Epic Paid $3.5 Billion In Third-Party Platform Fees For Fortnite Over Three Years, Still Made Over $9 Billion
Despite some of the messaging that's been put out there, when you get right down to it, the Epic vs. Apple showdown is about money -- lots and lots of money. Epic doesn't want to give Apple a 30% cut of its revenue for Fortnite, and Apple ... well, does. That's it. That's the whole thing, Tim Sweeney's cries of "freedom" notwithstanding.
How much money is at stake, however, has been an open question for a while. That's been answered, thanks to some documents that have now been made available as part of the discovery process in the court battle between the two behemoths.
You can find a spreadsheet here that details the amounts that Epic paid various third-party platforms, such as Apple, Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft, and so on, for hosting Fortnite and other Epic-published titles on their platforms, as well as Epic's total revenue for its various games and other segments. It's a lot to take in, so if you really want to dive into it, I suggest downloading it and opening it in your spreadsheet-viewer of choice.
Once you do so, you can compute just how much money Fortnite made before and after the fees it paid to various platforms. The spreadsheet covers the period from January 2017 to October 2020; Fortnite originally launched in July 2017 and its Battle Royale incarnation two months later. In that time frame, it totaled $12.8 billion in revenue, which can be broken down by platform like so:
PlayStation 4: $6.054 billion
Xbox One: $3.517 billion
Switch: $1.130 billion
PC: $1.256 billion
iOS: $788 million
Android: $70.5 million
And the commissions Epic paid to various companies for hosting on various platforms are:
Sony: $1.825 billion
Microsoft: $1.045 billion
Nintendo: $318 million
Apple: $237 million
Gearbox Software: $22.5 million
Samsung: $6.5 million
Google: $2.6 million
That totals $3.456 billion, the lion's share of which is attributed to Sony and Microsoft. Subtract one total from the other and you have $9.359 billion going directly to Epic Games for Fortnite sales over a 40-month period.
There isn't much more you can say about those gargantuan figures, but I'll contribute one note. In Fortnite's completely pre-Battle Royale days -- June, July, and August 2017 -- it made $58.3 million. That's not bad for a game in less than three months, though it did show a clear decline from July to August and even into September, when Battle Royale was added late in the month. Still, it's not inconceiveable to think that Fortnite: Save The World might have been a solid, though not mind-blowing, hit even if its bigger cousin had never existed, had Epic kept up with its development.
Let's take a look at Epic's other sources of income over that same period. Epic acquired Psyonix in July 2019, which was when Rocket League revenue was added to the mix. That brought in $268 million in the 16 months that are accounted for. That includes October 2020, which started one week after the game went free-to-play, in which it brought in $35.2 million, compared to $16.3 million in the previous month and $12 million the month before.
Interestingly, the game's player numbers have actually improved on Steam once it could no longer be purchased there, and that's reflected in the revenue on that platform increasing from $3.1 million in August to $3.7 million in September before a slight decline to $3.6 million in October. That $3.6 million figure is identical to what Rocket League made on the Epic Games Store in October 2020 -- though it naturally came without Steam's 30% cut.
What about Epic's other games? We can get a decent idea into how much Epic makes by serving as the distributor of Dauntless on the PlayStation and Xbox. Revenue from May 2019 to October 2020 (17 months) was $14.7 million, with $4.4 million going to those consoles' manufacturers, leaving $10.3 million for Epic. Paragon brought in $5.8 million in the 13 months it operated over the span of the report ($1.7 million to Sony/Microsoft, $4.1 million to Epic), and Unreal Tournament, Battle Breakers, and Infinity Blade round out the mix, with a total of $4.6 million in revenue, with $3.3 million of it going to Epic after fees.
Finally, we'll leave you with a look at Epic's gross revenue for each year covered in the spreadsheet. Remember that Fortnite made its debut in late 2017:
2017: $349.4 million
2018: $5.628 billion
2019: $4.226 billion
2020: $3.919 billion (through October)
If there was any doubt as to the transformative effect of Fortnite on the company, this should put it to rest.
About the Author
Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.
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