The ongoing pandemic has had a massive impact on the global entertainment industry. In most countries, the number of people that can gather in the same place has been limited to a few hundred at most – a far cry from the crowds a popular performer usually gathers. As a result, concerts, music festivals, and similar events have been canceled and postponed across the board.
Entertainers, in turn, don’t let themselves be defeated by something as tiny (yet dangerous) as a virus. They are actively seeking new venues where they can safely entertain their fans, even if these are in the digital realm. This is how Travis Scott’s Fortnite concert was born – in an effort to keep in touch with fans in a safe space that happens to be inside Epic Games’ popular shooter. But it’s not the first event to take place inside a video game. Actually, concerts held inside virtual places are older than you think.
Marshmello in Fortnite, 2019
Last February, Epic’s popular Battle Royale title was home to the first-ever concert held inside it. The performer to take the stage was American DJ and producer Marshmello, and the event was pretty successful: Epic revealed that it was the biggest day of the game ever, with more than 10 million concurrent players present. Not all of them attended the virtual concert, mind you…
Comparatively, a fortnight (two weeks) later, the game had its biggest non-event day: on February 19th, 7.6 million players from all over the world were connected to the game at the same time.
AlunaGeorge, Boiler in Minecraft, 2016
Minecraft is a meeting place for many gamers looking to socialize online today. A team from an American high school even recreated their school building inside the game and invited their schoolmates to a virtual prom (as the real thing was impossible to hold due to the pandemic). The idea of holding an event in Minecraft is not entirely original, though – a team from Norway’s tech festival The Gathering did it in 2016.
The concerts held in Minecraft were not exclusive to the sandbox game – they were run by volunteer gamers in parallel with the real thing happening at the real-life event – and it was not an official Minecraft event either. This didn’t make it any less accessible to players from around the world.
Suzanne Vega in Second Life, 2006
Finally, here’s one of the oldest examples of a musical event going virtual: Suzanne Vega’s “live” performance inside Linden Labs’ “Sims-meets-social-network” product Second Life. The performance was not exclusive to the game – it was simultaneously broadcast over public radio and inside the virtual space where a player-controlled Vega’s avatar as she sang.
Virtual concerts were not exactly a rarity before the pandemic hit but they were certainly not commonplace. Today, in turn, they will likely spread fast – for lack of a better, safer alternative – at least for a while. Expect to see more virtual concerts like Electric Blockaloo emerge in the future, bringing offline and online entertainment together in a unique setting in cyberspace.