Epic Games announced a new system for paying creators on Fortnite, the ultra-popular, free-to-download battle royale game.
Announced on Wednesday at the Game Developers Conference, Epic will now share 40% of Fortnite revenue with anyone who designs “islands” in the game. This includes money that Epic earns from the purchase of V-Bucks (in-game currency), real money spent in Fortnite on items like starter packs, quest packs and cosmetics, and Fortnite Crew subscriptions.
On their personal island, creators can develop their own unique in-game experiences with custom rulesets and designs. A creator’s payout is determined by how popular the island is, and how many users keep returning to the island.
According to Epic’s wording, companies can also earn payouts in this program, which means that, like with Roblox, professional game developers can also publish their own content on Fortnite and get paid. However, the language makes it unclear whether Epic itself is eligible to earn back a portion of the allotted 40%, which would make the actual sum going to third-party creators far smaller.
Already, about half of play time in Fortnite takes place in user-created content, but these third-party maps are about to get a massive upgrade. Epic announced today that Fortnite is getting an Unreal Engine editor, which is now available in public beta. At least from the demo videos, this looks like it’ll be a game-changer (literally):
With the new editor, it only makes sense that Epic would switch up its creator system. Fortnite’s existing creator program offered relatively paltry incentives for would-be amateur game designers. Creators had a personal code, and if fans entered their code when buying an item in the Fortnite shop, they would get 5% of the revenue. To join the new program, which Epic is calling “Creator Economy 2.0,” users can sign up on Fortnite’s new creator portal. Any creator who joins before April 21 will be paid retroactively for any island engagement from March 1 onward. To be eligible for payment, users must be 18 or older and have an account that’s at least 90 days old.
The 40% figure is an interesting choice. For years at this point, Epic has been embroiled in a lawsuit with Apple, alleging that the iOS App Store maker is anti-competitive, as it takes 30% of all in-app purchases. Epic originally sued Apple in 2020, when the company removed Fortnite from the App Store; Epic had implemented a new payment mechanism that allowed it to bypass Apple’s in-app purchase framework.
The initial verdict on the case was mixed, prompting both companies to appeal. A judge ruled that Apple was not a monopoly, but that the company couldn’t prevent apps from routing customers to a different payment processor to get around the 30% cut. Epic appealed, pressing for Apple to support third-party payments. Apple also appealed, seeking to close up these workarounds and keep payments flowing through its own channels.
Comparing Apple’s app marketplace to Epic’s in-game creator earnings isn’t exactly straightforward, given the nuances of the new Fortnite payments model. Epic argues that app developers have no choice but to host their apps on Google and Apple stores, but Fortnite is just one ecosystem of many in which developers can earn an income stream. Depending on how the details shake out — and what light they cast the company in — we may see bits of Epic’s new creator payments program bubble up in the ongoing appeals process between the two companies.