‘Fortnite’ Revenue Dropped 25% in 2019 but Was Still the Year’s Top-Earning Game With $1.8 Billion Haul

Fortnite Chapter 2
Courtesy of Epic Games

Fortnite” remained the biggest game of the year for 2019 in terms of revenue, raking in an impressive $1.8 billion — a decline of 25% off a record-setting $2.4 billion take a year earlier, according to research firm SuperData.

Overall, digital games revenue reached $109.4 billion in 2019, up 3% year-over-year, Nielsen-owned SuperData reported.

“Gaming did not need new titles on the level of ‘Fortnite’ or ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’ to continue expanding in 2019,” SuperData said in its year-in-review analysis.

Even as Epic Games’ “Fortnite” revenue “stabilized” in 2019, the title still topped other free-to-play games, which represented 80% of the total digital games market for the year (the same as 2018). “Fortnite’s” success is the result of consistent content updates — Epic released the game’s Chapter 2 installment in October — and monetization through Battle Pass subscriptions, as well as crossover promotions with pop-culture blockbusters like “Marvel’s Avengers,” Netflix’s “Stranger Things” and Star Wars, according to SuperData.

In addition, “Fortnite” has been very successful at converting players to spenders. For example, “Fortnite” has fewer players overall than Riot Games’ “League of Legends,” but “Fortnite” players on PC are more than twice as likely to spend on in-game content as “LOL” players, SuperData says.

After “Fortnite,” the top free-to-play games in 2019 by revenue were Nexon’s “Dungeon Fighter Online” and Tencent’s “Honour of Kings” (both with $1.6 billion); “League of Legends” and King Digital’s “Candy Crush Saga” (both at $1.5 billion); and Niantic’s “Pokémon Go” and SmileGate’s “Crossfire” ($1.4 billion each).

Perennial chart-toppers like “Candy Crush Saga” and “Honour of Kings” pushed mobile’s share of free-to-play revenue to 74%, a trend that is expected to continue into 2020, according to SuperData, which Nielsen acquired in September 2018. Last year, a growing number of publishers brought PC and console franchises like “Call of Duty” and “Mario Kart” to smartphones to capitalize on the trend.

Meanwhile, total premium game revenue in 2019 declined 5% year-over-year to $18.9 billion as there were fewer AAA blockbuster titles for the year compared with 2018. Aside from “Grand Theft Auto V” and “Sims 4,” the top 10 premium games were all sports games or shooters — No. 1 was EA’s “FIFA 19” ($786 million) followed by “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” ($645 million).

In 2020, premium games are expected to have their biggest year ever, with revenue growing to $19.8 billion, per SuperData. Major releases for the year are slated to include CD Projekt Red’s “Cyberpunk 2077” starring Keanu Reeves, “The Last of Us Part II” and “Animal Crossing: New Horizons.” Later in the year, new game consoles — Microsoft’s Xbox Series X — and Sony’s PlayStation 5 — are targeted for holiday release; those platforms represent “a large expansion opportunity for digital games as powerful hardware enables new, more immersive experiences,” according to SuperData.