Current global situations have heavily changed how people watch movies, and could likely continue to do so even in the coming months. Companies have responded with several ways to adapt, including releasing films straight to streaming services, as well as delaying them for further theatrical releases later this year or next year. Perhaps the strangest distribution permutation has come through the popular video game Fortnite.
The game recently hosted the newest trailer for Christopher Nolan’s upcoming film Tenet, and later this year, players will be able to view one of the prolific director’s films within the game for free. This development is extremely unprecedented, changing the game both for Fortnite’s arguably decreasing popularity, as well as the potential distribution models for movies. Even as more states and countries begin to try returning to a state of normalcy, this unorthodox method of streaming could quickly become the new normal.
The film will be aired through “Party Island,” which is a relatively new feature to Fortnite. This region, which is completely battle and action-free, allows players to relax and congregate together. This includes activities such as racing, skydiving, and other non-lethal fun. Something else that has been spawned by current events has been virtual concerts, with Travis Scott having such a venue within the game. Now, movie trailers have joined the fray of gimmicks to enjoy through the Party Island feature, with full-length movies soon to join them.
It’s worth noting that the Nolan movie is not necessarily going to be Tenet. In fact, given that the film is described as one of the director’s most iconic, it’ll likely be the now-classic movie Inception. As acclaimed as that film is, it’s still extremely odd to put it or any other movie in this format out of seemingly nowhere. It does, however, suggest that this is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what’s planned for movies on Party Island. Some of the last decade’s other greatest movie hits could also find their way onto the island, and possibly even be joined by newer releases.
As mentioned, this film will be aired for free for the game’s players, but it’s possible that future releases in this type of venue could monetize the format. This could include Tenet itself, which is likely being primed to air in the game anyways. The free airing of what is likely Inception is likely possible due to the film having premiered in theaters years ago, but new releases such as Tenet could also make their way to Party Island if in-game ticket purchases are added. Another way could be that season passes for online games could come with similar perks. Even if they lack features like Party Island, airings could be granted through digital downloads of the films while they are still in theaters. Another possibility would be the ability to purchase tickets for one-time airings in games, allowing players to still have an impact on a film’s box office intake while viewing a movie from the comfort of home. Studios could also use this format to possibly get a few extra bucks out of films that underperformed in the theaters, similar to movies currently going to VUDU and other streaming services.
Though planning for another event such as the current one is certainly infeasible, there are other, far more common reasons that watching a movie at the theater might not be a possibility. Friends and family who live far away but still want to “watch a movie together” could do so through this type of synchronized video game streaming. It would even allow viewers from different countries to enjoy a synchronized release date, further incentivizing watching a movie through the game as opposed to the theater. Essentially, the option would become a virtual equivalent to watching movies in the park of big cities. This would especially be useful for areas that would still be under lockdown or heavy social distancing in the next few months.
Other games that have implemented features like this include Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Due to the inability to do so in real life, many players have actually hosted in-game conventions and cosplay contests to ease their boredom and foster a sense of online community. The difference is that none of these events are officially sponsored or hosted by Nintendo, whereas Epic themselves are putting the Nolan film and trailer in Fortnite. It remains to be seen exactly how far Fortnite will take the concept, but as movie theaters continue to potentially become things of the past, video games will certainly become more of a competitive venue.
Even as more states and countries try returning to a state of normalcy, this unorthodox method of streaming could quickly become the new normal.