(Tw)Itching to Get Back to Fortnite

As I’m sure almost all of you, if not all of you have heard, there is a game called Fortnite Battle Royale that came out last summer and is taking over the world right now. The general premise of the game is a Hunger Games-style battle: a 100-person free-for-all, where each player gets dropped into the game with nothing. Subsequently, everyone has to rush around and try to find whatever weapons and resources they can before others show up and kill them. The last player standing is the winner. The game can be played solo, in duos, or in squads of 4, and allow you to plug a microphone in and strategize chat with your teammates. It brings back the sense of teamwork and camaraderie that has not been seen in video games since old school, split screen gaming.

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Fortnite is changing the video game scene. It is free to download and play, making it available to almost everyone. And sorry to all of the girlfriends out there who were already upset about losing their boyfriends to the game, but it just came out on mobile. Now you’re not even safe when you force him out of the house.

As Fortnite gains traction and more and more people begin to play, it has garnered huge attention on the streaming front. In the past years, people streaming their video games online has become increasingly popular. A quick YouTube search shows almost 21 million hits on the search, “Fortnite.” What takes Fortnite beyond just a hit video game is its very close relationship with the video game streaming website, Twitch – it is actually the fourth highest trafficking site on the Internet during peak hours, putting it right behind Netflix, Google, and Apple. On Twitch, people can create pages for themselves, and live stream themselves playing video games. Similarly to how YouTube operates, the people creating content receive a cut for every subscriber, and then additional money for sponsorships and whatever donations people feel so inclined to give.

While for the majority of people this income is just icing on the cake for doing something that they love, the best gamers or the most popular streamers can make huge sums of money for what they are doing. *Dad you were wrong, I can make a living playing video games.* Recently, Twitch streamer, “Ninja,” broke the internet by live streaming himself playing Fortnite with Drake, Travis Scott, and Juju Smith-Schuster of the Pittsburg Steelers. This stream absolutely crushed the old viewer record on Twitch, reaching an incredible 864,000 views as of today. (Here it is if you feel like watching.)

Ever since this stream went up, people have gotten to wondering how much money these pro streamers actually make. (I actually didn’t believe it when I first saw it, but Ninja is making over $600,000 a month, just from subscriptions alone. That does not include donations or sponsorships or anything. He will almost definitely make more money this year alone than I will in the majority of my life.

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Think about that for a second. $600,000 per month. That is $20,000 per day. Assuming a ten hour day, that breaks down to $2,000 per hour. What other job is paying you that kind of money? None. According to U.S. News & World Report and data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the highest paying job in the US (aside from CEOs and the like) is an anesthesiologist, making just under $270,000 per year. That means that Ninja makes in 1 month what a doctor makes in three years. And instead of saving lives, he is playing video games.

Because my parents were so close-minded and actually made me study when I was younger, I missed my chance to hone my video gaming skills and become a professional gamer. It is probably a safer bet than letting me go rogue, but seeing the absurd amounts of money that some of these people are making for doing something that I love doing, I can’t help but to wonder what could have happened if my parents had let me play the hours upon hours of video games that my ten-year-old brain thought I needed every day. I definitely haven’t given up playing video games, but I think that I am past my prime a bit so I’ll leave the hardcore gaming to the people who are good enough to out-earn CEOs and professional athletes.

IMG_4068.jpg*Yes, this was actually me, and no, you’ve never felt adrenaline like this unless you’ve won a match.

11 comments

  1. HenryChenChen · ·

    Interesting post, I do think the gaming and streaming have huge market potential, especially the VR games are becoming more popular and cloud gaming is becoming possible. In Asian countries such as China and South Korea, people making much more money and became celebrities by playing games. However, by training yourself to be a pro might not be a safe bet. Most of the online games have a relatively short lifespan, such as League of Legends, 3 years ago, it used to be the most popular game in Asia and made many people rich. But right now it is not popular anymore and the league of legends players is switching to other games to make living. It’s extremely difficult to train yourself to be the pro in every popular game.

  2. mmerckbc · ·

    Cool post, Oliver! This trend is definitely getting a lot of attention recently and rightfully so. Call me old-fashioned but I never would have thought that gaming would get to this level. While I had heard that certain players were making a ton of money through streaming, I was just as surprised as you to learn that the average figure was $600M! I also like the point that Henry made – there is clearly a lot of market potential in this area, but I wonder if the long-term viability is there. As a side note, you might be interested in reading this post (https://isys6621.com/2018/02/18/esports-ready-i-make-a-living-playing-video-games/) by Nero from a few weeks back about E-Sports.

  3. Loved your post, Oliver! I wrote about Fortnite this week too, but from an outside perspective being that I’ve never participated in the game, but have watched plenty of it (my boyfriend/guy friends are obsessed). You raised extremely interesting points that I didn’t find during my research, like how the video game is now going mobile. I’m interested to see the feedback this move will get from players and how it will compare.
    I am especially astonished by how much money professional gamers make. My jaw won’t come up from the floor. Your breakdown of hourly income, $2,000/hour is crazy. I am curious, where does this money come from? Are the video game companies paying them? Is it similar to YouTube where the pros monetize the videos they make of them playing the game and getting sponsors?

    1. oliverhowe14 · ·

      So the money is coming mostly from subscribers to his page. (I think he gets just under a 50% cut on the subscription cost.) He is also sponsored by a professional gaming team, but the exact amount for that is not exactly precise. Finally, people watching his streams on Twitch can donate money directly to him. All of that combined has him earning ridiculous amounts of money.

  4. NeroC1337 · ·

    Oliver, just to make you feel better. I’m that kid who had been a hardcore gamer since 10, and if you read my past blog post, I also do gaming-streaming as a hobby as well. Well, I’m still broke AF. Honestly, nowadays, to become successful as a streamer really depend a lot on luck and the timing. The streamer Ninja was a well-known former pro Halo player, before he decided to turn full-time streaming. I first watched him back in 2014, for a Halo 4 tournament. And honestly, till late last year, his stream would only have around 1000 viewers on average. He really ride the tide of Fortnite to become huge really fast, faster than any of the bubble. You could be making some pocket-money if you are extremely good at video games, or entertaining as a stream. But to become someone like Ninja, luck is a huge factors. Lastly, Bruh, default-skin seriously ?!

  5. profgarbusm · ·

    Oliver. Well done on the post. I think you did a nice job summarizing the whole Fortnite crazy – and congrats on the elusive victory royale. Pro-gaming as a whole definitely seems to be becoming a more and more viable career path, especially thanks to Twitch although I do wonder what % of “pro-gamers” actually do make enough of an income to satisfy their livelihood. I also think that it’s not just the skill of the gamer that results in their success, but the persona as well. I used to play OSRS (old school Runescape #OSRS) and a streamer named B0aty became the most successful not because of his skill, but his hilarious take on the game. It’s about being an entertainer as much as being good at the game.
    Lastly, I did not realize how Fortnite was making its money beyond direct in game purchases. Are you saying that when a streamer is playing Fortnite they actually give some of the cut from their revenues over to Epic Games?

    1. oliverhowe14 · ·

      When the streamer creates a Twitch page, viewers can subscribe to them ($5/mo.) in order to get custom emojis, no ads on the Twitch stream, the ability to chat directly with the streamer, etc. Twitch gets a cut of this because they are providing the platform from which these streamers are seen. However, the more streamers and the more pull you have, the better chance you have to gain a higher percentage of the revenue from the subscribers.

  6. Jobabes121 · ·

    Nice post. Video game streaming, as @henrychenchen mentioned, is especially popular in Asia as well, with countless fans in eSports (an official name of gaming for professionals) searching for gaming topics constantly. However, it is also a significant problem for many teens who are addicted and fantasize about becoming the next “Ninja” or famous streamer to generate income from playing video games. As your parents directed you to the path of “typical education,” teens’ obsession on video games, especially in South Korea, have killed their interests in many other areas including musical instruments, sports, and debate. In a nutshell, playing games only provides an ephemeral joy, and long-term benefit is nonexistent both financially and educationally. It’s a great tool to cool off your stress, but as it becomes more viral, I am quite worried that people will take gaming more serious and seek the “ideal dream job” where they dream about having pleasure and making a decent income at the same time (which is utterly unfair for many who train/study everyday for a better future).

  7. tuckercharette · ·

    Oliver, I thought this post was really comprehensive and actually a nice complement to Tara’s post this past week as well. My Mod has watched Ninja and it’s astronomical what kind of money he is making. I remember as a kid hearing about Korean TV shows which featured the popular game Starcraft and was blown away that people would watch it on TV. Yet, I find myself watching some game play from time to time because I genuinely enjoy short blips of it over Network television sometimes now. My roommates and I have been enjoying side by side screens reminiscent of our old Couch Coop days on the PS2 split screen. The Drake stream was crazy, I was watching another stream while I was eating my lunch the other day and yet another streamer was talking about that stream. It was a huge win for Ninja, it was a huge win for Twitch. Celebrities connecting with fans over video games in yet another new way, kinda like when Celebrities started using Twitter and Snapchat, it was an unprecedented amount of exposure. Have fun and see you out on the servers!

  8. Keenan Neff · ·

    This game has completely taken over the social media world. Not only do all of these professional gamers play it, but a lot of professional athletes and celebrities play it. I have seen countless tweets of rappers like Lil Yachty, Logic, Travis Scott, Drake, and so on say that they are live-streaming Twitch right now. As for Ninja (the “best” Fortnite player in the world), he has done a tremendous job in creating a brand for himself and putting himself on a platform for the whole world to watch. He shattered previous Twitch records when he live-streamed with Drake, Travis Scott, and JuJu.
    I think that the skill of the top Fornite players in the world has allowed them to live comfortably making a very good salary, but like what @profgarbusm, all of the highest paid gamers have a personality that makes them so likable. They really try to promote positive, good vibes, and they are all really good role models for their younger viewers. Most of the players make a very large amount of money from live-streaming, which is their income, but then they will have days where they donate all of the donations to a charity of their choosing. They will thank every single user that subscribes to them because they know that without their subscribers, they would nowhere as successful as to what they are now.

  9. jamessenwei · ·

    This rise of this game is astonishing to me. In my entire life playing games and following it, I don’t think I have ever seen a game become so popular so fast (maybe Pokemon Go, but that had a huge fall off). The Drake stream was unexpected but glorious as well. I think Twitch streaming will become more popular is it becomes a platform for celebrities to interact with their fans. This is something that Reddit has always dreamed of doing but I think Twitch will pull it off better. Hopefully what we saw with the Drake stream will become a common thing in the future, not only with Drake but with everyone else too. It would be great for fans of all kinds.

    On a different tone, while professional streamers make bank, I am also sure that their lives are not as awesome as it appears. Like all things in life, repetition can kill a joy. If you play too much of any great game, eventually it will become less fun. If it becomes something you HAVE to do for hours, it will eventually feel like a chore. For me, I much prefer to be an amateur gamer than a professional one so that gaming will always be a source of fun and stress relief.

    Personally though, I prefer PUBG.

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