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 $500,000 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 $600,000 for one event last year. Those people, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized 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.