Disney has announced a $1.5 billion investment into Epic Games as part of a new partnership to create an "open games and entertainment universe" in Fortnite.
"Our exciting new relationship with Epic Games will bring together Disney's beloved brands and franchises with the hugely popular Fortnite in a transformational new games and entertainment universe," Walt Disney Company CEO Robert A Iger said. "This marks Disney's biggest entry ever into the world of games and offers significant opportunities for growth and expansion. We can't wait for fans to experience the Disney stories and worlds they love in groundbreaking new ways."
Interestingly, the word "metaverse" doesn't appear anywhere in the announcement, but it's clearly there in spirit: Disney said that alongside games, "the new persistent universe will offer a multitude of opportunities for consumers to play, watch, shop and engage with content, characters and stories from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, Avatar and more."
Even Epic CEO Tim Sweeney, a notorious metaverse booster, managed to avoid saying the word out loud.
"Disney was one of the first companies to believe in the potential of bringing their worlds together with ours in Fortnite, and they use Unreal Engine across their portfolio," Sweeney said. "Now we're collaborating on something entirely new to build a persistent, open and interoperable ecosystem that will bring together the Disney and Fortnite communities."
This won't be the first partnership between Disney and Epic. Marvel characters have played a large role in various Fortnite events, and Fortnite made a prominent appearance in the 2019 film Avengers: Endgame. Behind the scenes, Epic's Unreal Engine is used to make games based on Disney properties, as well as an editing and animation tool for film and streaming projects.
But the scale of this deal makes it something else entirely. Disney described the collaboration as a "multiyear project," and while details haven't been revealed it effectively opens the door to all Disney, all the time, in the all-encompassing world of Fortnite. "Players, gamers and fans will be able to create their own stories and experiences, express their fandom in a distinctly Disney way, and share content with each other in ways that they love," Disney said.
The size of Disney's stake in Epic, assuming the deal passes the usual regulatory hurdles, wasn't revealed. Epic Games declined to comment further; I've reached out to Disney for more information and will update if I receive a reply.
Oh wait, now I remember!