Graphic artist accuses Epic Games of underpaying them for ‘Fortnite’ illustration

Graphic artist has alleged that Epic Games attempted to underpay them for an illustration to be used in the video game Fortnite. 

Deb JJ Lee shared their experience with the gaming company on social media, alleging that Epic Games offered them $4,400 AUD for a graphic design and the subsequent copyright to reproduce it. Lee later shared screenshots of their attempted negotiation for a higher price for the Fortnite illustration, revealing that they had to decline the gig after their $15,000 counteroffer was rejected. See Lee’s Tweet thread below. 

I think it’s hilarious that Fortnite, which earned $6b in revenue in 2021, asked me to do an entire illustration with all copyright for $3k,” Lee wrote on Twitter. Meanwhile, in their alleged negotiations with Epic Games, Lee wrote that the offer might’ve been satisfactory if they owned the copyrights themselves, which would allow them to profit from any reproductions. “It doesn’t feel ethical to take this project,” Lee said, “The time it would take [for an] assignment… where I can’t even sell prints would barely leave me with a living wage.” 

Still from 'Fornite' video game
Credit: Epic Games

Over on TikTok, Lee went on to refute claims that they hadn’t negotiated strongly enough, relaying the message to Epic Games that “if you want to buy out the rights, if you want to be able to use this image however you want, whatever you want, you have to pay me $15k.” Lee again addressed trolls on Twitter, responding to claims that they should be grateful to have been approached by Epic Games to begin with. 

@jdebbiel FYI wells fargo (i know :( ) paid me $40k for three illustrations) #illustration #fortnite #dobetter #artistsoftiktok #illustrator ♬ original sound – Deb JJ Lee

Lee shared statistics from the Graphic Artists Guild for Pricing and Ethical Guidelines, which revealed that “prices for illustrations and art [haven’t] risen with inflation for the last hundred years.” With this data, they clapped back at naysayers with a Tweet that read: “[I] love being in a situation where i know im Correct.” Lee has elsewhere contributed illustrations to The New Yorker, Adobe and LEGO. 

Promotional poster for 'Fortnite: Chapter 4'
Credit: Epic Games

It comes as the fourth chapter of Fortnite officially debuted over the weekend. The Fortnite: Chapter 4 expansion features a brand-new island, a new character known as The Ageless, and new vehicle additions in the form of dirt bikes. The new Fortnite also includes the ability to roll around in a giant snowball, flying jellyfish that can restore health, and brand-new guns including a rifle that shoots blades.