Epic Games’ crusade against Apple and Google hasn’t scared off investors, as it raised $1 billion this week in a new funding round that valued the Fortnite maker at $28.7 billion. Forbes estimates founder and CEO Tim Sweeney now has a net worth of $7.4 billion, up from $4.7 billion after its previous funding round just eight months ago.
Epic Games boasted in May 2020 that Fortnite surpassed 350 million players. It made headlines last August when it was removed from the Apple App Store and the Google Play store, due to a direct payment option it implemented to allow players to buy items in the game, in violation of Apple and Google’s policies that take a 30% cut of all in-app purchases. Sweeney hasn’t relented, slamming the tech giants as monopolies, and Epic Games is pursuing legal action with an antitrust trial set to start in May.
The controversy hasn’t stopped players from continuing to download and play Fortnite through the Epic Games Store, though Epic is expected to lose at least $330 million by offering free games and deals as it competes to gain market share from Steam, a gaming platform run by Valve Corp. billionaire Gabe Newell. Epic’s previous investors are ensuring it still has plenty of cash to offset the investment. Sony invested $250 million in the $1.78 billion round last August that lifted Epic’s valuation to $17.3 billion, and it pumped in another $200 million as part of this week’s announcement.
Epic said in a press release that the funding will “support its long-term vision for the Metaverse,” a tech buzzword describing a collective virtual reality. It has hosted virtual Fortnite concerts featuring artists like Travis Scott and Marshmello in the last two years to strengthen its players’ community.
Sweeney remains the company’s controlling shareholder, Epic says, and Forbes estimates he now owns a 28% equity stake. Chinese internet giant Tencent is the largest outside shareholder, owning a 40% stake. A spokesperson for Epic declined to comment further on Sweeney’s ownership.
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The boost lifts Sweeney, 50, past SAS founder James Goodnight as the richest person in North Carolina. Epic is based in Cary, N.C., and Sweeney is an active land conservationist in the state, where he has bought about 50,000 acres of forest land to keep it from being developed.