour begins when you’re sucked into a huge rift and see what Grande’s sleeping body looks like. From there, you’re transported to a series of mini-games about pop hits from other artists like Sia, Juice WRLD, and DJ Marshmello. What does all of this have to do with Ariana Grande, you ask? The answer is: nothing. As you finally get to a production starring Ms. Grande and six of her biggest hits, it’s an odd journey to get there.

As an Arianator, I expected the Ariana Grande Fortnite Rift Tour to be the pinnacle of musical performance in the game; a moment when a global superstar enters a game world and takes it over entirely. And while Grande’s personal touch is sprinkled throughout the Rift Tour – with a moment that speaks of global unity and a touching tribute to the late Mac Miller – I was still in need.

Maybe my stan status skewed my experience, which is undoubtedly a show combining the power of Epic Game’s Unreal engine, Fortnite legacy, and Ariana Grande’s star status. The Arianators hanging out during our livestream felt looked down upon: some thought Grande would sing live, others felt it was too short, while still others were confused by the intro without Grande. But maybe Fortnite fans will leave the experience wanting more experiences like this, which Epic Games brand chief Phil Rampulla promised me on a Zoom call is in the future of Fortnite.

This great touch

Ariana Grande Fortnite

(Image credit: Epic Games)

After several minutes of pop hits that are not Ariana Grande’s, the screen goes black. Dozens, maybe hundreds of Fortnite players are standing or kneeling in this void – a random player (or NPC, it’s unclear) is helping my downcast character. I am given a chance to help the person next to me. After a few moments, stars spring from each of us and float across the sky in a message of camaraderie and inclusiveness – two things Grande frequently preaches on social media, the stage and beyond. “It was a starting point for us,” Rampulla tells me when I ask about the moving moment. “Especially last year we know we gave so much time and you know, the escape or the connection for people all over the world… it was a tribute to our fans and our communities.”

After the convivial moment, Ariana’s voice erupts in the opening notes of “Raindrops (An Angel Cried),” which fans will know how she opened her 2019 Sweetener Tour. The sound of barking dogs echoes for a moment – clearly a nod to her 10 rescue animals – before avatar Ariana launches into “7 Rings”. Like Travis Scott’s astronomical performance, the Rift Tour simply plays album versions of Grande’s hits; there are no live vocals or new recordings. Despite that, these songs are still bops, so I bounce back to the music with reckless abandon.

Then all of a sudden I’m in a bubble, floating alongside a Great Winged Wing as “be alright” (an uplifting song about challenges) plays. The prompts let me focus on Grande as she dives into the pastel sky, but soon after my bubble bursts and I ride a sparkling booty unicorn, trying to navigate my character through rainbow rings. heaven as one of Grande’s new love songs, ‘REM’ plays. A giant Grande appears among the clouds, lazily swinging on a crystal swing like an ethereal Queen of the Middle.

Ariana Grande Fortnite

(Image credit: Epic Games)

It’s all quite relaxing, but it’s when the notes of ‘The Way’ start that I feel a lump in my throat. The song stars the late Mac Miller, who Grande used to hang out with, and the inclusion of one of her songs appears to be a choice made specifically by her. As soon as Grande begins to climb a giant Greek-inspired staircase, it’s clear that it’s meant to represent a staircase to heaven. Players can follow Ariana’s ascent by walking up the stairs flanking her, with the occasional portal door spitting at you on an upside-down Escher-esque staircase. The beautiful moments of the Rift Tour are like this – it feels like Ariana is reaching out to you and letting you in for a little while.

By the time the final song begins (the eponymous hit from her latest album, Positions), it’s clear that there are a myriad of attempts to combine Grande’s pop star personality and more accessible personal moments with the power of Fortnite. But for some reason it just doesn’t click for me as an Ariana fan.

A flaw appears

Ariana Grande Fortnite

(Image credit: Epic Games)

I hate being the type to take media and say “it would be better if it was [blank] way. ”But with rumors suggesting Lady Gaga is set to make an appearance in Fortnite, I can’t help but think that the Rift Tour – with its alien themes and its“ Storm King ”boss battle – feels more apt. for the eccentric and sometimes esoteric Gaga rather than the angelic and sweet Grande.

While Travis Scott’s astronomical event made it look like Scott had opened the door to Fortnite and made him everyone in the game for almost nine minutes, Ariana Grande’s Rift Tour makes it look like the two Media goliaths exist simultaneously – sometimes in harmony and other times in discord. While Ariana Grande’s ethereal and angelic qualities are captured in her performance, too much of the experience feels like Epic is trying to make the Rift Tour more like the interactive Galactus event, and therefore less over the top. Big.

The entire first half of the event doesn’t include his music (Rampulla tells me the team was “looking for a bit of a medley out there”) and focuses on a series of disparate mini-games that only feel tangentially related to the current Fortnite season. According to Rampulla, the team had imagined 10 or 12 of these mini-worlds, “so there is still a lot more on the table that we will try to bring back in the future.” But it’s hard to find a common thread between the first part of the Tour and Grande’s performance – she doesn’t fight the Storm King by your side with her giant hammer, or bounce around Cuddle World with one of her dogs. in tow.

Maybe Grande didn’t want to take over Fortnite like Travis Scott, and instead wanted her moment to feel more like a duet than a solo. If she wanted a solo, however, it looks like Epic would have allowed it. “We are definitely an open door when it comes to partner intellectual property and branding and what they stand for… it’s your creation. You have full license to dictate how that looks and manifests in the world of. Fortnite, ”Rampulla said. “It was a highly iterative, highly collaborative process of just scaling up each idea. We throw something over the fence and they say ‘that’s cool, add to it’ … it was just going- back and forth like a ping pong match it was really super fun. ” Maybe the Fortnite / Ariana Grande collaboration is an example of a time when too much iteration leads to confusion – or maybe I’m too hard on the Rift Tour.

The epic future

Ariana Grande Fortnite

(Image credit: Epic Games)

Stan’s status aside, the Rift Tour could very well be more of a sign of what Epic and Fortnite are capable of rather than a Grande-centric show. While it looks like the interactive moments of the Rift Tour are a natural progression of the more passive astronomical event, Rampulla says the former won’t necessarily be the model for Fortnite in-game events in the future. Despite this, he assures me that “interactivity and connection is something that we will always try to promote”.

Epic Games has talked a lot about Fortnite becoming a metaverse – where Fortnite is evolving into something beyond a game, into a platform capable of delivering connective social experiences. In fact, the blog post announcing Ariana’s debut in the Rift Tour literally states that “Ariana Grande is entering the Metaverse as the headliner” of the event. With a superstar like Ariana just being a part of an event like this, it becomes something much bigger, a mix of platforming and popular culture, which is clearly a sign of what to expect. from Epic’s service.

I ask if music – such an easy form of media to integrate into Fortnite – is the way to go, or if the team plans to get bigger and bolder with more events related to other forms of entertainment. “From the world of sports to movies, to music, stand-up comedy, poetry – you name it, I think Fortnite should exist in concert with these things and improve and expand them,” Rampulla says with enthusiasm. “We won’t replace concerts anytime soon, we will never replace movies. That’s not what we’re here for. We’re here to bring these things to life in a way you can’t do anywhere else. .We ‘hope everyone starts to think of Fortnite as a place like’ yes I’m going on tour ‘or’ I’m going to premiere this movie, I’m going to do it where I want to go, how. I want to do it.’ But I also have the opportunity to do something in Fortnite that I can’t do in the real world. ”He issues an“ open invitation to creators and thinkers around the world ”before promising that Epic and Fortnite will continue to do so. push the limits.

So, Kanye’s new Fortnite album, when?

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