Seeing as any given round of battle royale in Fortnite might end in a four-way battle between an Imperial Stormtrooper, a Borderlands Psycho, John Wick, and the musician Marshmello, Epic might as well start releasing skins modeled on celebrities who're essentially just themselves. Enter the new Icon Series, which will bring skins and other cosmetics based on "creators from games, music, and entertainment" into Fortnite, starting with a set based on Tyler "Ninja" Blevins.
Epic will release a skin, back bling, emote, and pickaxe based on Blevins on January 16 at 7 pm ET. It's a pretty good likeness of Blevins, and thanks to a jacket that wouldn't look out of place in Deux Ex and some extra-cartoony volume for his shock of blue hair, it doesn't have the jarring look of some regular dude dropped onto Fortnite's island.
This Icon Series idea, which Epic confirms will continue with cosmetics based on streamers Loserfruit and TheGrefg, also feels like a long-time coming. You could find real-life Halloween costumes of Ninja in 2018 right next to ones based on Fortnite's most popular skins. As much as Fortnite is a mishmash of various brands and intellectual properties, it's also its own cultural juggernaut and a platform that streamers and influencers develop their audience on. Feeding that fame right back into the game is a natural next step.
If the Icon Series expands beyond the gaming sphere of celebrity, though, it'll be fascinating to see which celebrities Epic deems to be a good fit. Considering Fortnite's contentious relationship with celebrity vis a vis its use of famous dance moves, this could be a way for Fortnite to start giving credit (and profit) where many believe its due.
There's also the potential for Fortnite skins based on streamers and influencers to become another battleground in the fight between Twitch, Mixer, and YouTube. Last August, Ninja became the first in a lineup of prominent streamers who've signed exclusivity deals with Mixer as Microsoft tries to grow its share of the livestreaming ecosystem. Even though Ninja has cut ties with Twitch, his likeness will now pop up in tons of Fortnite gameplay streamed on the platform. That's quite the way to grow a brand at a competitor's expense.