CARY – Tim Sweeney, the 47-year-old founder and CEO of Epic Games, is now a billionaire due in large part to the global phenomenal success of the video game Fortnite.

So says Bloomberg news.

Epic Games photo

Tim Sweeney

Citing the hundreds of millions of dollars flowing into Epic’s coffers from more than 125 million players, Bloomberg says its analysis shows Epic is worth several billion dollars. And since Sweeney is the majority owner, his net worth makes him a rival to North Carolina’s other billionaires – Jim Goodnight and John Sall, the co-founders of software powerhouse Cary-based SAS. (The other billionaire, according to Forbes, was the late C.D. Spangler of Charlotte.)

Epic, which is privately held with Sweeney the majroity stock holder, isn’t talking about Sweeney’s financial success, however.

“We have no comment on this,” an Epic spokesperson tells WRAL TechWire. “Thanks for checking.”

While Epic has delivered two decades of hit games such as “Gears of War” and developed one of the video games’ most widely use development engines, “Unreal,” and partnered with such giants as Microsoft and Apple, its Fortnite game has raised Epic’s profile even higher.

You can bet plenty of Fortnite fans will pack Supercon in Raleigh today and over the weekend. The game is at the top of the tech pop culture world right now. The franchise has developed into an empire-worthy success alone with toys and accessories on the way from Funko, for example – another sign of Sweeney and team’s deal-making prowess.

“Fortnite alone is on track to generate $2 billion this year, making the Cary, North Carolina-based gamemaker worth $5 billion to $8 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index,” Bloomberg reported.

World of Android next for Fortnite

Fortnite, which Epic has called the future of the video game industry in part because it can be played across multiple platforms, also is about to get bigger. Media reports are saying Fortnite will become available on Android devices in August.

The success of Fortnite is hard to condense to a few words, but Bloomberg did it well:

“Fortnite is a global phenomenon, played obsessively by children, rappers, professional athletes and middle-age accountants. It’s a cartoonish, last-character-standing, fight-to-the-death battle royale where players thrash one another in a struggle for weapons, resources and survival on a shrinking, storm-ravaged island.”

And the money continues to flow in. While Fortnite can be played for free, there are pay-to-play options. But most of the money is coming from game accessories, weapons and such that legions of players are buying online.

“Between the release of the current version in September and the end of May, Fortnite brought in more than $1.2 billion, according to SuperData Research. As of early June, it has been played by 125 million people,” Bloomberg reports.

The Red Hat model

By giving away Fortnite – and Unreal is availabvle for free in exchange for downstream revenues of developed products – is embracing the strategy of another Triangle tech powerhouse.

Red Hat.

Led by Bob Young who has said investors called him crazy for building a company based on Open Source software rather than proprietary (think Microsoft) and giving away Linux in return for selling related services, the Hatters proved the “free” strategy could ultimately become a money machine.

Now there’s Epic.

Sweeney, who also is widely known as a conservationist, obviously knows the art of the deal.

He sold 40 percent of Epic to China-based ecommerce and Internet powerhouse Tencent for more than $300 million in 2012 and later sold the Gears of War franchise to Microsoft.

“In June 2012, Tencent made a minority investment in Epic Games, purchasing approximately 48.4 percent of outstanding shares of Epic stock, equating to 40 percent of total Epic capital inclusive of both stock and employee stock options,” Sweeney sexplained to gaming news site Polygon in 2013. “As part of the investment, two Tencent representatives joined Epic’s board of directors, in addition to the three directors and two observers appointed by Epic. We’re thrilled to have a world-leading partner in Tencent, who gives Epic unique access to the Chinese market as we head into the next chapter of our 21-year history as a leading independent developer.”

The deal led to the cashing out of some executives, such as creative guru Cliff Bleszinski. But Epic has pressed on.

His prowess as a thinker, inventor and strategist also has made him a Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences Special Awards member.  Epic has reaped awards as a studio, too.

As for what’s next? You can bet Sweeney has plenty of ideas.