Did… did Fortnite run out of pop culture to nick? Have we really exhausted every last dance move, team? Was there nothing the kids find more romantic than a 1987 pop jam turned early web prank? This Valentine’s Day, Epic Games introduced a whole new generation of kids to rick-rolling, announcing an Astley-tastic “Never Gonna” emote to the game using the oldest trick in the online book.
So what’s next? Jonesy Jenkins? Can Fortnite has cheezburger? God, what a world.
Never Gonna is currently on sale in the Fortnite in-game store for 500 V-Bucks. Alternatively, you could open any YouTube video released prior to 2010. Fair play to Fortnite’s social team, mind. Their announcement absolutely nailed the “yer old da’s just got the Facebook” look.
I liked a video on YouTube: Watch How This Bear Made The Unlikeliest Of Friends https://t.co/iQDd9tB0e9
— Fortnite (@FortniteGame) February 15, 2020
There’s a little more to this story than decade-old webgoofs. It stands to reason that Epic probably had to actually license Rick Astley’s song. For years, Epic have been lifting dance moves to sell as emotes in their store. This is particularly troubling given Fortnite’s fondness for nicking moves from African American artists. Last year, Vice Games’ Yussef Cole penned a piece on the troubling historical and racial precedence involved when a massive corporation feels entitled to monetising black culture.
While artists have condemned this action and – in some cases – sought to take legal action against Epic, “choreographic works” are not protected by Copyright Law. But as anyone who’s ever tried uploading a YouTube video with their favourite jam knows, rights-holders in the music biz aren’t a lenient lot. It’s fair to assume Epic had to pay up to get the decade-old gag on murder island.
If Epic plan to start licensing music proper for Fortnite: Battle Royale, it’ll pay to see if their attribution policy changes too. It’s worth noting that, despite using the infamous earworm, the store page for Never Gonna still fails to acknowledge the song’s original performer.
This probably means a shift in tune towards explicitly lifting popular songs into Fortnite, though. For a game that’s already hosted live concerts and exclusive film launches, I don’t see their playlist giving up after just one jam.