A new report has found that the top five websites for counterfeit goods in Asia are selling just under $3m worth of fake Fortnite merch.
Pointer Brand Protection, the company that published the report, has called for greater recognition of the damage that counterfeits are causing to games and esports brands.
Brand Protection Director David Buirs said that the esports sector is suffering financially due to its recent emergence - and to weak intellectual property systems that fail to protect brands. He's called on brand owners to ramp up their brand protection efforts and remove counterfeit products from some of the 600+ marketplaces that contribute to the black market trade.
The news comes around the time of the Fortnite World Cup, which saw two UK players finish in the top six last weekend.
Pointer Brand Protection analysed five of the online marketplaces known for counterfeit goods. This is what they found:
Pointer added that aside from the financial effect, as many esports games have audiences under the age of 18, instances of unsafe toys or products such as branded cigarette lighters and alcohol flasks raise further dangers.
One Reddit user even found a Fortnite-branded condom - probably not the kind of thing a parent will want their children to see.
Pointer Brand protection said in its report: "The level of popularity that Fortnite’s makers, Epic Games, has achieved since the game’s release in 2017 have made it a prime target for counterfeiters. Listings for potentially fake merchandise bearing the name, logos, and characters are prominent on all the online marketplaces renowned for selling counterfeit goods.
"For esports brands, taking tighter control of their reputations and their profits means being able to manage this level of brand abuse.
"There are indications that this is certainly happening on marketplaces such as Redbubble and Amazon, where the scale of the issue is not as wide-ranging, which suggests that the companies are already taking enforcement action.
"For many esports brands, however, marketplaces such as the ones listed above still offer a vast array of products from the ridiculous to the potentially dangerous."
"The level of popularity that Fortnite’s makers, Epic Games, has achieved since the game’s release in 2017 have made it a prime target for counterfeiters."
Esports News UK searched for a League of Legends Vi figure online a few years back, and was astounded by the level of counterfeit goods available online.
It's not just merch either - there are other ways a brand's intellectual property can be used without permission.
For example, there was the awful event in Norwich earlier this year called 'Fortnite Live' that actually had nothing to do with the game's developers Epic Games.
The event featured a climbing wall that could fit 'about four kids' on it, a 'cave experience' which was actually a truck with a tarpaulin covering its sides, a merch stall selling baseball caps with cannabis leaves on them and a big inflatable llama with a crowd barrier around it.
Through all these counterfeit activities and merch, it shows that there is strong demand for licensed esports products and services beyond the games. It's just down to the developers and orgs out there to ensure they're giving their fans what they want, and making it easy to buy, so they aren't left with crappy fake merch online.