Fortnite is due to debut its next season tomorrow, themed around heroes from Marvel comics.
It's great news for Fortnite fans who want to dress up as Thor, Groot or Galactus. But, for others, it's yet more evidence the game is becoming one big marketing bonanza.
Fortnite has become the place to be seen for big brands such as Marvel, Netflix and Star Wars. Its current water-themed season guest-starred DC Comics' Aquaman and featured a Christopher Nolan-approved Tenet Easter egg.
All this has been going on for a while, but next season looks like it will host the first entire battle pass focused on a particular brand. This is something some fans feel uncomfortable with - and have suggested it will detract too much from Fortnite's own ongoing characters and storyline. (Yes, Fortnite has a storyline.)
Not so, Fortnite boss Donald Mustard has suggested. Writing on Twitter, Mustard said: "It's ALL connected. Pay attention. The story is about to kick into overdrive..."
It?s ALL connected. Pay attention. The story is about to kick into overdrive...— Donald Mustard (@DonaldMustard) August 21, 2020
This week, daily comic book pages have appeared in-game, accessible from the current season's lobby. These detail the arrival of Marvel's Thor and Galactus within the world of Fortnite - drawn in by its mysterious "Zero" point of energy.
As new pages have released each day, changes have become visible on Fortnite's map. A rift in the sky appeared as the characters entered Fortnite's world, and now Thor's hammer can be found in a crater, dropped by the character in-comic.
The story being told here, it seems, is that the island's power is pulling in characters from across different media (a neat metaphor for the brand power of Fortnite itself). In this case, it is Thor and Galactus - and the battle pass of other Marvel heroes set to follow. The longer Thor stays on the island, the harder it is for him to remember his purpose there and return home (which fans say all ties back into references left by the dimension-jumping Visitor character in audio logs prior to the game's Black Hole event).
There's a neat bit of symmetry in Fortnite's next season (its fourth of Chapter 2) being superhero-themed. The original Fortnite season four was also superhero-themed, although back then without any licensed characters. Fortnite's story has often tried to explain the game's matches and in-game changes as points in a time-loop. The coming season is another nod to that.
And as Fortnite continues its path to becoming a "metaverse", this season may lay more plot groundwork for the game becoming home to even more crossovers in the future.
Fortnite's Marvel season is due to launch tomorrow on all platforms except iOS, which will remain on its current update until Epic and Apple finish their legal wranglings.