Fortnite’s Rainbow Royale Pride event criticised for not actually mentioning LGBTQ+ people

Trans DC superhero Dreamer in Fortnite in a promotional video for the game's LGBTQ+ Pride event Rainbow Royale

Fortnite‘s Rainbow Royale has officially returned for 2023, but the game’s creator Epic Games has come under fire from players after failing to mention LGBTQ+ people or Pride on social media or in-game material for the event.

Rainbow Royale was first launched across the hit online creative and battle royale game in July 2021 to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community and Pride, offering Fortnite users rainbow-themed content and free cosmetic items to customise their characters with.

The popular event returned for two weeks in August 2022, introducing DC superhero Dreamer as a skin in the item shop – the first canonically trans character to appear in-game.

Last Friday (18 August), Rainbow Royale returned to Fortnite for a third consecutive year, but many fans have expressed unhappiness over Epic Games’ failure to explicitly state that the event is designed to champion LGBTQ+ people.

What items are included in Fortnite‘s Rainbow Royal 2023 event and how do you get them?

Fortnite‘s Rainbow Royale 2023 has seen previous Rainbow Royale items re-added to the item shop, where they are free to claim for players.

This year’s instalment also includes the brand new ‘Big Fan Emote’, which allows players’ characters to open a large pastel-coloured fan with ‘Thworp!’ written across it – a word popularised by former RuPaul’s Drag Race stars Trixie Mattel and Katya in their UNHhhh! series.

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Rainbow Royale 2023 has also seen a large rainbow added to the sky above the island arena in battle royale modes, and the return of the Rainbow Crossroads creative island.

Fortnite gamers can also tune into Rainbow Royale Radio, where they can listen to tracks by LGBTQ+ artists including Shea Couleé, Anjimile, SuperKnova and Ivy Sole in-game.

Is Rainbow Royale for the LGBTQ+ community?

Fortnite’s Rainbow Royale was launched in 2021 to honour the LGBTQ+ community, but 2023’s event has faced criticism for offering a reduced number of items, taking place in August rather than June – which is Pride month in the US – and for failing to explicitly mention words like ‘Pride’ or LGBTQ+’.

A tweet shared on Fornite’s official account on X – formerly known as Twitter – last Friday announcing Rainbow Royale’s return read simply, “We are celebrating our community this week with Rainbow Royale!” alongside a rainbow emoji.

In contrast, Rainbow Royale was launched in 2021 with a tweet referring to “our amazing LGBTQIA+ community.”

In a year that has seen brands like Bud Light and Target face conservative backlash for LGBTQ+-themed marketing and campaigns, social media users were quick to highlight the notable omission of any LGBTQ+-specific words in the post, or in-game content.

“why is fortnite so scared of mentioning gay people what could they possibly lose”, wrote one X user.

“can y’all please do actual lgbt cosmetics and not whatever this shit is. y’all are so scared to be inclusive”, added another.

One user speculated that the careful wording could be to avoid a backlash from anti-LGBTQ+ gamers, writing: “Fortnite continues to avoid saying LGBT cause they’re too pussy and are afraid of losing players. You aren’t celebrating “our community” just fucking say “We’re celebrating the LGBT community” like how fucking hard is it.”

Another stated: “love the emote but its funny how if you dont know what rainbow royale is you wouldnt know from this tweet that its about the gays at ALL.”

The criticism of Fortnite and Epic Games comes after more than 60 organisations backed a statement from a leading LGBTQ+ marketing group in June calling on brands to stand by their LGBTQ+ initiatives in the face of anti-LGBTQ+ backlash.

In the same month, a study found that the vast majority of Brits believe brands that run Pride campaigns are only doing so out of concern for their public image.

Data provided by YouGov found that 75% of Britons think that companies and brands that run LGBTQ+-inclusive activations during Pride Month are doing so ‘to maintain a positive public image for themselves’.

Just 7 per cent of people surveyed though that brands do so out of a ‘sincere desire’ to support the LGBTQ+ community.

Fortnite quickly became a cultural phenomenon following its launch in 2017, offering a free-to-play, 100-person battle royale mode where players fight to be the last person standing, alongside creative world-building modes and mini-games.

The game has often delivered high-profile collaborations with popular franchises including Stars Wars and Stranger Things as well as music artist like Ariana Grande.

During 2021’s inaugural Rainbow Royale event, Epic Games reinstated a popular Fortnite creator shortly after they apologised for stating that the LGBTQ+-inclusive event was “against nature”.

Epic Games did not immediately respond to a PinkNews request for comment.

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