‘Fortnite’, NFL team up to add skins and gear to the game starting Friday

Are you ready for some football with your “Fortnite?”

The NFL has huddled with publisher Epic Games to bring football gear to the massively popular online game. Players will be able to get NFL team outfits in the game’s Battle Royale item shop beginning Friday.

Once a player gets a uniform for any one NFL team, they can customize it with a jersey number each time they use it – and swap it out for a different team’s helmet, jersey pants and cleats. So if for one game you are wearing New England Patriots gear, the next you’ll be able to suit up as the Green Bay Packers without having to purchase a new uniform pack.

Uniforms will be available for male and female characters and players can switch jerseys and numbers any time they use the outfit. “That is actually very exciting for us, with the avatars being available as females and being able to have females in NFL uniforms for the first time,” said Rachel Hoagland, the NFL’s vice president and head of gaming and eSports.

Although players can change numbers, they won’t see names on the back of the jerseys, neither their own usernames nor the names of NFL players.

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In addition to all 32 NFL team jerseys, “Fortnite” will also have football-themed emotes, harvesting tools that resemble goal posts, pigskin-outfitted gliders, and male and female referee outfits.

Referees will emerge as emotes for first downs and to signal touchdowns. “It’s just a way to bring some fun and some pop culture relevance to the game,” Hoagland said.

The NFL-Fortnite deal represents the first time Epic has teamed up with an outside partner on special outfits inside the game.

“We have so many football fans at Epic and we know a lot of the game’s fans share that same enthusiasm,” Mark Rein, co-founder of Epic Games, said in a statement. “Allowing our players to represent their favorite teams in the game was too cool of an opportunity for us to pass up, and we couldn’t be happier with how they turned out!”

NFL team outfits can be purchased like other skins from the Battle Royale Item Shop using in-game currency called V-Bucks, which can be earned in the game or purchased with real-world cash. Skins typically cost 1,200-1,500 V-Bucks, or $12 to $15.

There will be three male and three female variations of avatars to purchase. The new NFL outfits will be priced comparable with other skins.

“Fortnite” has already cemented itself among many NFL players and other athletes. Professional players in football, soccer and other sports have broken out into “Fortnite” celebration dances during real-world sports events.

And back in March, the Internet buzzed when rapper Drake and Pittsburgh Steelers star JuJu Smith-Schuster joined “Fortnite” expert “Ninja” during a gameplay session on game streaming service Twitch.

The NFL and Epic Games teamed up, Hoagland said, to give “our NFL fan audience a great way to express their fandom inside of the ‘Fortnite’ game … and to really tap into this cultural phenomenon that we have seen now for the past year.”

Follow USA TODAY reporter Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.

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Fortnite may be a free video game, but it’s already earned $1 billion this year, as well as a cult following.
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