Fortnite’s founder went from a geeky kid making games in his mum’s house to £55m

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Gaming sensation Fortnite recently passed 45 million players, with creators Epic Games now making around £90m a month from their addictive shooter.

It took over half a decade and a team of hundreds to put Fortnite together, with the game first teased in 2011 – six years before its eventual release in 2017.


And if you follow the Epic chain of command all the way to the top, you’ll find some of the brightest minds in gaming, including eccentric CEO Tim Sweeney, 47, and his billionaire backer Ma Huateng, 46, – otherwise known as Pony – the richest man in China.

You’ve probably never heard of either of them, but without Sweeney or Pony, the incredible story of Fortnite would never have played out like it did.

Sweeney, a born geek, had been programming games since he was just 11, obsessed with the rapidly developing computing industry.

But Epic Games wasn’t born until 1991, when Tim Sweeney, then a 21-year-old mechanical engineering student at the University of Maryland, released the company’s first game, ZZT.

Here, among Epic’s modest roots, you’ll find a game which is a closer relative of your computer’s notepad than a glossy title like Fortnite.

That’s because Sweeney had originally started out trying to make a notepad tool, but his software ended up turning into an action-adventure puzzle game, which Sweeney released after nine months in development.

Tim Sweeney is still the CEO of Epic Games, with a $75million net worth (£55m) and a thriving company which employs 800 people across America, Asia and Europe, including in Edinburgh, Newcastle and Staffordshire.

He’s established a reputation for himself as a quirky character: he reportedly doesn’t eat vegetables (because “they’re what food eats”) and he is obsessed with VR, believing that we will be able to live Matrix-like virtual lives within a few decades.

Bizarrely, he’s not a big gamer himself, instead taking a greater interest in the programming behind the games.

And the forward-thinking millionaire isn’t a conventional spender either: over the years he has splashed over $15 million (£11m) to preserve 36,000 acres of mountainous North Carolina wilderness.

About the Author

Phil Warren has been writing for since the start. A huge gaming fan mainly Xbox and Playstation. He is always looking for the latest news and reviews for all gaming consoles and games.