Epic Games announced today that it will provide $100 million in prize pool money for Fortnite competitions in the first year of competitive play, an eye-popping figure that puts the game at the upper echelon of e-sports with regard to monetary prizes. Official Fortnite competitions are slated to start some time later this year, though little else is known about what shape these tournaments will take.
“In the 2018 — 2019 season, Epic Games will provide $100,000,000 to fund prize pools for Fortnite competitions,” reads a blog post on the developer's website. “We’re getting behind competitive play in a big way, but our approach will be different – we plan to be more inclusive, and focused on the joy of playing and watching the game. Stay tuned for more details about competitive structures and eligible platforms in the weeks ahead.”
We don’t know if Epic is planning one giant tournament circuit or a number of smaller tournaments around the globe. The company’s line about being more inclusive and focused on the joy of playing and spectating suggests the company could take a format similar to top Twitch streamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins’ Las Vegas event last month, in which more than 200 people from around the country flew in to compete against him and other top players.
Regardless of whatever format these competitions take, the figure will immediately make Fortnite one of the most lucrative e-sports games in history. According to E-sports Earnings, a website that tracks video game tournament prize pools around the world, Valve’s Dota 2 has paid out more than $140 million in more than 900 tournaments since 2013. Other top games, like Counter-Strike: GO and League of Legends, have paid out just north of $50 million. Even Overwatch League, Blizzard’s traditional sports league approach to e-sports competition, is slated to pay out just $3.5 million in prize money for its inaugural year when the final season closes next month.
The money may not be much of an issue for Epic, which analytics firm Sensor Tower estimates is making more than $1 million per day from Fortnite on mobile alone. Epic’s battle royale game is free-to-play, which means anyone can download it and jump in. However, the developer offers cosmetic items like character costumes and in-game dance moves that players can collect and use for vanity purposes and for celebrating midmatch. Just on those items alone, Epic made $126 million in February on console and PC, according to analytics firm Superdata Research, and has likely made much more than in the months since as its user numbers have increased and the iOS version of the game was added to the mix.
So $100 million sounds like a worthwhile investment to keep Fortnite at the forefront of both e-sports and pop culture. Next month, Epic is hosting a tournament in Los Angeles during the annul E3 convention that will feature 50 celebrities and 50 top YouTubers and Twitch streamers playing in teams of two. From the sounds of it, a tournament like that is just the beginning of the developer’s e-sports ambitions.