By Kevin Kelleher
September 19, 2018

In a sign of the ascendance of esports in the world of professional sports, Fortnite star Ninja will become the first professional gamer to appear on the cover of ESPN: The Magazine.

Ninja, whose real name is Tyler Blevins, is the first crossover star in the gaming world, with more than 11 million followers on Twitch, Amazon’s live-gaming platform, and 18 million subscribers on YouTube. His net worth has reportedly reached $6 million, with the gamer’s monthly earnings reaching $500,000 in March (Ninja told ESPN it’s now nearly seven figures).

Much of Ninja’s earnings come from his online gaming, but more is starting to come from traditional channels. Ninja signed a marketing partnership with Red Bull in June.

“When we decide whether I’m going to an event, the pay has to be there,” Ninja told ESPN. “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 [streamers] take, the less they stream, the less they’re relevant.”

ESPN and Ninja announced the magazine news on Twitter. Ninja will be profiled in the Oct. 1 issue of the magazine, which will appear on newsstands this week. A digital version of the profile is already available online.

Ninja’s breakthrough moment came in March, when he and Drake played Fortnite: Battle Royale, a live-streamed event that drew more than 630,000 viewers on Twitch. Fortnite, a multiplayer game in which 100 players battle each other on an island until only one remains standing, has been 2018’s gaming sensation. The game has generated more than $1 billion in revenue from in-app purchases while become a reason for at least 200 divorces because of its addictive allure.

Fortnite’s developer, Gary, NC-based Epic Games, is expected to release Season 6 of Fortnite later this month. The fifth season of the game will conclude on Sept. 25, with Season 6 beginning shortly after.

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