Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney revealed that Epic, later this year, will release the Unreal Editor for Fortnite. “The complete features you’ve seen [in Unreal Engine] open so anyone can create high quality game content and code and deploy it to Fortnite without having to make a deal with us,” says Sweeney in a new interview with FastCompany. “It’s open to everyone.”
What exactly that means can probably be summed up as Roblox-ifying Fortnite’s creator ecosystem. Sweeney is a huge fan of how Roblox operates, and despite having a lower media profile than Fortnite, it is one of the only real ‘metaverse’ competitors out there– and its appeal is almost entirely in user-created content.
“Our goal is to make it a first-class outlet for reaching consumers, just as you can look to mobile app stores and consoles and Steam as ways to reach users. Now people are also looking at Fortnite and Roblox.” , as Along with that, we are building an economy, and it will support creators really building businesses around their work and profiting more and more from the commerce that comes from people playing their content.”
Whether Fortnite will take a different approach to renumbering creators is the interesting part. Sweeney is absolutely outspoken about gatekeepers who charge hefty fees and has certainly put his money where it is (Epic is involved in several lawsuits against tech giants, all involving antitrust issues over distribution channels). The big criticism of Roblox that really holds up is that it financially exploits the creators, keeping a large chunk of the profits from their work. So a low commission, or even no commission at all, seems like an open goal for Fortnite.
Sweeney really believes in the metaverse, and don’t take my word for it. Last year, a court ruled that he really meant all the things he said about it in the Epic v. Apple antitrust case: “The Court generally considers that Mr. Sweeney’s personal beliefs about the future of the metaverse are sincerely held.” When Sweeney is talking about you ordering a Gucci top after examining it in AR, he means it.
“It’s a shame the metaverse is so excited now,” says Sweeney. “There’s all this gas and blockchain and that, but you add up the users and we find [there are] around 600 million people playing metaverse types of experiences socially with their friends.”
Sweeney’s argument is, essentially, that people are misunderstanding the metaverse. He talks about this in terms of a long, ongoing project that is made up of many different strands and open to all companies, with no gatekeepers – but he is aware of the fact that it will be a struggle to realize this.
“That’s the big focus of antitrust efforts around the world – ensuring that every market participant can compete fairly in their market without monopoly ties,” says Sweeney. “This will pave the way for the open metaverse. Without that, even if you built the open metaverse, Apple and Google would still end up dictating all the terms to everyone.
“I think it’s not just the main economic issue and the world economy right now, I also think you can’t have a free world if you don’t have freedom online and freedom on platforms. If you have two corporations controlling all world discourse and revering governments – especially oppressive governments – to act as agents on their behalf and spy on users and sources of opinion and dissent, so I think the world you end up in isn’t the one we’d like to live in. It would be a horrible place. So I think it’s a first-class social issue that we don’t let any one of these giant mega-corporations control online commerce, speech and control the metaverse. Really.”
The full interview is worth reading: You can say what you want about Sweeney, but he’s more direct than most big tech CEOs and he clearly believes what he’s saying. He’s also honest about the fact that certain ideas, like universal ownership of avatars, might be awesome, but they’re still unfinished dreams.
“Unfortunately now [crypto is] packed with a lot of speculation and a lot of outright scams,” says Sweeney. “And a lot of efforts are fraudulent by design because what they’re pursuing doesn’t achieve a plausible version of the stated goals. You know, like the blockchain avatar economies, for example, there are a lot of companies that aspire to make avatars that you own universally, but none of them that I’ve come across, not a single one, have really made any effort to promote actual adoption of these. avatars by any real games or ecosystems. They just want to build this thing and sell avatars to people, but they’re completely useless in practice.
“I firmly believe that there will be multi-trillion dollar savings around digital goods in the future. But I think a lot of the cryptocurrency effort, especially as it relates to the gaming space, doesn’t address this utility issue. you digital goods that you can’t do anything about except say you own it. You can cryptographically prove you own it, but who cares?”
It’s a good point, because no game company has yet come up with a good answer to this question. Despite this, Sweeney thinks the technology will be something of a “backbone” in the future, although it’s not perceived as it is today – which is probably why the Epic Games Store “will welcome games that make use of blockchain technology.