Thanks to its recent launch on next-gen consoles, Fortnite already was beginning to look less like a run-of-the-mill, free-to-play battle royale fracas and more like a $70 AAA game. Epic Games had increasingly been inching Agent Jonesy’s narrative mission closer and closer to the spotlight, just at the time when seeing his story unfold onscreen gained a graphical boost to make all those cutscene cinematics worth watching…and that was before the Russo brothers got involved.
Yep, Anthony and Joe Russo, the directors of Avengers: Endgame, and a slew of other MCU movie standouts are now officially part of the creative wizardry behind Fortnite’s expanding push beyond its addictive (but decidedly non-narrative) player-versus-player action. A day after Fortnite unveiled its cinematic trailer to set up events for the game’s new Chapter 2, Season 6 storyline, Variety reported that the Russos had a big hand in directing the clip.
See for yourself if you can detect the Russos’ creative fingerprints:
Fortnite brought the Russos in to team with Epic chief creative officer Donald Mustard, and they co-directed the Season 6 cinematic trailer with the kind of pensive flourish that’s easily recognizable for MCU fans who watched Thanos stalk the Asgardian corridors of the Statesman at the beginning of Infinity War. They’re evidently big fans of Fortnite’s new focus on story: “Fortnite holds a unique place in pop culture, and we think Donald Mustard is a visionary storyteller who continues to take us all into unexplored territory,” the Russos said in a statement to Variety.
Fortnite has reportedly been building toward its recent emphasis on a bigger-picture arc from the very beginning. Once players got hooked on the game’s addictive battle royale formula, expanding Fortnite’s game world into a bigger phenomenon that extends deep into pop culture — from digital concerts to timed events to all those Marvel, Star Wars, and other big-screen character crossovers — was as inevitable as Thanos’ fateful snap.
“Our approach since the start, or our goal, has been how do we create truly mass-scale, broad-based entertainment?” Mustard recently told The Verge. “And I always think that the way to do that is through narrative conceit. It might not necessarily be story in the traditional character-driven, three-act structure. But the conceits, and the why of what’s going on and what’s happening, are critical for people to be emotionally attached to an entertainment experience. That’s our guiding principle and philosophy. Fortnite has a story because all great entertainment has a good story.”
Even so, players’ involvement in helping tell that story is only just beginning. The start of Season 6 launched alongside Fortnite’s first-ever single-player mission as part of the package, and it’s serves a larger purpose in helping players identify with the game world itself — not Agent Jonesy or anyone else — as the key protagonist.
“The world of Fortnite is the main character,” Mustard explained. “I will give that an arc, I will give that a journey, and if we do it right, what would happen? Would you become invested in that character? That’s why when stuff happened, like a comet came, I wanted it to affect the character…The story feels like it’s being shaped in the moment, and it’s being shaped by the way you’re reacting to the story as it’s being told to you.”
Believe it or not, Mustard even has a totally logical-sounding rationale for all those lucrative franchise tie-ins, events, and Battle Pass add-ons that let players squad up with The Mandalorian, join forces with Sarah Connor, soar with Iron Man, and, in the latest addition, nock an arrow with Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft. Big events on Fortnite’s island keep merging realities across time, space, and (apparently) the entire entertainment universe — and the island’s where all those "overlapping realities," as he put it, converge at one point and come to a head.
The game's larger universe is rapidly expanding far beyond the island — though Fortnite’s on-the-ground action will always be the key way for players to stay invested in the emerging story. Drop in on Primal, the game’s prehistoric new Season 6 overhaul, to get geared up for the fantastical places Fortnite might take us next.