Fortnite adds a football gamemode, Pelé's goal celebration, and 23 club strips to boot

Fortnite's phenomenal success has led to no end of celebrity and big brand tie-ins, from concerts by real musicians to Galactus. Even so, there is something about a tie-up between Pelé and Fortnite that's kind of bending my brain a little: I'm not sure how many times I think about 'Pele’s Air Punch Emote.' In terms of sporting icons it does not get much bigger than this.

Pelé is part of a football—or soccer—themed update to Fortnite that has a staggered arrival, beginning tomorrow with what the game's calling the Pelé Cup. Players who take part in the cup have a chance to win the otherwise paid-for emote and Kickoff set (a bunch of football strips), and top players have a chance of a signed FC Santos shirt (the club where Pelé spent almost his whole career, and remains all-time highest goalscorer).

The Pelé Cup's full rules are here, but it's essentially a timed race to rack up points across Fortnite's various modes: in your three-hour window, for example, a victory royale is worth 20 points and each elimination is worth 1 point. The top three players in each region bag the FC Santos shirts, with thousands of the emote pack available as runners-up prizes.

Having this Pelé Cup play out as 'normal' Fortnite matches is all well and good except, oddly enough, Epic's also adding a football-themed island and tournament to Fortnite's creative mode. This is a 4vs4 gamemode where players use their bodies, pickaxes and various powerups to outscore each other. The football tournaments in creative work via a bracket system that sees four teams competing over two rounds, with winners and losers facing each other. 

“Global football is consistently one of the top sports that our players tell us they want to see and experience in Fortnite,” said Nate Nanzer, head of global partnerships at Epic Games.

"We’re excited to partner with some of the world’s largest football clubs and icons like Pelé to bring ‘the beautiful game’ to Fortnite fans around the world as they face off in competitive tournaments, experience new creative modes of gameplay, and celebrate global football.”

Both the emote and the Kickoff set will arrive in Fortnite's item shop on January 23. The latter adds male and female variants of 23 football strips from various big clubs around the globe. The grandest of all is Glasgow Celtic, though other strips include Man City, Juventus, AC and Inter Milan, Roma, Los Angeles FC and, of course, FC Santos.

All of this is probably not quite what Pelé envisaged when coining the phrase 'the beautiful game', but at least the new mode is slightly closer to football than whatever's going on in the Pelé Cup.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."