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Pro gamer explains how he made $500,000 playing 'Fortnite'

Katie Krzaczek
Associate Editor

Correction: This post originally misstated that Overton was 17 years old. We regret the error.

Nick Overton, a 27-year-old from Iowa, has made over $500,000 playing the immensely popular video game “Fortnite.” And he doesn’t even consider himself elite.

Overton told Yahoo Finance’s Midday Movers recently that he’s “not top of the food chain” when it comes to the most popular online player of the battle royale-style shooting game. (According to one e-sports earnings site, Overton is ranked #1959 in the world and #387 in the U.S.).

The booming e-sports industry brings in nearly $1 billion in annual revenue and has a worldwide audience of about 380 million.

Nick Overton, 17, spends his days getting paid to play the game Fortnite. (Photo: Yahoo Finance/Screenshot)

‘Most people are used to working a job’

Overton received his first gaming system, an N64, as a Christmas present at the age of six.

“It might have been, at that time, his biggest regret,” Overton said about his dad gifting him the system. Over time, he said, his parents eventually felt he was spending too much time playing and took it away from him. At age 12, his dad sold his XBox and accompanying games.

Finally, his dad told him that if he was going to continue gaming, he needed to find a way to make money on it.

“Most people are used to working a job, getting a paycheck,” Overton said. “Simple. With live streaming and YouTube, it’s much more complex.”

On YouTube, gamers who stream their play are typically partnered with a multi-channel network, or MCN, which bundles many creators together to monetize the content.

An MCN, Overton explained, will tell YouTube: “‘We have, you know, 10,000 creators that get this many views per month.’ And YouTube says, ‘All right, we’ll find ads for them.’ They take a percentage of that advertisement. … They give a percentage to the network, and the network pays you a percentage based on your contract.”

Streaming site Twitch works a little differently since it’s a subscriber-based system.

“On Twitch, a lot of the revenue that you make is usually through the people watching you,” Overton explained. “People will tip you $2, or $3, or they subscribe, similar to like an old-fashioned magazine subscription. … 

“Twitch charges them for the subscription, $5 a month on average. The creator of the streamer gets a percentage of that. Twitch gets a percentage of that. And, in return, they get access to some extra benefits in the stream, and they also get some extra benefits sometimes from the streamer themselves. They might have like a day where they play with fans.”

‘There’s a lot more work involved’ than people think

Since “Fortnite” is his full-time job, Overton explained that “there’s a lot more work involved that people don’t think is actually there.” One under-appreciated aspect is preparation.

“We also spend time practicing and going over VOD review, and videos,” Overton said. “We play in scrimmages against other pro players, and we try to see … if we did something wrong, how we could improve on that.”

Gaming fans play the game ‘Fortnite’ at the 24th Electronic Expo, or E3 2018 in Los Angeles, California on June 13, 2018. (Photo: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

For entertainment, the 27-year-old said he spends an average of “five hours a day live streaming, two to three hours recording for a video, and then I usually will fit practice in during the stream as well.” He also plays other games to “wind down.”

His success as a “Fortnite” pro online has influenced his life beyond the money.

“I’ve had fans stop me and take pictures at Target, or … I might see somebody and do an autograph or a picture,” Overton said, adding that “it’s weird” when he’s recognized outside of the gaming community.

“If you go to a convention … you’d expect to see some fans at that,” OVerton said. “It’s a little bit more awkward [elsewhere] … because most people don’t expect a video game player at a local restaurant. Like, ‘Is that guy famous?’ No, I just play video games.”

Katie is an associate editor at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter

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