All this week, Tyler ‘Ninja’ Blevins has been teasing an announcement as big as his Adidas shoe deal or move from Twitch to Mixer. Yesterday, he announced that he and Epic Games had partnered to officially give him his own Fortnite skin in the game, and that’s now just gone live in the shop.
It’s not just a skin, which comes with alternate styles ranging from Ninja’s face to a masked version, but also back bling (swords), a mining tool (more swords) and his signature Pon Pon dance as an emote, though they couldn’t get the music license for the real track. As expected, none of this is terribly cheap. In real dollar V-buck translation, it’s about $15 for the skin, $8 for the mining tool and $3 for the emote. Maybe $21-24 if you’re buying in bulk.
Epic promises this is only the beginning of their “Icon” series, which will span creators from “games, music and entertainment.” They talk about how they have already dabbled in this with Marshmello and Major Lazer, and discuss how future collaborations will include Loserfruit and TheGrefg, though whether that means Icon skins or something else is unclear. Pokimane has been teasing an announcement for this weekend, which some are speculating could be her own skin, though perhaps yet another streaming platform switch or org signing, who knows.
What I’m curious about is how all this works with likeness rights and revenue. I’m especially interested to know if this is a one-time “signing fee” for Epic to be able to use someone like Ninja’s likeness and brand for the skin, or if this is an ongoing revenue split, which could potentially be even more lucrative. These questions have already been raised for things like the Marshmello skin or the John Wick skin that is very much Keanu Reeves. Less so with Marvel’s Black Widow or Star Lord skins or DC’s Batman or Catwoman skins, which are purely characters, rather than actors playing characters. In Ninja’s case, this is a first for Fornite, his face, his brand.
Ninja set off the great streamer signing gold rush with his move to Mixer, and now it seems likely that content creator skins could be something new he kicks off with this partnership. He’s not the first ever gamer to be put in a video game, as many are quick to note, but this is definitely the most high profile example of this happening, and is almost guaranteed to be the most lucrative.
I’ll have some more thoughts on this tomorrow, as I think this is yet another piece of Epic’s grand Fortnite Metaverse future, but for now, I’ll just buy the skin.