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iHeart, which brought in $954 million in revenue during the second quarter, first announced plans in January to launch its own branded virtual world on platforms like Roblox as part of the radio giant’s larger Web3 strategy. Wednesday’s launch of iHeartLand in Fortnite marks the first unveiling of iHeartMedia’s virtual world and will serve as the testing ground for future iterations of iHeartLand on other world-building games, executives told The Hollywood Reporter.
iHeartLand was created by the game developer Atlas Creative using Fortnite’s creative mode and includes a main stage, multiple mini-games and an iHeart “headquarters,” which features a recording studio and a replica of the tunnel entrance to iHeart’s headquarters in New York City.
Players will get to explore the virtual island, play the games, take selfies on the red carpet and view performances on the main stage, called State Farm Park, which is expected to host 20 events in the next year with musicians and popular iHeart podcasters. At launch, the mini games will include a car racing game on an iHeart-shaped racetrack, an obstacle course set in the clouds, a building game and a musical chairs–esque game that requires players to jump from various colored tiles and avoid landing on certain colors. Playing these games will give users the chance to earn “gold,” which is a currency specific to iHeartLand on Fortnite and can be spent on items like fireworks and Boogie Bombs, a grenade-like object that forces players’ avatars to dance.
But the main draw of iHeartLand will likely be the main stage, which will kick off its series of events with a performance on Sept. 9 with Charlie Puth. The concert follows similar in-game performances from artists like Ariana Grande and Travis Scott in Fortnite, though Puth will not appear as an avatar in iHeartLand as Grande and Scott did in their respective shows. Instead, Puth’s concert — which was recorded ahead of time at the iHeartRadio theater in Burbank — will be a 2D screening displayed on the main screen on State Farm Park.
In addition to the performance, which will feature new music from Puth’s upcoming album, fans will get to participate in an interactive trivia game, where Puth asks a series of questions and fans can earn XP coins for answering correctly. A separate album release party for Puth’s next album, Charlie, will occur in iHeartLand on Oct. 7.
“As these artists are coming in, they’re super excited about reaching these new audiences too because, keep in mind, this is also a discovery platform for them to break new music with the audiences here in Fortnite,” Jessica Jerrick, iHeartMedia’s evp of business development and partnerships, tells THR.
iHeartLand will remain free for players, according to Conal Byrne, president of the iHeartMedia Digital Audio Group, who touts the Fortnite island’s ability to bring concerts and events to more people. “This was a way for us to capture events like Charlie’s and actually democratize access to it a little bit better using technology,” Byrne says. “There’s no intention at all of gating access to this down the road or anything like that. I think, in fact, it’s the opposite.”
Instead, the company is able to monetize the virtual world through sponsorship deals and other ad placements. At launch, State Farm has the exclusive naming rights to the iHeartLand arena across all its iterations on different world-building gaming platforms, which will include Roblox in the future. In March, iHeart also partnered with Super League Gaming to sell ads in iHeartLand and other virtual worlds, which allows iHeart to receive a cut of the revenue from any deals facilitated through the partnership.
Alyson Griffin, State Farm’s vp marketing, declined to share specific terms of the insurance company’s deal with iHeart, but the executive pointed to State Farm’s past entrances into gaming — “Jake from State Farm” appears in this year’s NBA 2K game, for example — and the company’s longstanding relationship with iHeart. “We want to learn. We want to try new things, we want to see how it evolves, and we’re committed to this,” Griffin says. “Obviously, you don’t make an entrance like this to do this for a few months.”
And depending on user feedback and engagement post launch, “iHeartLand and State Farm Park may evolve differently and dramatically” based on what players “love and what they love less,” Gayle Troberman, iHeartMedia’s chief marketing officer, says.
“Are kids coming to the dinner table and talking to their parents about … [seeing] the Charlie Puth show in the State Farm Park and then they played this game and they went to this tunnel?” Troberman says. “That’s going to be success for us.”
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