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Fortnite phenomenon transforms epic game developer into billionaire

Tim Sweeney made Fortnite a phenomenon by doing something that sounds crazy: He gave it away.

This strategy has made him a billionaire.

In an industry with monster hits like Candy Crush and Pokemon Go, Fortnite's popularity is not surprising. His revenue is. Between the release of the current release in September and the end of May, Fortnite raised more than $ 1.2 billion, according to SuperData Research. In early June, it was played by 1

25 million people.

This has boosted sales at Epic Games, the company that Sweeney founded 27 years ago in his parents' basement. Fortnite alone is on its way to generating $ 2 billion this year, making the Cary, N.C.-based playmaker worth $ 5 billion to $ 8 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Sweeney, 47, is the controlling shareholder.

Fortnite is a global phenomenon that is obsessively played by kids, rappers, professional athletes, and middle-aged accountants. It's a cartoon fight royale in which players fight each other to fight for weapons, resources and survival on a shrinking, storm-ravaged island.

Instead of breaking out of $ 40 for the game, players buy V-Bucks online, a virtual currency they can exchange during the game for outfits, skins, festive dances, or special missions that can cost as much as $ 20.

"On the revenue side, on the other hand, they've done something that's truly unique, with a sense of exclusivity," said Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush Securities. Many accessories in the Fortnite Shop are only available in limited quantities, which is why players have to buy before coveted items disappear from the virtual shelves. "If you see another player in leopard skin and go to the store and see that it's not available anymore, then you think, 'Shoot, I have to keep going next time.'"

All this trade leads to some According to US analysts, these are the highest per-user revenue per user and operating margins north of 50 percent.

"Epic's rating has skyrocketed alongside the success of Fortnite," said Timothy O & # 39; Shea covering the game at Jefferies Financial Group

Based on the retail multipliers of competitors Electronic Arts and Activision Blizzard, Epic 14 Worth billions of dollars, although potential buyers would ask for a rebate based on questions as to whether Fortnite could sustain sales growth, said O & # 39; Shea. Even if sales dropped to $ 1 billion a year – half of the current estimate – the company could reasonably order $ 7.5 billion in a sale, Pächter said.

This is a bonanza for Sweeney and Chinese internet giants Tencent Holdings bought 40 percent of Epic in 2012, valued at $ 825 million. It is still unclear what influence Fortnite had on Tencent's record. Three analysts covering the Shenzen-based company said they had not yet included the game in their scores on the sum of parts.

While most games gained high popularity shortly after launch, Fortnite still attracted millions of new users six months later, thanks to a pleasing aesthetic that is more of a weird nonsense than graphic violence. Celebrity fans like rapper Drake and former Villanova wildcat Josh Hart (now with the Los Angeles Lakers) have pushed it further into mainstream consciousness. The French football star Antoine Griezmann celebrated this year in the World Cup final with the "Take-the-L" dance a goal.

As a game that is social, easy to play, and hard to master, it was particularly hard on schoolchildren who voiced concerns from teachers and parents who reported obsessive play during class.

Fortnite is not a bolt of lightning for Epic. The developer's biggest hit so far was Gears of War, a bestselling Microsoft Xbox 360 license. Epic also owns Unreal Engine, one of two popular operating systems that developers rely on. Epic initially commissioned the customers to use the software. The sale increased when Sweeney made the product for free and instead began collecting a royalty for games made using the software, including such hits as Mass Effect and Batman: Arkham.

Fortnite also started as a paid product. Launched in July 2017 as a $ 40 version, where players built forts to defend themselves against zombie hordes, the game really kicked off after Epic set it free and added the multi-combat style.

His success surprised even Epic. At last year's E3, the industry's largest trade show, Epic showed reporters the game in a meeting room. At this year's convention, the Epic booth was dedicated to the Fortnite, with a replica of the bus that players enter at the beginning of the game, and opportunities for fans to dance in videos and hang-gliding. This week, Epic hosted its first Fortnite Celebrity Pro-Am, with guests like comedian Joel McHale and professional player Ninja (real name Tyler Blevin) competing in a football stadium. In May, Epic announced it would provide $ 100 million to fund prize pools for Fortnite contests.

At Epic's office in Raleigh, NC, just around the corner from a mall, employees have their selection of complimentary ice cream and hot bags. There's a game room, a two-story slide, and huge sculptures from some of the company's video game characters.

Born and raised in the suburb of Potomac, Maryland, Sweeney was early in game design and business. At age 11, he taught himself how to program programs with the family's Apple computer, and made a hobby to dissect electronics. At age 15, he quit his job at a hardware store after discovering that everyone was earning the same hourly wages, no matter how hard they worked. Instead, he borrowed his father's tractor and started cutting neighbors' lawns, undermining professional landscapers, according to a 2011 interview with the Kotaku gaming website. Sweeney began designing his own games at the age of 21, packing them on floppy disks and sending them by mail.

"Tim Sweeney is a legendary figure," said Joost van Dreunen, CEO of SuperData Research Holdings, which supplies the market intelligence in the gaming industry. "He is a hard-working, outspoken person with a clear vision of what he wants to do."

Despite his enthusiasm for millions of players, Sweeney is not a big player himself. He is an avid conservationist and one of the largest private landowners in North Carolina. After the financial crisis, he bought thousands of hectares of land, mainly in the mountains, to create nature reserves.

Sweeney often wanders through the Epic office, leaving behind large sodas. He prefers a homemade mix of 60 percent water and 40 percent Coca Cola from the company's fountains.

Sweeney tours his sprawling home in a 10-year-old video released online. The lifelong bachelor says he has never eaten in the elegant dining room and prefers to take away from Burger King. He once owned several sports cars, including a Lamborghini, but he sold most of them. He drives a Corvette 2019.

"It turns out that a fast car is a great hobby when you're a workaholic," he said, "because even if you do not have spare time, you can always drive to work.


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