Fortnite fans have spotted a sneaky Lord of the Rings Easter egg in-game, sparking speculation of a fresh crossover.
The potential tease can be found on one of the Fortnite island's beaches, where a small-scale replica of the Helm's Deep castle can be seen.
Is this a tease of a future collaboration, perhaps timed to coincide with Amazon's upcoming, billion-dollar Lord of the Rings prequel TV show? Or is this developer Epic Games simply having some fun?
For starters, let's look at the Easter egg itself. Epic Games has been slowly building this little castle over the course of the latest season, via subtle map changes over the past couple of months.
Each patch, Epic likes to reward long-term Fortnite fans with small changes to its map, featuring in-jokes and long-running background storylines. (Here, the castle in question is actually the creation of the Rock Kid, whose stone family have popped up around the map since Chapter 1.)
Epic is currently teasing a The Lord of the Rings collaboration on the Island!— Shiina (@ShiinaBR) August 19, 2022
The Rock Kid is building this on the beach right now, and there are A LOT of similarities between this sand castle and a LotR castle!
(Thanks to @koooooomar & @FN_Assist for making me aware of this!) pic.twitter.com/CThplKwCrh
I like to check in with the Rock Family each update and had clocked that the Rock Kid was building this little castle battle scene, bit by bit. But it's only in the latest update - with the destruction to the castle's wall - that fans seems to have worked out what this was all building to.
It certainly looks like Helm's Deep - but does this signify a full-scale Fortnite crossover with Middle-earth? On this, things look a little less likely.
For starters, the Lord of the Rings rights have traditionally been held by Warner Bros, which has notably not released any new DC characters into Fortnite since it began promoting its own crossover game, Multiversus.
Then there's the issue of this week's news that Lord of the Rings and all things Middle-earth were being bought by Embracer. That deal is yet to be finalised, but it's safe to say the video game rights to Tolkien's world are currently up in the air.
Indeed, earlier references to Gandalf arriving in Multiversus have reportedly been scrubbed. Could this mean Epic Games has swooped in instead, gazumping Warner Bros? Or has Gandalf's arrival simply been delayed while new contracts are signed? (Remember: a wizard is always on time.)
Adding fuel to the flames, reliable Fortnite leaker MidaRado has today said that one of three collaborations will release in-game next week. Lord of the Rings is one option, followed by Family Guy (a long-term Epic tease that looks to have been an attempt to divert dataminers), and then Doom.
Of the three - and despite the Helm's Deep castle - Doom seems the most likely. It's currently QuakeCon weekend, Bethesda promotions are ongoing via the Epic Game Store, and Doom is set to reappear in the publisher's Fall Guys. We'll see next week for certain.
Will you support Eurogamer?
We want to make Eurogamer better, and that means better for our readers - not for algorithms. You can help! Become a supporter of Eurogamer and you can view the site completely ad-free, as well as gaining exclusive access to articles, podcasts and conversations that will bring you closer to the team, the stories, and the games we all love. Subscriptions start at £3.99 / $4.99 per month.