‘Fortnite really is just the perfect storm of a game. You have the fact that it’s free-to-play, on almost every platform, and everything about the game is enjoyable. The lobbies are quick, fights are fun, building adds the skill gap, weapons are unique and the color variances add that “OMG GOLD SCAR” epic feeling. The treasure chests’ humming sound all the way to the headshot “PA DINK” noise, it’s just perfect.
If you know anything about esports and gaming then you already know who Epic are. If you haven’t, then you’ve certainly heard about Fortnite, Epic’s flagship game and cultural phenomenon. 2018 was an incredible year for Epic and they are showing no sign of stopping. Even with debate over whether Fortnite can truly be a successful esport, there is no ignoring its popularity and success. This success is set to continue in 2019 as Epic are pulling out all the stops for the New Year. Here’s why we think they are going to be the company of the year 2019.
We’ve already mentioned Fortnite, but it’s important to focus on just how big this has been. A lot of people who don’t play games will talk about how their kids are ‘flossing‘ at school, how they can’t wait to get home at watch streams on Twitch, and of course play the game themselves. All those anecdotal stories show how far the game has spread, but the numbers are even more impressive.
A lot of people play Fortnite, right? Has to at least be a few million? Actually it’s a lot more. In December the number of players broke 200 million. That’s over a third of the entire population of the US. This number is impressive enough on its own, but what’s even more surprising is the growth. Back in June number of players was 125 million, so that’s a 60% increase in just 6 months. A lot of sceptics would probably be likening this to downloading a popular app. After all the game is free a lot of people possibly download, try it and never come back? Not in the case of Fortnite; they have managed to maintain a very consistent player base with the most recent figures showing that, on average, more than 80 million gamers play concurrently.
Of course you can’t really talk about Fortnite without mentioning the influencers. Competitive tournaments involve a lot of money, with Epic alone dedicating $100 million to the 2018-2019 season, but it’s arguably the steaming where the real money lies. You’d probably be be lying if you say you’ve never heard of Tyler ‘Ninja’ Blevins, Fortnite’s most famous celebrity. He was the first gamer to feature on the cover of ESPN magazine, and he had more social interactions in April of last year than Cristiano Ronaldo, and that was during the build-up to the FIFA World Cup. The amount of money that Ninja makes through playing the game is also jaw-dropping. He makes over $500,000 a month from his paid Twitch subscriptions alone, excluding his other revenue streams such as sponsorship and promotional work; he was the face of Samsung for the launch of the Galaxy Note9.
Ninja seems to be going from strength to strength thanks to his entertaining streams and the popularity of the Fortnite game itself. Even hiccups like his ill-fated Times Square floss record attempt did not damage his popularity (for more than a few cringeworthy minutes at least).
The Epic Games Store
Relying on Fortnite alone is not enough for Epic and they know it. That’s why they have used the current popularity and numbers playing the game to launch the Epic Games store. This could have a huge impact on other online stores, like Steam. There is little chance of the store replacing Steam in the very near future, but they are starting in a very strong position. As noted by IGN the Fortnite audience is incredibly loyal, especially on mobile. More importantly, they are also relatively young, with many unlikely to have their own PC yet. Epic may have locked in these customers at a vital point in their consumer journey. The promise to give away some games for free twice a month, like Subnautica and Super Meat Boy is also very appealing and shows that they are looking to expand their audience beyond Fortnite itself. It will be very interesting to see how this develops and if Epic are able to land any exclusives for their store too. They seem to be already making some headway and drawing away from Steam, with Ubisoft’s The Division 2 now launching in the Epic Games store instead.
The amount of money being injected into Epic on the basis of Fortnite’s success is insane. In October last year they managed to raise $1.25 billion for a new investment round. After making $1 billion in microtransactions alone and $3 billion in annual profits overall, it comes as no surprise that the company is now valued at $15 billion. Tencent’s choice to acquire 40% of the company for $330 million back in 2012 was certainly the right choice for the Chinese firm.
The success of Epic is obviously due to the popularity of Fortnite, and there is no doubt Fortnite will continue to be the big money maker, but Epic’s wise choice to launch it’s own store and have the confidence to release Fortnite on mobile platforms without going through the official stores, along with their ability to turn huge profits and attract serious investment has convinced us that we’re going to see a lot more from them in 2019, and we’re very excited.