Travis Scott's Astronomical performance was a good idea, but the Fortnite Ariana Grande Rift Tour is a great idea, and one that will cement Fortnite as a cultural touchstone across both the music and video game industries.
The Fortnite Ariana Grande Rift Tour runs between August 6 and 8, with five showings set at different times across the weekend. Not only will you get a chance to watch a digital version of Ariana Grande headline a Fortnite stage to perform some of her hits, but you'll also be able to grab at least one Ariana Grande skin and other Ari-related customization items. Completing an in-game quest will get you some rewards, and just attending the Rift Tour will get you a cutesy umbrella.
Last April we said that the Travis Scott Astronomical performance proved Fortnite was changing the game and music industries forever. And even though it's been quiet on the musical performance front for over a year, the Fortnite Ariana Grande Rift Tour shows just how plugged into the moment Fortnite is. Ariana Grande is a bigger star than Travis Scott, with a Guinness World Record for most songs debuting at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 under her belt - that she's coming to one of the most popular video games is a big deal. Ariana Grande in Fortnite is the perfect pop culture crossover. Period.
A Grande Star
Ariana Grande is a pop culture icon who transcends the limits of the music industry. She has an immense presence on Instagram, music videos that rack up millions of views, and an upcoming role in Adam McKay's next big comedy, Don't Look Up. But Ariana Grande is a brand above all else, with a carefully cultivated visual presence that makes her instantly recognizable. I mean, did ponytails even exist before Ariana Grande started wearing one?
I am, admittedly, an Ariana Grande fan (aka an Arianator). I know about her nine rescue dogs including Toulouse, Pignoli, and Myron, and her emotional support pig, Piggy Smallz, who is in Fortnite as Back Bling. Like many Arianators, I can pinpoint her musical eras just by looking at a picture of her outfit – the 'Dangerous Woman' era included a lot of latex bunny ears, while the 'Sweetener' era was oversized hoodies and thigh-high boots.
It's this almost obsessive attention to detail that makes Ariana such an instantly recognizable public figure. Whereas Travis Scott only brings to mind visuals of his Astroworld tour and that iconic GIF of him holding a microphone stand over his head (which Epic Games put in Fortnite), Ariana Grande has an almost endless collection of iconic looks and instantly recognizable visuals.
This means that Ariana Grande offers Epic Games myriad options when it comes to content for the Rift Tour – there could be gigantic representations of her rescue dogs bobbing their heads to 'thank u, next' or clips of Legally Blonde and Bring It On projected onto virtual stars. When it comes to Ariana Grande supplying fodder for the Fortnite canon, the limit does not exist.
A Grande-r Concert
Travis Scott's Fortnite performance came shortly after many countries shut down due to COVID-19 and his scheduled Coachella performance was canceled. The Astronomical performance acted as a replacement for that planned Coachella set, giving fans a chance to see a Fortnite version of Scott at no extra charge. According to Billboard (opens in new tab), the virtual concert drew more than 45 million views - a number that is certainly astronomical (sorry).
The Rift Tour isn't replacing any of Ariana Grande's scheduled performances (although I did expect her to come out during Lady Gaga's Chromatica Ball that was supposed to take place this August). Despite that, I think it'll be much bigger than Astronomical, in several ways.
Scott's performance was just under nine minutes long and was a Fortnite version of the rapper dancing to his music – there was no live rapping or motion capture like the DJ Marshemello concert. If Grande wants to stand out from the crowd, she may take a page out of Marshmello's book and do some mo-cap for this event. If not that, I at least expect the pop star to produce a much longer event than Travis Scott's, if only because of how much time Epic has had since the last major in-game concert and how much the studio has learned about holding them since. The team could reasonably go much bigger and longer than they did for Astronomical, and if the Ariana Grande skin with its impossibly long ponytail is any indication, Epic seems poised to go big or go home.
Plus, you have to take the Arianators into account, many of whom will download Fortnite just to watch the Rift Tour (my sister, who isn't a gamer, is doing precisely that). Epic Games has to be well-aware of Ariana Grande's fanbase, and hopefully plans to wow Fortnite newcomers with an unforgettable visual and auditory experience. There's also the Fortnite players, who will be expecting something more Grande-r than previous concerts. I think Epic Games will deliver just that.
With the Rift Tour, Ariana Grande will get a chance to present her award-winning music in a way she never has before - in a trippy interactive production set inside one of the biggest games in the world. Players will get a chance to experience another experimental music performance that you can only get when someone like Ariana Grande ends up in a game like Fortnite - a titan of pop culture combining with a wildly popular video game. The Rift Tour will prove that Fortnite will continue to offer up a space for creative industries to collide and make magic.
The Fortnite Ariana Grande Rift Tour kicks off Friday, August 6 at 6pm ET / 3pm PT / 11pm BST on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, PC, Android, and iOS.