Epic Games had $100 million burning a hole in its proverbial pocket, and the company has decided to use that cash to begin building up the esports scene for its megapopular battle royale shooter Fortnite. This is an astronomical investment in competitive gaming and the future of Fortnite, and it is a clear sign from the studio that it is planning long-term support for the last-player-standing game.
Fortnite is one of the biggest games in the world and a pop-culture phenomenon. No joking: My wife asked me over the weekend why all her first graders were doing certain dances, and all I could say was “Fortnite.” It’s everywhere, and that’s due in large part to its presence on broadcasting sites like Twitch where it is the most viewed game. But Epic could grow that viewership even more by introducing a well-funded esports space alongside entertaining streamers … and you don’t get much more well-funded than $100 million.
That’s a big bundle of bills.
“To put this in some perspective, in 2017, the top 10 games combined gave out $91.2 million in prize money,” esports logistics pro and personality Scott Smith explained on Twitter. “Fortnite with the biggest [hold my beer] in esports history.”
For its part, Epic is coming off a successful launch of its Season Four content, and now it seems ready to take on the esports world.
“Since the launch of Fortnite: Battle Royale we’ve watched the passion for community competition grow and can’t wait to empower you to battle with the best,” reads an Epic blog from the Fortnite team.
The studio has confirmed that this influx of cash is all for the first season, so that means you can expect some massive prize pools for Fortnite esports events over the next 12 months.
Esports has traditionally attracted a young, male demographic that is obsessed with Dota 2, League of Legends, or something else along those lines. That’s a massive audience that is already worth $905.6 million even before you consider the marketing effects of keeping players engaged with a game, according to data-tracking firm Newzoo.
But Epic wants to try something that will appeal to a broad audience — although it hasn’t detailed how that will work.
“We’re getting behind competitive play in a big way, but our approach will be different,” reads the blog. “We plan to be more inclusive and focused on the joy of playing and watching the game.”
Fortnite is already super popular with a wider audience than most other games, and Epic is now looking at it as a potential catalyst for bringing in new groups to watch esports. And $100 million toward prizes will ensure that the stakes are high when the first competitors drop onto that Fortnite island.