From 6 to 8 August Ariana Grande, the singer most followed on Instagram by over 258 million followers, held some stages of her Rift Tour. Since I don’t like his sugary pop, I wouldn’t tell you about it if it weren’t for the fact that the whole thing took place within Fortnite. What I attended was not the simulacrum of a concert because I didn’t sit in a meadow in front of a stage listening to her sing (I never would have done it). It was more of a multimedia experience, designed for the digital universe of Epic Games, from which a new model for the entertainment of the future could take shape.
Five events that you could attend depending on your geographical location, hoping for the tightness of the servers. In the waiting area, a place not well defined in space, probably connected to the next season of Fortnite, around me the other participants jumped and danced, all sprinkling with colorful skins in the latest fashion. Many had already purchased the merchandising of the event, as is done at real concerts, such as the decorative Piggy Smallz back, the sugar sail hang glider, the Destroyer Pickaxe 7 Rings, the floating Unicorn Emote (a particular dance step to be performed by your avatar). The real fans you recognized immediately: they were the ones who had taken the costume of Ariana Grande, at the modest price of 2,000 V-Bucks (a package of 2,800 V-Bucks costs $ 19.99).
After the X hour, a dimensional crack opened and we were catapulted into a purplish time tunnel that resulted in a water slide with changing pastel colors on which to surf, collecting objects and colored bubbles.
Then, equipped with an umbrella with ears, we landed on a strange fuchsia world that turned out to be a giant teddy bear, on which to bounce and twirl freely, in clouds in the shape of broken hearts.
Suddenly everything turned black and a biplane came to retrieve me to take me into the dark realm of the Storm King, the classic monster to fight, scoring as many points as possible.
At the end, the lifeless players remained on the battlefield. Luckily with the E button it was possible to help them get back on track. The flames of their vital spirit rose to heaven and brought down the long-awaited pop star. As she sings on a blue sphere, surrounded by a starry sky, Ariana Grande’s golden hand touches me and surrounds me with golden light.
After a while I find myself, together with all the other participants, on an aqueous surface. Pink spheres materialize and we can jump on it. New change of scene. Now we are inside soap bubbles and Ariana twiggles equipped with crystal wings. We just have to follow it. Then the bubble bursts and as I fall from the sky, a small unicorn with a rainbow tail comes to my aid, becoming my means of transport in clouds with the appearance of reassuring animals. On the horizon Ariana sings swaying on a giant swing.
After a few seconds the sky shatters and we are catapulted into an Escherian world made of labyrinthine stairs, in a Hellenic setting. Ariana Grande is a gigantic and luminous goddess who holds a diamond hammer and begins to ascend to the highest point of the structure. Everyone tries to reach it, quickly taking stairways that lead to space portals that act as elevators. But it’s all in vain.
Reached the top, the goddess spins her luminous hammer and hurls it towards the heavenly vault that falls apart. Now we are in a night scenery, illuminated by the lights of the Northern Lights where Ariana sings until she decides to use her hammer to shatter her world and disappear.
All this in ten minutes of fireworks display that does not give breath because it was designed to be pretty dazzly fast. There remains the wonder of what can be the embryo of a new format that has little to do with the evolution of concerts. Unlike previous events, such as those of Trevis Scott and Marshmello, here the music is reduced to the soundtrack of a series of activities to be performed, in videogame style. It is the audio-video-graphic performance that is at the center, together with the spectator who has an active role, even if within the limits of what is defined by the programmers (he can immerse himself in the work by moving in any direction, jumping, twiping, dancing).
At the moment, these andtwenty have two very clear marketing goals. They allow Epic Games to show the potential of its Unreal Engine graphics engine and to reach new audiences of non-players. They allow partner companies, in this case Ariana Grande and Universal Music Group, to strengthen the brand, enriching it with meanings and giving it the strength of myth, at the same time intercepting new listeners. Obviously there is also an immediately economic return, for now not very relevant compared to the production effort, deriving from the sale of digital objects.
But the thing that seems most interesting to me is that this type of event is the prototype of what could become a new media format in which elements of live performance (theatrical and musical), videogames and social networks can converge (the social aspect is still absent). A product to be invented that could become a recurring element and of strong attraction in the three-dimensional digital worlds and in the next metamorphosis of the Internet, the metaverse. It follows that the company that will first understand which format will work in these new worlds will be the one that will have the greatest chance to drive social-playful innovation in the next twenty years.
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