Report: EA Paid Ninja $1 Million To Stream Apex Legends

Image: Red Bull

These days, it’s not uncommon to see big companies promote their games by cutting deals with top YouTubers and streamers, but how much does one of those deals cost? In the case of chameleon-haired Twitch king Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, the number could be as high as $1 million.

Citing an anonymous source, Reuters published a report today saying publisher EA paid Ninja $1 million to play Apex Legends and tweet about it the day after the game launched on February 4.

Ninja has over 13 million followers on Twitch, meaning that anything he streams will get an astronomical amount of exposure. That said, even by Ninja’s standards, $1 million is a significant chunk of change — in December, he told CNN he makes $708,327 per month and “a lot more” in a “good month.”

Although Kotaku was not able to independently confirm the veracity of Reuters’ report, two people who have worked with Ninja said he was paid $849,992 for one event last year. Those people, who requested anonymity because they were not authorised to speak about the deal, asked that we not name the event.

When asked for comment, Ninja did not reply, and while EA declined to go into specifics, an EA rep did tell Kotaku that the company had a “multi-part marketing program” for Apex Legends that included “paid engagements with some content creators at the launch of the game as we looked to quickly introduce the game to the world.”

However, they said that the paid streams were short-lived; after midday on February 5, the day after release, “all Apex Legends streaming from content creators was completely organic.”

The rep also pointed to a disclosure policy streamers like Ninja were required to adhere to. “EA requires full disclosure and transparency with every Game Changer, content activation, or paid sponsorship that we are involved with,” it reads.

“This is mandatory for every country, language, or influencer that we work with. We do not partner with influencers, agencies, or talent who do not support proper disclosure.”

It does not go into how often streamers are required to disclose sponsored content or what exactly proper disclosure entails, nor how prominent placement of said disclosure needs to be. This can lead to confusion, given that streams often last for many hours. Case in point: On Apex Legends’ launch day and the day following, I watched hours of streams from both Ninja and fellow battle royale kingpin Michael “Shroud” Grzesiek.

Both had stream graphics that indicated they were part of an “Apex Legends partner” program, but during the time I watched them, neither outlined the exact specifics of what this program entailed. Shroud alluded to aiding in the game’s development as a consultant, but he didn’t disclose the terms of his compensation.

There is no denying that EA’s decision to partner with big streamers had an impact. On Apex Legends’ release day, it doubled Fortnite’s concurrent viewership numbers - pulling off a coup that, days earlier, nobody would’ve thought possible. More than a month later, Apex Legends remains a Twitch top ten mainstay, often occupying a spot among the service’s top three most-viewed games.


    I don't understand people who watch this shit. Then again, I don't understand people who watch sports either.

    What a waste of money, lol they would of played it anyway because its the current "in thing"

      Given it attracted 25 million players in its first week, I think EA would disagree. Only 4% of those would have to spend $1 for them to get their investment in Ninja back. Pretty sure they would have gotten that sort of traction.

      But would it be the current 'in thing' if it didn't have a bunch of top streamers to get the bandwagon going?

        It's something we'll never actually know for sure, but it's a really good question at any rate.

        If only because it is actually a very good game when you get down to it, and in an ideal world that alone would be enough to gain such attention.

        These top streamers (ninja, shroud, dr disrespect) play any and all BR games when they first come out, even the crap ones.

      But is it the "in thing" cause every major streamer got early access before and then were paid to play it for the first week, showing how easy its to wun cause they akready had 30+ hours practice and coaching.

      The impact of targetted advertising that saw a lot of fortnites streaming audience suddenly watching a different game for several days straight was huge... better than a banner on a Bus.

      ... but at the end of the day, most of the big streamers will go back to Fortnite cause its regular updates make the content zany and etertaining.

      Yeah but it's also about timing. Plenty of good games don't gain any traction on Twitch because the top streams in the genre get split between two or three new releases that happened to come out at the same time. An unforeseen Fortnite patch can wipe a popular new AAA game off the front page in an instant.

      This particular streamer is a good investment because he doesn't just have high viewer stats he's got a solid track record of attracting an audience that will go out and spend money playing what he was playing. He holds an audience well enough that if he's streaming a game all day his viewers won't get an opinion elsewhere. They'll just see their favourite streamer having fun and think of the game as a success.

      So it's not just about getting him to play the game it's also about controlling the narrative in a way that makes it hard for the game to die right out the gate. That's the number one fear when making these games. Everything gets nice and hyped but something little happens and people go play something else. These games are built for the streaming market so the last thing they want is for some indie joke game to come out of nowhere and steal the spotlight during their launch window.

    $US1 ($1) million.
    Localisation bot 9000 back at it again.

      I wonder if the other weirdly specific numbers were more round in the original article?

      If you're trying to protect a source by not identifying an event, listing the fee paid right down to the dollar doesn't seem like a great idea.

        Yeah that's it, was $500k in the linked article (/autoplay video attached to the linked article).

    so they paid him a million for something he would have played anyway, priceless

    19 ads between story and comments, one pop up video, one always on banner ad... Too much kotaku.

      Dude, how on earth can you tolerate browsing the web without some sort of ad/tracker blocking running?

      Thing is, 95%+ of users have these things running, which means they need to shovel off 20x the ads on the remaining users [ie: you].

      It's literally three clicks away from you with the above link. Do yourself a favour ;-)

        Thanks for the advice dude, browsing on my phone while at work, understand adblocking from phone is a bit more hit and miss?

          I'd recommend using Firefox on mobile as well. Their mobile browser uses the same extension framework as desktop, which means you can install the same adblocker I linked above.
          The mobile web without it is even more abnoxious, as it chews up even more of the limited computing resources available on a mobile device. You'll never look back! :-)

            Awesome thanks for the advice mate!

    Well I have no idea who the strange little man with blue hair is but hey good on him if EA wants to drop that sort of cash

    That number feels hugely inflated to me. If Ninja streams 20 days a month and makes 800k a month thats $40,000 a day. Even presuming a possible risk that swapping from Fortnite for a single day would cause his income from fans to drop to zero, I can't see why EA would need to offer him more then say 100k.

    Anyone remember this Far Side comic from the early '90s?

    It was meant to be ironic.

    It's funny that the parents' exaggerated dreams are nowhere near the reality of today's professional gamers.

    If it's just that one mil it's the cheapest marketing campaign ever.
    Judging from the result it was the best money EA have ever spent on marketing

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