By Kavitha Shastry
The massive popularity of Fortnite has helped its developer Epic Games secure a fresh $1.25 billion in funding, one which reportedly values the company at a nearly $15 billion valuation.
And one thing driving that interest is the fact that Fortnite has become more than just a video game, according to one investor.
"Fortnite and Epic is probably one of the fastest growing, potentially, social networks we've ever seen," said Bradley Twohig, partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners, one of the companies taking part in the latest funding round.
"When you see the type of engagement that these users have with one another and the amount of time that they spend with one another in the game, you get a lot of comfort that this is evolving into almost its own virtual world as opposed to a fad."
Fortnite launched just about a year ago but, as of August, already counted nearly 80 million monthly active users. While the game itself is free, but players pay to customize their characters, ponying up for special dance moves or costumes. Those purchase have brought in about $1 billion in revenue for Epic.
But this is actually the company's first stab at creating a game on its own. Epic, which launched nearly 30 years ago, was previously best-known for its "Unreal Engine," the platform on which game developers build their products. The technology, which was used in Microsoft's ($MSFT) Gears of War series, gives the company another advantage.
Unreal Engine "has been an industry standard for hard-core gaming for a very long period of time," said Twohig.
"That underpinning of that decade-plus long developer community that they built actually creates a lot of competitive barrier in terms of the technological know-how of how to do this," he said. "This isn't just people sending messages to one another, this is a very immersed world that they've been able to build out."
Among the other investors involved in Epic's latest funding round were private equity shop KKR, venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, and esports name aXiomatic, which is backed by former NBA superstar Michael Jordan. Disney ($DIS) and China's Tencent were among the company's early investors.
(Disclosure: Lightspeed Venture Partners is also an investor in Cheddar.)
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