KEY POINTS

  • Tim Sweeney founded Epic Games from his parent’s home in Potomac, Maryland
  • Epic Games released “Fornite” in 2017 and has since made $4 billion as of 2020
  • Sweeney is included in the 2020 Forbes 400 list

Video game programmer and Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney's fascination with video games goes way back. Here’s how the battle royale video game “Fornite” not only changed the landscape for gaming but also Sweeney’s net worth.

In September 2017, “Fornite” cemented Sweeney and Epic Games’ future. The game saw a significant number of players within months of its release, and by July 2018 it was the most streamed and most watched game on Twitch and had already accumulated over $1 billion in revenue.  

Even with its free-to-play model, “Fornite” is Epic Games's biggest revenue magnet. The game’s in-app purchases allowed the game developer to make over $4 billion from 2017 to mid-2020. Character costumes and accessories, and seasonal “battle pass” made a big chunk of the income. This has also pushed Sweeney's net worth to $9.47 billion and landed him the 123rd spot on the 2020 Forbes 400 list.

Sweeney has always been into video games. In a 2011 Kotaku interview, Sweeney recalled the influence Nintendo had on him founding Epic Games.

"I would play games long enough to discover what games were doing and how they were doing it. And then I'd spend the rest of my time building," he said.

It was his older brother who influenced his curiosity about technology. Sweeney described his younger days spent with his brothers as sitting in front of a computer and figuring things out. Sweeney started working on video games at age 11, Business Insider noted.

He founded Potomac Computer Games in 1991 and launched his first commercial video game “ZZT” in the same year. The video game has sold “several thousand” copies, according to CNBC . Its success drove the rebranding of the company into Epic MegaGames. 

With the successful release of “ZZT,” Sweeney relocated his company to Cary, North Carolina. The video game developer went on to release several successful titles including “Unreal,” “Gears of War” and the “Infinity Blade” series. 

The company’s Unreal Engine technology also contributes to Sweeney’s billionaire status. In 2015, Epic decided to make the technology free. It paved the way for any video game developer to create their own game. In return, every developer who uses the technology gives a percentage of their earnings from each game made with it to Epic Games.

Apart from his contribution to the video game industry, Sweeney is also a well-known conservationist. He purchased acres of land in North Carolina for preservation and donated millions to protect forests in the state.

Epic Games, maker of Fortniteare to pay the equivalent of $8 to players who bought so-called 'loot boxes' containing game items without knowing what was inside them before they purchased them Epic Games, maker of Fortniteare to pay the equivalent of $8 to players who bought so-called 'loot boxes' containing game items without knowing what was inside them before they purchased them Photo: AFP / Chris DELMAS