Epic is putting up $100 million to fund the esport prize pool for Fortnite Battle Royale. That’s $100 million straight from the company’s own funds, rather than crowdfunded by fans. How crazy large is that prize pool? It’s more than the total for the ten most popular games of 2017 combined. It’s epic money. According to the studio, the funding is being done with an eye towards fun and inclusivity, although it’s not clear yet what that really means for the competitive events.
What happens when a music superstar with 36 million Twitter followers hops into a session of Fortnite with one of the most popular videogame streamers in the world? You blow out all the records for Twitch viewership. Late last night renaissance man Drake popped into a game with Tyler “Ninja” Blevins and hit a peak of 607,000 Twitch viewers, easily surpassing the previous high of 388,000. Drake performed well, telling Blevins at one point that he’d only got into the game a “month or two” ago.
If that wasn’t enough of a pop-culture confluence, by the end of the night, Pittsburgh Steelers receiver John “JuJu” Smith-Schuster, rapper Travis Scott, and Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom joined the game. It all sounds so amazing that one might think it a prearranged marketing stunt, except for the way the group’s in-game meetup was plagued with technical issues for a good part of the stream. (Drake’s PlayStation tag was apparently too full.) Most of the issues were eventually resolved thanks to judicious use of cross-play between the PlayStation 4 and PC versions of the game. Basically, this may have been the best advertisement for Fortnite ever.
You can check out an archive of the gaming session here.
Everything about this commercial is precious. This advertisement may mark the official launch of Epic’s Fornite in South Korea or it might be hawking bubblegum disco ramen. It’s tough to tell. All I know is that at about 25 seconds in, the main actor does a great job replicating the in-game “floss” dance move.
Bluehole, the publisher of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, is not pleased with Epic’s foray into the same arena. While Fortnite Battle Royale is going free-to-play, Bluehole is pondering their relationship with Epic’s Unreal Engine 4. In an interview with GamesIndustry, Bluehole’s Chang Han Kim pointed out that while they pay Epic for their UE4 engine license, Epic has suddenly become a competitor, including the use of Battlegrounds in their marketing.
“We have also noticed that Epic Games references PUBG in the promotion of Fortnite to their community and in communications with the press. This was never discussed with us and we don’t feel that it’s right.”
Whatever the outcome, it’s likely that Fortnite won’t be the last copycat of Battlegrounds. To date, Bluehole’s multiplayer phenomenon has sold over 11 million units on PC alone.