The first fruit of the partnership between Fornite-maker Epic Games and Lego is due out this week — along with a pair of other games within a game that expand Fortnite’s horizons considerably.
The hybrid Lego/Fortnite experience is billed as a “survival crafting LEGO adventure” and will debut this Thursday, December 7. Lego Fortnite, which Epic describes as its own live service game, is designed for ages 10 and up and players can probably expect a big multiplayer game world that incorporates building elements of the Lego games.
The new kid-friendly Fortnite experience will “encourage creativity, experimentation and collaboration through play,” which could make for a pretty different experience from the chaotic and zany but tense-by-definition battle royale. The companies aren’t sharing much else about what to expect from gameplay, the map or its mechanics yet beyond a few general teaser images.
Epic and the company synonymous with clicking together fun little bricks first announced their partnership in April of last year. At the time, the companies said they were teaming up to build “a fun place for kids to play in the metaverse” in a long-term collaboration. A year and a half later, the term “metaverse” may have fallen out of vogue — blame Meta’s flopped rebrand for that one — but online multiplayer games, customizable avatars and in-game goods probably haven’t approached peak popularity yet.
Beyond Lego Fortnite, Epic also just announced Rocket Racing, a “supersonic arcade racer” by the team that created Rocket League, and Fortnite Festival, a music game from the makers of Rock Band that lets players perform on stage “with hit music by their favorite artists.” Lego Fortnite might be the star of the show, but Epic is clearly expanding its horizons massively this year, both through partnerships and by building out new games via its recent-ish acquisitions of Rocket League developer Psyonix and Harmonix, the studio behind Rock Band.
In the run-up to the launch of Lego Fortnite, Epic has introduced 1,200 Lego-ified skins in its own game, which just entered a new season (Chapter 5, Season 1) over the weekend. That includes a Lego version of some Fortnite classics like Peely, Raven and the Cuddle Team Leader (the creepy pink bear).
Lego Fortnite won’t be Epic’s first foray into courting young players. Regular Fortnite is kid-friendly, though Epic has found itself in hot water with regulators over how it handles its young player base. Last year, the FTC fined Epic for $520 million after dark pattern designs in its in-game store lured young players to make purchases. The FTC also scrutinized Epic’s handling of young players’ online safety — concerns that prompted Fortnite to add “cabined accounts” that put special restrictions on accounts for players who aren’t old enough to provide digital consent (kids under the age of 13 in the U.S.).
While Fortnite remains popular — though quantifying just how popular can be difficult — the hit battle royale game has plenty of competition these days. On the younger side of its player base, Epic clearly wants to compete with Roblox and Minecraft, two game empires ubiquitous among under-13 gamers that offer open online experiences where kids can play and build worlds together.
By partnering with Lego on a collaborative building game (presumably less of an adult-friendly high octane fight to the death) and rolling out two other alternative gaming experiences, Epic looks to be piecing together a solid foundation for its vast long-term online gaming vision — whether we’re calling it the metaverse or not.