The cover of ESPN: The Magazine has been graced by people from all recognized sports. It symbolizes sporting success and is a launch pad for any professional sportsman. Over the past few years, esports has gotten severe mainstream recognition – from hosting big-budgeted annual events to being considered for inclusion in the Olympics. Such is the prevalence of esports among fans that gaming heroes are considered as legends. One such legend, Tyler Blevins, known by his nickname “Ninja”, is soon to be featured on the cover of ESPN: The Magazine.
Ninja is known for being an absolute legend in the game ‘Fortnite’, a survivor game that has seen an unprecedented surge in its popularity. The game starts with a hundred online players being dropped onto a desolate island. By utilizing the natural resources to build forts and walls and by displaying acute marksmanship to take out the remaining players – Fortnite allows just one remaining player to prevail. Currently, the game is on its 5th season, with the 6th season ready to be launched in October 2018. The game is addictive, to say the least, resulting in over 200 divorces in the UK in 2018 alone.
For Ninja, however, playing Fortnite is akin to a spiritual journey of survival. In March 2018, he live-streamed a game which also included pop-star Drake, rapper Travis Scott, and Pittsburgh Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. At its peak, the game pulled in 630,000 concurrent viewers on Twitch, Amazon’s live streaming platform, shattering the previous record of 388,000. After his popularity surged, he attended the Fortnite Celebrity Pro-Am in Los Angeles – where 50 gamers paired with 50 celebrities to play for $3 million in charity prize money. Later that same month, Ninja signed a marketing partnership with Red Bull.
Many gamers believe that Ninja has become the first crossover star in the gaming world. His Twitch account has over 11 million followers and his YouTube account – 18 million subscribers. He regularly uses both the platforms to live-stream games, earning huge amounts of revenue in the process. With a net worth of $6 million, he easily earns over $500,000 a month from people just watching him play. Such is the finesse and deft with which he plays Fortnite.
During a social media interaction in April, he logged on the most number of online users – beating professional soccer players Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar. He remains very particular of garnering an income out of his gaming skills. He told ESPN, “When we decide whether I’m going to an event, the pay has to be there. If it’s not paid, how much clout are you going to get? Are you going to be networking? Is that networking worth $70,000? The more breaks I take, the less they stream, the less they’re relevant.”
Ninja will become the first professional gamer to appear on the cover of ESPN: The Magazine – in its 1st October issue. His popularity is not only showcased in the gaming community, or with Hollywood elites, but also in the genre of general sports.