Those who can’t make it out to the desert for Coachella this weekend will have a new way to experience the famous music festival: In the metaverse on Fortnite.
Coachella announced a new activation with the popular video game and its parent company Epic Games on Thursday with the creation of Coachella Island. The result is a new virtual world launching inside of Fortnite on Friday — the first day of this year’s festival — along with mini-games, art installations, festival-themed merch, and virtual recreations of Coachella staples like the concert’s psychedelic Spectra building and the ferris wheel.
Coachella Island is housed in Fortnite’s creative mode, where players can modify and create their own worlds. The hope is that both casual players and professional creators can make their own virtual spaces with Coachella as the backdrop.
As Coachella’s innovation lead Sam Schoonover tells Rolling Stone, making the new Coachella-verse in Fortnite comes from a key question: How can the festival engage with a community all year long outside of its two weekends each April?
“The tagline is the weekend that never ends, and what we’re going to be doing is building a program to work with the creators in the Fortnite creative community to add and continue building and expanding what Coachella is inside Fortnite,” he says. “Games, art, music; we want Coachella to be the place that Fortnite creators want to debut new music and art experiences in collaboration with artists, and just on their own too for their new experiences.”
A partnership with a brand whose main demographic is children isn’t the most obvious choice for a music festival whose crowd skews toward young adults. But Schoonover sees breaking ground in the game as a similar step to expanding the livestream on YouTube, which he attributes as a significant contributor to making Coachella a more global event and booking more international artists.
“Coachella has become more of a worldwide phenomenon than it ever was before because people have this amazing window to it through that live stream,” Schoonover says. “The demographic of Coachella fans online has changed past what the demographic of Coachella attendees are. Fortnite becomes an extension of that in a different way, where it’s bringing that experience to people younger in their lifetimes.”
Fortnite is no stranger to high-profile music events, creating concerts for Travis Scott, Ariana Grande, and J Balvin, among others. Given the time, money, and resources that went into those virtual concerts, Schoonover says not to expect a virtual Coachella event on that sort of scale yet. He admits they’re limited with what they can do on Fortnite’s Creative Mode, but ideally, “We’re going to unlock and introduce a lot of those features over time.” In the meantime, music from Porter Robinson, who’s playing Coachella this weekend, is the soundtrack for Coachella Island.
Last year, Coachella showed off augmented reality (AR) visuals during Flume’s set for its livestream on YouTube. It’s expected that AR will return on the livestream again this year.
Schoonover is ambitious in his view of the future of music festivals, which he says could end up becoming more immersive mixed reality experiences as technology continues to improve. While an AR livestream or video game world aren’t the final step, it’s certainly a step closer.
“I think at some point there are glasses on a festival site, AR glasses,” he says. “That could be 10 years from now, it could be 20 years from now. The way for us as a festival to continue preparing for that, this is still using a lot of the same things. It’s just using cameras instead of glasses and the viewers are at home instead of the festival site, but it’s still getting us a little bit closer to that eventuality.”