Last Saturday, 10 million people attended a DJ set by Marshmello. The concert was hosted by multiplayer online game Fortnite, famed for breaking records and even marriages. Players were told to head to Battle Royal’s Pleasant Park 10 minutes before the set was due to start, where weapons were exchanged for glow sticks, and the bucket-headed EDM star performed on stage between two giant holographic dancing cats.
The multiverse collaboration brings together two enormous fanbases—Fortnite has 125 million players across all platforms, while Marshmello was named the world’s highest-paid DJ in 2017. It was never going to be a demure affair.
Special Marshmello themed outfits—skins, as they’re known in the game—dropped in the Fortnite store a week before. Fortnite even offered an emote (a type of dance) called a Marshwalk. The day the event, Marshmello’s in-game mix was available to stream on Apple Music; for younger players, seeing the full 10 minutes of the DJ’s set would technically be their first ever gig.
This was the first in-game concert of its size, but it’s not the first-time audiences have logged on to watch their favourite acts. Second Life, a virtual reality game developed and launched in 2003, became the first such platform to host a virtual concert in 2007, after the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra played to a sea of players who’d won tickets through an online lottery.
But Marshmello’s Fortnite gig represents a new era for the merging of music and multi-player games. Last year, we saw giants of the gaming industry try and launch their own musical stars, as K/DA—a virtual K-pop girl group from the multiplayer online game League of Legends—became the first virtual act to enter the World Digital Song Sales chart at number one. Riot Games, the developers who created K/DA, have now said they want to create a virtual recording studio for future acts.