When Tyler ‘Ninja’ Blevins was reportedly going to get Drake on his stream, many people were skeptical, instead the stream became an iconic moment for Fortnite and gaming in general.
It was March 14th, 2018. It was Season 3 of Fortnite. New players were joining the game constantly and insane edit tricks and 90s were unheard of. Dedicated players were grinding the new extended Battlepass with the goal of reaching tier 100 and the John Wick skin that came with it.
With very few competitive events having taken place, the debate between the best two players largely centered around Ninja and Myth. It was an argument of styles between an aggressive rusher who dropped massive bombs all day and a calculated player who was pushing the limits of building in Fortnite.
Since then, Ninja has blown up and been featured on national ad campaigns, had multiple events built around his personality and earned Battlebusses full of money. While Ninja’s career to that point required years of grinding games, one tweet sent it into hyperdrive.
That tweet turned an already massive stream into the largest Twitch stream by an individual streamer that wasn’t an event or tournament.
More than 600,000 people tuned in to watch Drake and Ninja play duos before they were eventually joined by Travis Scott and Juju Smith-Schuster as well.
Some of the best moments in the stream were when it was just Drake and Ninja going back and forth and popping off in duos. For some reason the full VOD of their duos doesn’t seem to be on Ninja’s Twitch channel but he did upload two separate duos games with Drizzy to YouTube.
He eventually played with Drake again, about a month later and uploaded two more videos showing those games which are linked here and here. But I want to focus on that first stream and how truly revolutionary that felt in the moment.
Other celebrities are also avid gamers and had done events around video games in the past, but this stream was a confluence of the three most popular things in their respective fields. Ninja is the most popular streamer, Drake the most popular rapper, and Fortnite the most popular game in America.
All three things came together at a time when Ninja still had a good reputation in the community and almost everyone playing Fortnite absolutely loved the game.
Everybody and their mothers wrote about the event. Mainstream sites jumped on the stream and explained to their readers what Fortnite and Twitch are and who Ninja is. Sometimes they were out-of-touch or didn’t understand gaming culture, but ultimately the exposure was huge for the video game community as a whole.
Epic took the success of that initiative and held events like the Celebrity Pro-Am (won by Ninja and Marshmello) over the summer. That likely led to the Marshmello concert in Pleasant Park in February.
One interesting comment from Drake is interesting to revisit now. In one of Ninja’s videos he says “I don’t know what is taking Epic so long to add emotes from rappers. Hotline Bling, the Uzi shrug, they should be in the game.”
After the lawsuits that have come out and some rappers alleging that Epic is stealing from Black artists, it’s interesting to hear a rapper advocating for more inclusion of emotes from rap culture.
It was impossible to predict how Fortnite would have developed based off of that one stream, but if the game is still active and popular in 5-10 years, many people will look back at the time Drake joined Ninja as a crucial moment in Fortnite’s success.