Topline: Fortnite billionaire Tim Sweeney held a keynote talk at the annual D.I.C.E. Summit in Las Vegas today, where he criticized random loot box monetization, data-sharing tech companies and political discourse at game companies, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
- Sweeney, CEO and cofounder of Fortnite creator Epic Games, called out tech giants like Facebook and Google for using “adversarial” customer models, such as providing free access to services in exchange for a “loss of privacy and loss of freedom,” and noting that Fortnite was rejected from appearing on the Google Play store because it refused to use a different payment method.
- A year ago, cybersecurity firm Check Point Research found an exploit that put Fortnite’s 200 million users at risk of having their accounts exposed, though it was fixed when the firm pointed it out to Epic.
- Speaking on loot boxes and pay-to-win mechanics—where in-game chests of random items are purchased instead of individual items—Sweeney reportedly said they are tantamount to gambling: “Do we want to be like Las Vegas with slot machines…or do we want to be widely respected as creators of products that customers can trust.”
- Fortnite, which made $1.8 billion in 2019, according to Nielsen’s SuperData, has popularized an alternative monetization method where players make a one-time payment for a season-long “battle pass” that has unlockable tiers of cosmetic items, a practice embraced by Activision Blizzard and other publishers, who find it more lucrative—and likely less legally fraught—than loot boxes.
- According to the Hollywood Reporter, Sweeney closed on likely more divisive comments regarding politics at game companies, saying “We live in a world where your political affiliation determines what chicken restaurant you go to,” saying that entertainment platforms should separate themselves from politics.
Key Background: Sweeney has always been a key voice in gaming, but since Fortnite took over the world after its launch in 2017, he’s become an even more influential figure. Fortnite‘s battle pass is redefining how companies monetize their free-to-play games. Live-streaming websites have significantly grown up through the rise of major Fortnite personalities, like Ninja who made an estimated $17 million last year. The success of Fortnite has forced usually stingy companies like Sony to allow cross-play between different gaming platforms, and as Sweeney noted in his talk, spending goes up when players game with their friends in Fortnite. Epic Games has opened a new PC gaming store that’s making real waves in the industry by paying for exclusives and offering a more favorable revenue split with developers. And the company quickly made its name known in esports with its $30 million Fortnite World Cup event last year that featured open qualifiers.
Big Number: $4.5 billion. That’s Tim Sweeney’s estimated net worth according to Forbes.