The Bizarre Way that Fortnite Fashion makes Billions in Revenue

fortnite fashion by ralph lauren polo

When Fortnite first launched, I met with some of the key execs in the offices of Epic Games, in a quiet office park in the remote suburbs of Raleigh, North Carolina (technically, a village called Cary). They were excited, and enthusiastically explained the concept to me: “The game is short-form; no session will ever exceed 15 minutes. It will be multiplayer, 256 players per game. Last man standing PvP. It will run across all platforms: console, phones, PCs, tablets… and it will be absolutely free-to-play.”

Me: “Okaaaay. And?”

Epic: “And what?”

“And how will you make… money?

“Oh, that’s easy. We’ll sell merch. Clothes. Digital Fashion. We’ll call it ‘Fortnite Fashion‘.”


“Its free to play, but players will be able to skin their avatars with limited edition merch: t-shirts, shoes, hats, even bodies.”

“Oh, I get it. Like World of WarCraft… you’ll have a secondary market where people can buy armor and weapons for cash (game credits, actually… but effectively, cash equivalent), instead of earning them in game… basically, pay-for-performance enhancements.”

“No, no… the fashion items and skins won’t effect their in-game performance at all.”

“Then why would anybody buy anything?”

“Because they want to look cool to their friends!”

Yeah, right. I thought. This is the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard. No one will ever fall for that.

But God was laughing at me that day. The rest is history.

Roblox Fortnite monthly revenue 2023

Two years later, Fortnite had more than 100 million users and was making $100 million a month in revenue. More than a billion a year. Today, more than a decade later, Fortnite continues to dominate the “Free-to-Play” rapid game market, and continues to scale revenue, now averaging around half-a-billion dollars per month.

Fortnite Fashion: Zero-cost Replication

One key point about digital (vs. physical) fashion: manufacturing cost is effectively zero. When you design an actual physical garment or shoe, that is only the first step. You then source materials (fabric, rubber, thread, packaging), rent a factory, hire workers, and manage complex logistics to move product from factory to retail to end consumer. Its an expensive process no matter how hard you cost-engineer it.

But virtual fashion? Have an artist model it, create the texture & UV maps, and post it to the store. Key in how many you want to offer (limited edition merch — which is insanely ironic for a digital item, but, yo, NFTs…. — sells for a serious premium), and hit the button. Boom. The entire cost is in the design side… no more than $1000 per item, and most likely more like $100. Want to offer 100 for sale? 1,000? 100,000? There is zero replication cost. Its just bits.

But there is extreme revenue upside. It costs nothing to replicate and sell and distribute a digital asset, but each and every item sold goes straight to the bottom line. zero cost, all profit.

A final note: you might think that a digital t-shirt, given the economies outlined above, would cost a consumer less than a physical shirt. But no! Epic charges about the same! Shirts go for $10 to $30 each. Want a limited edition World Cup Team shirt? Expect to pay $100 or more. Just like Air Jordans, exclusive merch demands exclusive pricing.

Money. Machine.

Kudos, Epic. You solved the puzzle. Silly consumers.

PS : The r/FortNiteFashion subreddit has more than 125,000 members. Check it out.