Then his big break came with the release of "Fortnite" in 2017 -- he grew from 500k followers to 2 million in just six months.
His skill and entertaining personality got him tons of viewers, and he broke Twitch's concurrent viewership record, surpassing 635,000 people at once, when he broadcast games he played with famous musicians Drake and Travis Scott, and American Football player Juju Smith-Schuster.
Before his move over to Microsoft's streaming platform Mixer in August 2019, Ninja had 15 million followers on Twitch, made the cover of ESPN, and was estimated to have earned $10 million+ the year prior.
He also secured $500k per month in 2019 through his many fans, partnerships, and sponsorships. Late 2019, he even announced a clothing deal with Adidas, which went on to release clothes and shoes, which sold out online in 40 minutes of their release at $150 a pair (I know, because I own a pair that I bought from a resale website for $60 more).
As I have detailed in a prior article, Ninja, who is considered “the esports guy,” should not necessarily be known as such, given his lack of pro-scene involvement.
In short -- esports is professional competition, but Ninja prioritizes casual and recreational gaming, which he streams for live audiences. However, Ninja's accomplishments are still truly legendary and important to the gaming space and only continue to grow through more historic breakthroughs. On January 15th, Ninja announced the upcoming release of a customizable in-game outfit based on his likeness.
The Fortnite “Icon” Skin series’ first feature of Ninja includes his well-known spiky blue hair, his yellow headband, and most importantly, his personal brand logo on the shoulder of the character.
Future releases in the “Icon” customizable series will undoubtedly continue to push further into “real-world” territory -- celebrities, athletes, and other big "Fortnite" enthusiasts will get the Ninja treatment.
The official release on Epic Games’ (creators of "Fortnite") website says to stay tuned for more collaborations featuring icons from “gaming, music, film, and fashion.”
The implications for the advertising and marketing world are numerous. We've already seen brands making use of gaming through event sponsorships, but some are taking the next step and actually getting involved in the games themselves -- Louis Vuitton and "League of Legends," "Fortnite" and the NFL -- and this continues to open doors to new and exciting opportunities.
While all the pre-teens and young millennials are scooping up "Fortnite" and Ninja's latest collaboration for around $10-to-15 real-world dollars of in-game currency, I will be thinking about what brand will take advantage of the ability to build their audience and consumer set through gaming next, and I think you should too.