Epic Apple documents show PS4, not iPhone, is Fortnite’s cash cow

Epic Apple documents show PS4, not iPhone, is Fortnite’s cash cow


Earlier this month, we learned that the iOS version of Fortnite was a huge revenue driver for Epic Games — the game earned more than $700 million from iOS customers over the two years before it was pulled by Apple, according to court documents (PDF) released ahead of Epic’s trial against the iPhone maker. But even though iOS Fortnite players brought in a staggering amount of money for Epic, iOS isn’t the biggest platform in terms of revenue for the game — apparently, it might even be among the smallest.

Court documents reveal that PlayStation 4 generated 46.8 percent of Fortnite’s total revenues from March 2018 through July 2020, while Xbox One, the second-highest platform, generated 27.5 percent. iOS ranked fifth, with just 7 percent of total revenue. The remaining 18.7 percent would have been split between Android, Nintendo Switch, and PCs.

In 2020, iOS revenues were projected to be an even smaller piece of the pie: just 5.8 percent, compared to 24 percent for Xbox One and “almost 40 percent” for PlayStation 4, according to a new deposition (PDF) of Epic Games’ David Nikdel, a senior programmer who works on the backend services for Fortnite.

“iOS was always the lowest or second lowest if Android was listed, correct?” lawyers asked Joe Babcock, Epic’s CFO until March 2020, in a separate deposition. The answer was yes.

Babcock explicitly confirmed that the iOS version of Fortnite earned less revenue, month to month, than:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox (presumably Xbox One)
  • Nintendo Switch
  • PCs

iOS’s low revenues compared to other platforms may not be entirely surprising, based on past comments from Epic CEO Tim Sweeney. He said in a declaration that Fortnite on iOS represented 10 percent of the game’s total average daily players in the two years from when the game launched to when it was pulled from the App Store in August. And Fortnite is considered to be a billion-dollar business all on its own: in 2019, it reportedly brought in $1.8 billion in revenue all by itself. (Epic projected company-wide revenue of $3.85 billion in 2020, to give you some idea of how big Fortnite is compared to, well, everything else Epic does.)

Thanks to these court documents being released ahead of the trial, we now have a better idea of where Fortnite makes most of its money — and despite the huge amount of dollars flying around mobile games right now, PlayStation and Xbox seem to account for the bulk of Fortnite’s earnings. They could make Epic’s choice to fight Apple and Google make a bit more sense — even if they alienate the app store companies, Epic can bank on Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo consoles continuing to rake in cash.



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