Dr. Evil had it all wrong—instead of holding the world hostage to raise one billion dollars, he could have just developed a free-to-play game with a battle royale element, and then raked in the cash through in-game purchases. That precise recipe for success is working wonders for Epic Games, which is raking in cash hand-over-fist from Fortnite.
The battle royale genre is immensely popular right now. Fortnite in particular is seeing massive numbers, more so than PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, which it surpassed in popularity several months ago. As of last month, Epic Games said Fortnite had grown to 125 million players in under a year. And back in February, Fortnite hosted 3.4 million concurrent players, surpassing PUBG's peak of 3.2 million at the time.
According to SuperData Research, Epic Games has ridden the battle royale wave to over $1 billion in Fortnite, and that could be just the beginning.
"Battle royale revenue will grow 652 percent between 2017 and 2018 as AAA titles like Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 and Battlefield V enter the market," SuperData Research says. "Games industry stakeholders need to prepare, adapt, and cater to an audience that expect meaningful battle royale experiences from their multiplayer shooters."
Source: SuperData Research
More than that, the research firm says developers can't afford to ignore how wildly popular battle royale gameplay is right now. In addition, the genre has found success on multiple platforms, not just PC. That has been one of the keys to Fortnite's success—it's available on several platforms, including the Nintendo Switch.
By the end of 2018, SuperData Research predicts games with a battle royale mode will collectively earn 12 percent of all digital games revenue.
It's pretty incredible when you think about the amount of dollars Epic Games has generated from Fortnite, given that the game is free to download and play. So where does the money come from? For one, there is an optional $10 Battle Pass that allows players to earn in-game currency. However, players can also purchase in-game currency called V-bucks with real money—it costs $9.99 for 1,000 V-bucks. These can then be spent on things like skins, some of which go for 2,000 V-bucks.
Epic Games has made so much money from Fortnite that it recently retroactively gave Unreal Engine asset creators a big pay bump, increasing their share of sales from 70 percent to 88 percent. This is truly one of the more unique time in gaming history.