Fortnite’s new non-violent Party Royale mode held its first big event, a concert of three different EDM musicians. It was more modest than in-game events we’ve seen recently, but, like so many Fortnite events I feel too old for, its exuberant charm won me over.
Dillon Francis, Steve Aoki, and Deadmau5 played short sets at the Party Royale island’s Main Stage, a jagged floating screen set over panels on a beach. There were some technical glitches—some musicians’ mics didn’t work right away, and my sound cut in and out periodically—but overall the event worked like you’d expect: a mess of Fortnite players in weird costumes, dancing and bouncing and trying to pet my dog.
I’ve never really heard of any of the performers—as I said in my Marshmello writeup last year, I’m still surprised EDM performers in weird masks aren’t a Good Place joke. But Fortnite’s introduced me to lots of new things, in this case some pretty chill music I wouldn’t have checked out otherwise. My colleague Ari, a Fortnite noob who partied up free v bucks codes with me, told me over Slack that “Deadmau5 is genuinely top five for me.” The musicians appeared on the screen in front of their turntables, occasionally encouraging players to emote or use Party Royale’s paint launchers and crash pads. Dillon Francis shouted out streamers Tfue and Dr. Lupo. Ari told me of Deadmau5’s set, “If the audio were perfect, I’d be losing my shit” and told me he imagined it was like a sold-out concert in Brooklyn he hadn’t been able to attend. At one point Deadmau5 showed his face, which he apparently doesn’t do often, and played what Ari said were his greatest hits. (Ari also DMed me “Riley this fucking drooooop omg” at a moment that I guess was a good EDM moment, so there’s that for you.)
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On the technical level, the Party Royale mode didn’t rival the scale of the recent Travis Scott event, which included massive holograms and jumping between dimensions. At the Main Stage, large holograms danced and the panels that made up the landscape changed to reflect the video on the screen. At times, colored rain fell from the sky, or ribbons of light drifted by. It felt more like the size of the Marshmello concert; rather than taking the world over, the concert fit nicely inside it. It wasn’t as much sensory overload as Travis Scott, or as dramatic as last year’s Star Wars premiere, but it really felt like being at a concert, a feeling a lot of us are probably missing these days.
Party Royale’s limitations on building meant there weren’t sky-high platforms to watch from, but there also weren’t builds in the way of the action. The smaller server size meant less players than previous events, which made the concert feel less grand but also more intimate. The whole thing just made sense in Party Royale. Events like this seem to clearly be one of the things the mode is for, and the smaller scale and the way the event took place in a part of the map specifically designed for concerts made it feel less like Epic saying “Look what we can do” with its metaverse ambitions and more just like a thing that would happen in a place you’re hanging out in. Even though I wasn’t familiar with the music, I had a good time. The show made Fortnite feel like a world, which, while stuck inside these days, it pretty much is. Ari said, “It’s really cool seeing all of these other people, or avatars rather, and knowing that they’re all probably thinking the same thing right now: that this is an awesome event, but I wish I were there in person, and I can’t wait to party IRL.” He added, however, “This event, in its own small sad way, has made me feel slightly less alone.”