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Volume 22 No. 35
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Fortnite takes pass on deals leading to World Cup Finals

Sources say Epic Games is content to build Fortnite’s brand and keep it accessible instead of chasing sponsor dollars.
Photo: getty images

Epic Games’ Fortnite World Cup Finals is this weekend in New York City, and despite the game’s wild popularity, Epic has not announced any sponsorships or linear media rights deals for the inaugural event.

Since launching in 2017, the battle-royale game has quickly vaulted into one of the most popular brands in the world among youth in an ascent that has caught the attention of not only the gaming world, but the entire entertainment industry. Epic has taken advantage by forming tournaments around the game, and it allotted an eye-popping $30 million prize pool for this weekend’s event.

But as the finals closed in on selling out the U.S. Tennis Association’s Arthur Ashe Stadium as of late last week, Epic appears to have decided against selling advertising or televising the event. It will be streamed on Twitch, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and within the Fortnite game itself. Epic declined to comment on its business decisions.

Stuart Saw, senior vice president of esports for Endeavor, which works with Epic Games, said foregoing selling sponsorships or media rights reflects Epic’s desire to keep the focus on the brand and to keep it accessible.

“If you look at Fortnite as a brand, there’s not much else out there like that where in two years it has grown from something we’ve never heard of to a brand as valuable and recognizable to young kids as Nike and Apple,” Saw said. “When Apple runs a worldwide conference, people would love to put their brand next to Apple’s, but Apple isn’t interested — it wants to keep the brand pure. That’s why Epic has made the decision it has.”

Saw added that as for media rights, “if you sell media distribution, you’re cutting out people because linear needs some form of exclusivity.” By contrast, he said, Epic “wants the event to be 100% accessible.”

The event takes place Friday through Sunday and will include a fan festival outside the stadium. Epic says more than 40 million people competed for a chance to be in the event, which will have 100 competitors in its solo competition and 50 two-person teams in its duo event. A pro-am event will include popular Fortnite player Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, who did not qualify for the main event.

ESG Law founder Bryce Blum noted that Epic is relatively new to the esports space, with Fortnite serving as one of its first games to feature organized, competitive play in the way Overwatch League or League of Legends has. With this being the first Fortnite World Cup Finals, Blum said it makes sense that Epic would want to take time before commercializing the event and instead focus on growing the brand.

“Every ad you run, every sponsor you attach to it, changes the feel of the product and they know that, and for now they would rather keep the product completely clean and mass distributed wherever people want to see it,” Blum said.

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