November 13, 2018 / By Michael Guzzo
Last week, the NFL and Epic Games announced their collaboration that will feature NFL team outfits available in the Fortnite game shop. NFL team outfits – customizable by jersey number for male and female characters – will be available for purchase by Fortnite gamers.
For younger fans who are already playing Fortnite, this partnership could be a way for them to represent their passion for esports and their teams. It also creates the opportunity to find other players in the game with similar interests, uniting them as a community within a community.
Epic Games co-founder Mark Rein told USA Today that this was an opportune time to engage Fortnite’s fans who are enthusiastic about the NFL.
“We have so many football fans at Epic and we know a lot of the game’s fans share that same enthusiasm. Allowing our players to represent their favorite teams was too cool of an opportunity to pass up.”
In their announcement, NFL Chief Media and Business Officer Brian Rolapp said, “The partnership represents a great opportunity for millions of NFL fans who are Fortnite players to express their fandom inside the game while at the same time exposing our brand to countless others.”
Rolapp also emphasized the popularity of Fortnite amongst current NFL players. The most prominent NFL/Fortnite personality is second-year Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Juju Smith-Schuster. Back in March, Smith-Schuster teamed up with high-profile pro gamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins and rappers Drake and Travis Scott on Twitch to live stream a Fortnite squads battle.
The stream set viewership records, reaching 630,000 concurrent viewers and was trending on Twitter. Other NFL stars such as Jay Ajayi, Evan Engram, and Justin Pugh have teamed up with top streamers to broadcast “Tuesday Night Fortnite” on Twitch during the NFL season.
This partnership marks one of the most significant moves the NFL has officially made into the world of esports. It shows the NFL’s willingness to branch out and invest in other types of video games; not just sports titles.
Other professional leagues have made bolder moves into the e-sports sector. Last year, the NBA and Take-Two Interactive teamed up to create the NBA 2K League, which currently boasts 21 teams rostered by gamers from across the country.
In August, the NFL partnered with EA Sports to launch the Madden NFL 19 Championship Series that will kick off in the leadup to Super Bowl LIII. As more leagues become interested in engaging esports’ fanbase, this partnership proves the NFL is no longer taking a wait and see approach to investing in competitive gaming.