Tim Sweeney, the American video game programmer and one of the most popular businessmen in the gaming industry, is the founder and CEO of Epic Games and the man behind Fortnite. In 2024, Tim Sweeney’s net worth is estimated at over $8 billion, thanks to his brilliance in the gaming industry.

The entrepreneur has an excellent story and career. He has founded one of the biggest companies in the gaming world and stands behind Unreal Engine, the software used to create many of the most popular games worldwide.

To learn more about his story and wealth, keep reading.

Tim Sweeney’s Net Worth Breakdown:

For the most part, Tom Sweeney’s fortune stems from his stake in Epic Games. His salaries as CEO haven’t been publicly disclosed, but they most likely fall in the range of millions of dollars every year.

At one point, Tim Sweeney claimed the title as the richest person in North Carolina but in 2023, Jim Goodnight reclaimed the title he previously held.

Based on our thorough research of his stake, earnings, and assets accumulated over the years, here is what contributes to his significant wealth these days:

Asset or Income Source  Contribution to Net Worth
ZZT royalties $100/day
Epic Games stake 28% stake worth $8+ billion
Epic Games CEO salary Unknown
Real estate $28.4+ million
Classic car collection $1.5+ million
Total Net Worth  $8+ billion

Tim Sweeney Net Worth: Early Life and Career

Timothy Dean Sweeney was born in December 1970, in Potomac, Maryland, as the youngest of three siblings. He has two older brothers, Pat and Steve. Even as a child, he was enthralled by technology and dabbled in mechanical and electrical devices, tinkering with home items like the radio, the TV, and even the lawnmower at the young age of five or six. At one point, he even built his own go-kart out of engines and boards.

“I was always interested in technical things,” Sweeney said, “building go-karts out of engines, boards, and whatever pieces I could find. The people with my skill set… there was a transition point. If you were born five years earlier than me, you were an auto mechanic. You did souped-up cars and drag-racing and all of these other crazy things. If you were born five years later, you were into computers. It was the same audience.”

When he was 9-10 years old, young Sweeney saw a video game for the very first time, passing by an arcade on his way to school. He started playing Space Invaders, being immediately fascinated by the mechanics.

Eventually, the family bought an Atari 2600, Sweeney’s first home console, but he didn’t like the machine except for one game titled “Adventure”. He would go on in life to play very few games, and complete even fewer, including “Doom” and “Portal”.

“I would play games long enough to discover what games were doing and how they were doing it. And then I’d spend the rest of my time building.” – he told Kotaku.

When he was 11 years old, Tim Sweeney visited his brother in California to see his new startup. He spent a week there using the early IBM PC, learning BASIC and building his foundation in programming.

Between 11 and 15, Sweeney spent most of his time learning how to code, sourcing information from online bulletin boards and testing his skills on new games, though he never shared his early creations with others.

Sweeney had quite the entrepreneurial spirit at a young age too. As a teenager, Sweeney mowed the lawns of wealthy people in his neighborhood to make some extra cash. Eventually, he enrolled in the University of Maryland in College Park to study mechanical engineering. While in college, he started his first business Potomac Computer Systems using an IBM computer his father gave him. Even though his first venture never took off, it was an excellent start for the young entrepreneur.

Sweeney dropped out of college just a credit shy of graduating and decided to move back in with his parents in Potomac at the age of 20.

Tim Sweeney Net Worth: From Mowing Neighbors’ Lawns to Building a Multibillion-Dollar Business

Tim Sweeney jumped into the business world as early as he could. What started as a small gig to earn extra cash by mowing lawns soon turned into his first company while at college, followed by the company that turned him into a billionaire. Let’s see how his career grew over time.

Founding His First Company

During his second year at the University of Maryland, Sweeney decided to create his first full-fledged video game titled “ZZT”. He subsequently founded his first business while in college, using an IBM PC (which was ancient by today’s standards). His consulting business was called Potomac Computer Systems. This venture didn’t take off and he had to shelve it for the time being, but it taught him the necessary skills to build his second venture.

Sweeney was a gifted coder but didn’t know how to program graphics, so his ZZT game didn’t have actual objects and characters. Instead, it had smiley faces and symbols that attacked monsters. His hardware also functioned as a game development platform or editor, allowing users to create their games with it. He released ZZT in 1991.

Initially, his idea was to create a text editor using Pascal language to program the game. Instead, he decided to make a game out of the text editor, giving it first to his neighbors and college friends for feedback.

Founding Epic Games

When he dropped out of college, Sweeney moved back in with his parents. He used the money in his savings and started building Epic Games out of his parents’ basement. At this point, he was still selling copies of ZZT using the shareware model.

“I basically studied and did school work all day, then programmed all night — working on ZZT. On the weekends, I’d come home, and I had this little shareware business I was growing after I released the game,” Sweeney shared. “I’d receive a bunch of orders through the mail (people would send their checks in), then I’d copy disks on the computer and send them out. At the same time, I was working on Jill of the Jungle, the next game.”

When his new project was ready and after having sold thousands of copies of his first official game, Sweeney rebranded his first company as Epic MegaGames. His idea was to create a company with a name that made it seem like it was big.

Since he was getting new orders almost daily, it didn’t take Sweeney long to save enough money to move out of his parents’ home. In 1999, he quit his side gig mowing lawns and got his own place.

Reportedly, ZZT brought him $100 in shareware royalties a day from people who traded it hand-to-hand and on bulletin boards.

The Success of Epic Games

Stemming from his success with ZZT, Tim Sweeney continued to create new games. His next creation was called “Jill of the Jungle”, but he had to stop development because he didn’t have the skills to complete the game on his own. He hired four people to work on the game, who finished it in the summer of 1992. One of his developers was Mark Rein, who still works as the company’s vice president.

Tim Sweeney and company
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With Rein’s connections at ID Software, where he was previously an employee, Epic Games formed a shareware distribution deal that distributed “Jill of the Jungle” and the two sequels that followed. With this deal secured, the game grew to be quite popular, putting the company on the map.

Following this success, in 1988, Sweeney and his team developed a first-person shooter game Unreal. Much more importantly, they released 3D tools used to build the game, dubbing it Unreal Engine. After this development, the genre became widely popular with the audience because Unreal Engine made it much easier for developers to make great games.

This was an incredible important step for Sweeney and the company it received a 5% royalty every time another developer created a game using the Unreal suite of tools. Because the tool was so popular, Sweeney started absolutely raking in cash.

Tim Sweeney next to Unreal logo
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Thanks to the major success of this software, the company relocated to North Carolina a year later and changed its name to Epic Games.

After the Unreal success, Epic Games would go on to develop other trending titles including the:

  • “Gears of War” series
  • “Solar Winds”
  • “Infinity Blade” series
  • “Epic Pinball”
  • “Seek and Destroy”

“Gears of War”, which was released in 2006, was built using the Unreal engine. The series generated $1 billion in revenue for the company by 2014 when it was acquired by Microsoft (for an undisclosed sum). When Microsoft bought the franchise, they released “Gears of War: Ultimate Edition”, a revamped version for the first game in the series to be played on Xbox One.

Fortnite’s Success

In 2011, Epic Games revealed a new game they started working on, a survival-style game titled “Fortnite“. They didn’t launch the game for another six years but when they did, the game changed the world. In just a few months, Fortnite because the most popular game in the world by a large margin.

In 2015, while they were still working on the game, Epic Games announced that they were making the Unreal Engine free to use, allowing every game developer to use it to start their project. In return for using the game development platform, developers and publishers give the company a cut of their revenue, which soon became one of the biggest sources of income for Sweeney’s business.

Tim Sweeney in a Fortnite shirt
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When Fortnite was finally released in September 2017, everything changed for the company. It was one of the first “battle royale” style games, built with a free-to-play model where users could collect resources, find weapons, and try to be the last man standing out of 100 players.

Fortnite banner
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In just months following its release, the game found worldwide success. Soon enough, it counted 200 million players across 7 game platforms.

Now, Fortnite is basically free to play, but this doesn’t mean that Epic Games doesn’t earn money from it. It receives an astounding amount of revenue from in-app purchases and in-game purchases. People who play the game can purchase additional, virtual goods such as battle passes, skins, and accessories, ranging from a few dollars to around $20 per piece.

Since its launch in 2017, the company accumulated over 350 million Fortnite players, which resulted in over $5.4 billion in revenue in only one year. In 2022, the game generated $4.4 billion in revenue, which made up about 85% of Epic Games’ total revenue.

In 2020, Epic Games agreed to pay $520 million to the Federal Trade Commission over complaints that they violated children’s privacy law, as well as forced unintending purchases using trickery.

As of 2023, the game has over 650 million registered players.

Tim Sweeney’s Stake and Earnings from Epic Games

In 2013, Tim Sweeney sold 40% of his business to the Chinese tech company Tencent for $330 million. At this point, Fortnite was still in the early stages of development but very soon, the game became one of the biggest titles in the gaming industry.

In 2018, the company raised $1.25 billion from a group that included several big-name sports team owners, as well as Michael Jordan.

In 2020, Sony invested $250 million into the business when it was valued at $11.3 billion. After this valuation, Tim Sweeney owned somewhere between 51% and 59% of the business.

Tim Sweeney speaking
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The next year, the company raised $1.78 billion from a group of investors. The company was then valued at $28.7 billion.

In 2022’s investment round, the company raised $2 billion at a valuation of $31.5 billion. The investment once again included Sony, as well as Kirk Kristiansen’s Lego company.

After this last investment round, Tim Sweeney was reportedly left with a 28% ownership stake in the business. If we consider the latest valuation of the company from 2022, his stake was worth over $8 billion two years ago.

Today, Tim Sweeney remains the CEO of the company, though his salaries haven’t been publicly disclosed.

The Apple/Android Controversy

Sweeney and Epic Games were flying high in 2020 with over 350 million players on Fortnite. However, his luck ran out in August of 2021 when the game was removed from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. It was removed because it allowed players to make direct in-app purchases, which violated Apple and Google’s policies to take a 30% cut of all purchases.

In retaliation, Tim Sweeney is constantly slamming the tech giants on social media, and his company has pursued legal action with an antitrust trial set to start in May 2024.

In January 2024, the Epic Games Store announced that the game would be back on iOS thanks to new rules in Europe, but this changed recently.

 

Even though this was the case, the controversy didn’t stop players from downloading the game through the Epic Games Store, though the company is expected to lose a minimum of $330 million by offering free games.

Apple once again retaliated by blocking the Epic Game Store from being available on iOS devices.

Tim Sweeney's tweet on the news
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Philanthropy and Conservation Efforts of Tim Sweeney

When the real estate bubble collapsed in 2008, Tim Sweeney used his significant net worth to purchase tracts of land in North Carolina for conservation, which made him one of the largest private landowners in the state at the time.

In 2019, he owned 50,000 acres of forest land which included a 7,000-acre natural area called the Box Creek Wildernesss, containing over 130 threatened and rare plants and wildlife species. He reportedly spent $15 million on the land and donated the conservation easement to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in 2016.

In addition to this massive donation, Sweeney participated in the expansion of Mount Mitchell State Park when he donated 1,500 acres of his personal land to a conservation project.

In 2021, Sweeney announced that he would once again donate land, this time 7,500 acres in the Roan Highlands of Western North Carolina, this time to the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy. As of 2022, the conservancy manages the property and uses it as a nature preserve, and it also conducts studies in collaboration with Tim Sweeney. His donation has been valued at tens of millions of dollars, making it the largest private land donation for conservation purposes in the history of North Carolina.

map of Apalachin reservation
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Awards and Accolades

As a major name in North Carolina as well as the gaming industry worldwide, Tim Sweeney has won many awards and accolades throughout the years. These include:

  • 2007: Rave Award by Wired Magazine for his work on Unreal 3
  • 2012: Inducted into the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences for “changing the face of gaming”
  • 2013: Named “Land Conservationist of the Year” by the North Carolina Wildlife Federation
  • 2014: Honored with the “Stanback Volunteer Conservationist of the Year Award” by the land trusts of North Carolina
  • 2017: Won the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Game Developers Choice Awards
  • 2019: Named “Person of the Year” by MCV
  • 2020: Selected “Person of the Year” by Forbes Media Awards for hosting online events and turning Fortnite into a social network with his company

How Tim Sweeney Spends His Fortune

Aside from Epic Megagames (now Epic Games), Tim Sweeney hasn’t publicly disclosed any details of investments in other businesses. He seems to be fully focused on working in the gaming world, and his success in it is proof that he has selected the best career for himself.

However, while he doesn’t publicly disclose details on business investments, he is known to spend his money lavishly. At one point, he used to own a fleet of luxury cars including a Porsche, a Ferrari, a Corvette, and a Lamborghini. He reportedly still owns a 1967 Chevrolet Camaro and a 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing worth over $1.5 million.

And let’s not forget that he owns over 56,000 acres in North Carolina, most of which still remain in his personal asset portfolio. His Falkland Farms hunting preserve alone is worth over $11 million.

Tim Sweeny instagram post
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In addition to this, he owns the mansion he lives in, which is quite lavish and worth over $2.42 million. At one point, he shared:

“I don’t know why I have a big house. I don’t really need it; I don’t use much of the space,” he says. “But I figured, you know, I have the money. Why not?”

What Can We Learn from Tim Sweeney’s Story?

Tim Sweeney’s life story is incredibly impressive. Having built his tremendous fame and wealth from scratch, Sweeney teaches us the importance of talent and making well-informed decisions in life, as well as taking the necessary risks to succeed. He founded his multi-billion company out of his parents’ basement, proving that success doesn’t require major investments or backing as long as you know what you want to do and are good at it.

Sweeney’s story is even more impressive if you consider that he is a self-taught game developer. He dabbled in technology and mechanics from a very early age, creating his first game and computer software while still in college. He actually got the financial foundation for his business by selling his first game, using the skills he had obtained at that point.

Sweeney had some brilliant ideas for games, but they wouldn’t be completed unless he asked for help. His decision to employ other smart people to help him build his first games turned out to be a major move toward success, helping him build a brand that distributes some of the most popular games in the world.

Sweeney’s relentless pursuit of excellence and his commitment to pushing the boundaries of gaming technology propelled Epic Games to unprecedented success. From the groundbreaking Unreal Engine to the global Fortnite phenomenon, he demonstrated the ability to anticipate market trends and deliver some of the best gaming experiences.

While he is very private about his spending, Sweeney’s purchasing activities in the past decade in terms of buying land haven’t gone unnoticed. He has been quietly buying acres and acres of forest at risk for development, salvaging and donating a lot of it. his actions speak of the importance of preserving nature, especially when one has the budget, capacity, and public voice to make a big difference.

Finally, despite facing controversies and challenges, including his legal battles with tech giants like Apple and Google, Sweeney’s commitment to his vision has remained steadfast.