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Epic Games is no startup. The company is staffed with veterans of the video-game industry, and for decades it's made its mark with games like the "Gears of War" franchise. Its Unreal Engine technology has underpinned some of the most popular video-game series of all time, like "Mass Effect," "BioShock" and "Injustice."

But 2018 blew up for Epic Games thanks to the rise of "Fortnite," a free-to-play digital game it created and distributed that broke fully into mainstream consciousness. A year after its release in September 2017, the game boasts 125 million players worldwide, many of who are shelling out small amounts of money in-game for new outfits or quirky dances for their digital avatars. This business model has pulled in more than $1 billion in revenue and has pushed Epic Games to a valuation of $15 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal.

In the past, people who didn't play video games would still "talk about Nintendo and Mario," says Joost van Dreunen, CEO and co-founder of Nielsen's SuperData Research. "Now it's all about 'Fortnite.'"

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