It’s not every day that a free to play game can make you millions of dollars, but that’s exactly what happened at the Fortnite World Cup Finals. Solo winner, Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf walked away with a cool $3 million as the world champion, with duos winners, Emil “Nyhrox” Bergquist Pedersen and David “Aqua” W, sharing the same amount from the largest prize pot in eSports history. In total, the 200 players competing in the finals shared a grand total of $30 million, with each player, solo or duo, pocketing at least $50,000 just for making to the finals in the first place.
A long road to New York
As we discussed in our Fortnite World Cup preview, it was an epic journey to reach the New York finals, with an estimated 40 million players taking part in the elimination rounds. Ten weeks of qualifiers – split across six geographical regions – whittled the 40 million players down to the 200 finalists. Every finalist had to qualify in the same way and there were no free passes for the game’s stars. This meant that some notable Fortnite heroes missed out along the way, including one of the game’s most famous players, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins.
A worldwide audience
The finals were held at the Arthur Ashe Stadium, in Flushing Meadows, which is the largest tennis stadium in the world and home to the US Open. Huge screens were erected so fans could follow the action as it unfolded. Remarkably, despite the stadium having a capacity for 23,700 fans, every single seat was sold out well in advance. And it didn’t stop there.
An estimated 1.3 million viewers watched the finals on video streaming site, Twitch, with a further 500,000 viewers watching on YouTube. There were thousands more watching on Microsoft’s Mixer channel, and it’s thought that hundreds of thousands more watched the finals on screen while taking part in their own Fortnite adventures. Viewers were rewarded with special bonuses, including a world cup outfit for the Fishstick skin
A remarkable rise
The incredible event and massive participation, both by players and fans, marks an remarkable rise for the game. After all, Fortnite Battle Royale – the first version to use the last man standing format – was only released in September 2017. By the following June it had already reached a massive 125 milion players. Industry experts estimate that the huge success of the game made creators, Epic Games around $2.4 billion in its first full year.
Taking Fortnite into eSports
From the $1.2 million NBA2K league, supported by mainstream basketball clubs in the US, to contests like the Call of Duty Black Ops 4 World League – which recently crowned its champions with an $800,000 prize – to the forward-thinking the probably team which lift the MLB trophy LA Dodgers Acclerator program, a global sports innovation platform offering “strategic collaborations between organizations and emerging startups”. eSports is growing rapidly. Epic Games clearly recognised the potential for Fortnite, and put aside $100 million of their profits from the game to promote it in the eSports arena. 40 million contestants in their first ever world cup shows what a smart move this was.
While most of us spend our time online chatting on social media, or trying to drop the jackpot on the slots, Fortnite players spend up to eight hours a day practicing the game. And who can blame them when the Fortnite World Cup had a total prize fund of $140 million to divide between the qualifying rounds and the finals winners? Most of the winning players admitted to spending eight hours a day or more practicing the game – rehearsing strategies and plotting their way to success. No doubt many of them had parents and teachers in their ears telling them how much they were wasting their lives, however, a cheque for $3m would appear to prove otherwise.
While banking $3 million is an impressive payday by any standards, that was just the beginning for young Kyle. Now officially the Best Fortnite Player in the World, he has become an instant star, even appearing as a guest on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. A rich career of personal appearances, sponsorship and endorsements surely awaits. Yet the sixteen-year-old is not letting it get to his head. When asked what he was going to do with his new found riches, Kyle told the BBC: “All I want is a new desk and maybe a desk for my trophy.”