Well-known gamer Ninja paid US$1 million to promote free-to-play Apex Legends

Tyler Blevins was one of a few professionals with huge followings pulled in by video-game giant Electronic Arts to play and promote its latest title, Apex Legends.
Tyler Blevins was one of a few professionals with huge followings pulled in by video-game giant Electronic Arts to play and promote its latest title, Apex Legends.PHOTO: RESPAWN ENTERTAINMENT

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - What are a few hours playing video games and a handful of tweets worth? US$1 million (S$1.35 million) if you are Tyler Blevins, known to millions as Ninja, the world's most-followed computer gamer.

He was one of a few professionals with huge followings pulled in by video-game giant Electronic Arts (EA) to play and promote its latest title, Apex Legends, in the first hours of the launch last month, generating a buzz that notched 10 million sign-ups in the first three days.

The 27-year-old tweeted about the free-to-play game early on Feb 5 and streamed the action to his more than 13 million followers on game-streaming site Twitch.

For this, he was paid around US$1 million, a source told Reuters.

The amount underlines the increasingly cut-throat fight for dominance of the free-to-play battle royale genre that, through Epic Games' global smash hit Fortnite, has pushed major publishers like EA to change how they do business.

Representatives for EA and Ninja declined to comment on how much he was paid, but the amount named by the source is more than twice media reports of Ninja's monthly earnings from streaming his regular appearances on Fortnite.

EA also paid popular Polish-Canadian streamer Shroud, who has nearly six million Twitch followers, to play Apex Legends but declined to disclose the terms of the deal.

EA's stock price and market value rose 16 per cent, or US$4 billion, in the three days after Apex Legends was launched.

A month later, the game has 50 million users, a quarter of Fortnite's 200 million.

Mr Joost van Dreunen, co-founder of Nielsen-owned gaming research firm SuperData, estimated that in 2018 Fortnite raked in US$2.4 billion in revenue, more than any other single title.

Ninja, who reportedly plays Fortnite for 12 hours a day from his basement studio outside Chicago, has been one of many to benefit from its massive success.

He has streamed himself playing alongside celebrities like rappers Drake and Travis Scott, and has sponsorship deals with Red Bull and Uber Eats.