The boss of the gaming company that created Fortnite is now the world’s 196th richest man after amassing a $7.2 billion fortune. That puts Tim Sweeney above famous billionaires like George Lucas and George Soros in Bloomberg’s annual list of the world’s 500 richest people. It comes after a wildly successful year for his firm, Epic Games, which saw flagship title Fortnite become the world’s most popular game. It attracted 200 million players in 2018, raked in $3 billion in profits and found itself blamed for divorces, as players simply cannot get enough of it. The big question is: can Fortnite maintain its amazing momentum, continue on its upward curve and dominate 2019 in the same emphatic fashion?
It is worth noting that Epic Games does have its eggs in other baskets too. It makes the Unreal Engine, which powers some of the world’s biggest games, and it is about to launch an online store that will rival Steam, Google and Apple. Epic Games, headquartered in North Carolina, also produces the popular Gears of War series. A recent venture fundraising round saw Epic Games whip up $1.25 billion to drive future growth, and that valued the firm at $15 billion.
But Fortnite is the key product for Epic Games and it has an ace up its sleeve to help it boost its popularity even further in 2019 and beyond. It recently announced that it will provide $100 million in prize pools for the first year of competitive play in a series of esports tournaments. That program of events will begin in 2019 and it will see Fortnite instantly overtake DOTA 2 to become the richest esport in the world by a comfortable margin.
In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, esports is a global phenomenon. The industry was worth $906 million in 2018 and it is projected to hit $2.3 billion by 2022. There are already 380 million dedicated esports fans around the world, according to analysts at Newzoo, and that figure is constantly growing. Leading players are now millionaire superstars, replete with massive sponsorship deals from world-famous brands and enormous social media followings.
Alongside this impressive growth, an esports gambling industry has sprung up and it was worth $6 billion in 2018. That will rise to $23.5 billion by 2020 as its popularity continues to soar and increasing numbers of fans build up their expertise. The world’s leading sportsbooks have all begun to make esports central to their offerings, while dedicated esports betting websites like Unikrn.com are absolutely thriving. You can find a huge array of esports betting options at Unikrn and other sites, and that is helping drive interest and viewership growth in competitive gaming.
League of Legends, DOTA 2, Starcraft, CS: GO and Overwatch are the staples of this phenomenon, but Fortnite is muscling into the arena in bullish fashion. Turner “Tfue” Tenney, an American and a member of FaZe Clan, was the highest earning Fortnite player in the world last year, scooping $469,875 in prize money. This year the numbers the best players earn will surely dwarf that figure. DOTA 2’s long reign as the world’s richest esports title is coming to an end due to the deep pockets and boundless ambition of Epic Games.
Sweeney’s firm is determined to maintain the momentum that Fortnite has built up and see off any rivals that might emerge in 2019. If it can crack the esports market, it should be assured of a loyal fanbase that lasts the distance, preserving its status as the world’s most popular game long into the future. But Fortnite will have to overcome several hurdles.
First up, battle royale format games are a bit problematic for esports fans to follow, as they require the camera to follow a number of perspectives. This is a challenge for PUBG and any other battle royale games out there.
You also need a competitive balance and a large degree of integrity, and the launch of the Infinity Blade weapon totally ruined that for Fortnite. Epic Games held its hands up and admitted that it had messed up by rolling out a weapon that was far too powerful, without any good counters. It really needs to reassess its approach to mythic items and it cannot afford too many more high-profile missteps.
Innovation is crucial to maintaining momentum in a very competitive gaming sphere, but it runs the risk of alienating players. With the Infinity Blade debacle barely in the rear-view mirror, Epic Games added a Boom Box item that allows players to destroy any nearby builds, blowing competitive balance out of the water. Pro player CLG Wish Tweeted: ”I’m about to go play for 100K in a completely unaffiliated tournament to epic games, and Epic Games still added a game breaking item hours before it. I’m. So. Sad.”
Another player accused Epic of making everything too unpredictable and screwing over the competitors, thus killing off any chances of becoming as successful in the world of esports as titles like League of Legends and CS: GO. It has not treated players particularly well in the early days, and that could come back to bite it. Fortnite is a seriously popular game in its own right, but attention spans are short in this day and age and it is easy to be quickly usurped. Just ask PUBG’s developers. Creating a thriving Fortnite esports scene would really help buffer it against such headwinds, and Epic Games really should put more effort into creating an exciting proposition that has pro players enthusiastic about it rather than complaining of social media.
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