The esports phenomenon Fortnite boasts a massive audience of 250 million registered players. Last weekend, that fanbase came together in the first ever Fortnite World Cup Finals to watch the best of the best duke it out for a $30 million prize pool.
That's right, this game is turning kids into millionaires.
Esports — an industry whose value is expected to pass the billion-dollar threshold this year — refers to the massive industrial complex of video game lovers who enjoy tracking and watching the top players compete against each other.
Since Fortnite (and even the concept of esports) is still pretty new, it's worth taking a look at how a swath of the top news outlets around the globe are covering the biggest game in the world and the massive July 26-28 event that two million viewers watched at the Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York City.
Here's every angle to know about the biggest esports event in recent history.
The Verge: “Fortnite is more of a place than a game”
First, The Verge talks about how the event highlights the game's existence at the intersection of the internet and real life:
“Perhaps the most impressive thing about the World Cup was how it blurred the line between the real world and the digital universe Epic has created. Not only did locations and characters from the game make their way IRL, but so did the Battle Pass. Just like in the game, fans were encouraged to complete multiple tasks each day (in this case, that meant visiting attractions) in order to earn rewards including a physical V-Bucks coin. And while you could buy all kinds of Fortnite World Cup merchandise at the event, it was also available in the game; two limited edition World Cup skins were on sale only over the weekend, along with other free rewards like a wallpaper.
“Much has been made about how Fortnite is more of a place than a game, a new kind of immersive social network. The World Cup showed that this could translate into the real world as well. Such is the blurry distinction between the two that when Marshmello announced that he would be performing a concert on Sunday afternoon, it wasn’t clear whether he meant onstage at the World Cup or in the game.”
CNET: The big 16-year-old winner
CNET's coverage detailed the winner, 16-year-old Kyle ‘Bugha' Giersdorf, who took home $3 million for his efforts.
“Sunday was the last day of the event and it was all about the solo tournament. Players from all across the globe who qualified in smaller tournaments competed, and it was 16-year-old Kyle ‘Bugha' Giersdorf who won the $3 million first-place prize and the title of the best Fortnite player in the world.
“Giersdorf started the day strong, winning the first of six games. In the next five games, he continued to place high and accumulate more eliminations, giving him the point lead. He kept the top spot throughout the day and had a commanding lead in the last game, where it seemed almost impossible for him to lose.”
Wired: “Fortnite is officially a tier 1 esport”
Where are Fortnite's millions of views actually coming from? Twitch and YouTube, where the game's audience lives and breathes. Wired unpacks a little background information on where Fortnite's audience comes from:
“For the remaining two people who don’t think Fortnite is huge, some news: Two million people concurrently live-streamed Sunday's Fortnite World Cup Finals. Now, those aren't exactly Game of Thrones finale viewership numbers, but still quite impressive for a relatively new game. That 2 million figure comes from streams on Twitch and YouTube, where thousands of folks tuned in to watch 16-year-old Kyle Giersdorf, also known as Bugha, win the $3 million grand prize at Arthur Ashe stadium in Queens, New York. ‘Fortnite is officially a tier 1 esport,' consultant Rod Breslau, who tallied the figure, tweeted as the event wrapped up.”
The New York Times: Tennis fans
You can always trust the NYT to frame a Gen Z phenomenon so it can be understood by their core audience of, well, “definitely not Gen Z.” True to form, their overview contrasts the stadium's Fortnite event, where the average age of contestants was 16, against the venue's more Baby Boomer-friendly hosting gigs.
“Next month, Arthur Ashe Stadium will be teeming with Lacoste polo shirts and tasteful chinos. Tennis fans will order $69 caviar plates (one ounce of hackleback) and $17 signature cocktails (vodka, lemonade, raspberry liqueur and honeydew melon balls) at Lure Oyster Bar. The fortunate few will watch players like Federer, Williams and Nadal from suites paid for by credit card companies and white-shoe law firms.
That is all in the future, though. This weekend, Arthur Ashe Stadium was teeming with, well, teenagers. There were also preteens (with their attendant parents) and men in their 20s, and occasionally 30s.”
Polygon: Pro “removed from World Cup match for screen watching”
Gaming website Polygon delved deeper into the goings-on, explaining how one pro player got himself kicked out of the World Cup.
“Mark ‘Letw1k3' Danilov, a 14-year-old Russian player representing Gambit eSports, was removed from his final Fortnite World Cup match from the solo portion of the competition, Epic confirmed to Polygon. […] ‘After multiple warnings to the player, a penalty was assessed and he was removed from the match,' the representative said. ‘He was not disqualified and will not be fined.'
“According to the official World Cup rules, viewing anything other than your own setup at the event is not allowed. Players can’t receive ‘outside assistance regarding the location of other players, other players’ health or equipment, or any other information not otherwise known to the player by the information on his or her own screen (e.g., looking at or attempting to look at spectator monitors while currently in a match).'”
The Sun: “Now he’ll buy her a house”
Over in the UK, The Sun reports on one player's million-pound haul, which he'll use to prove to his mom that all those hour spent gaming really can pay off in the most literal sense possible.
“Jaden Ashman, 15, had not earned a penny from gaming until two months ago — but split a £1.8million prize with his Dutch partner after coming second in the duos section at the game’s World Cup. He is now eyeing up a career as a professional gamer after treating mum Lisa, who used to scold him for “wasting time” playing the hugely-popular shooter-survival game.
“The delighted schoolboy said: ‘I’m lost for words. My Twitter has been blowing up and I’ve had a load of messages from friends. I’m definitely going to buy a house but I haven’t got a clue where. And some Gucci shoes. I might buy a car for my mum too, as she drives a little Fiat 500.'”
ESPN: Esports pros will win even more millions in the future
In 2009, South Korean esports star Lee Jae-dong was the highest prize-money earner in esports, with a haul of $86,265 for a full year of StarCraft: Brood War winnings. Needless to say, he's dwarfed by the $3 million prize taken home by just one of many winners in a single weekend at the Fortnite World Cup. But just how big can we expect prize pools to grow in another decade? A lot, ESPN predicts.
“Esports in this day and age, like traditional sports, are powered by stars. To keep stars like Tfue, Ninja and other Fortnite personalities engaged with the competitive scene, the money has to be there. While $30 million might be the biggest competitive gaming tournament to date, in two weeks, in China, Dota 2's world championship, The International, will surpass it, with the prize pool already nearing $31 million and time still remaining for it to grow by fan support. In a previous incarnation, the games were bigger than the players; but now, the players are brands themselves, public personalities with their own merchandise and streams without needing to be tied down to a single game or esports team.”
CNN: The underdog story
There's always an underdog. CNN takes a look at Emil “Nyhrox” Bergquist Pedersen of Norway and David “Aqua” Wang of Austria, who teamed up to win the duos category.
“The duo won back to back rounds as the final survivor in a frenzied matchup against other pros. Not only did those two rounds earn them twenty points total, they also managed to secure plenty of kills throughout the tournament, bumping up their final score to 51 points. It was a slim margin, but enough to win them the $3 million which will be split.
“‘Nyhrox and Aqua are good players but not many people had them going this far…pretty much every team was expected to do better than the team who won.' said Rod Breslau, an esports and gaming consultant. ‘All of this makes for a good esports story.'”
Kotaku: How the losers are handling things
Not every underdog takes home $3 million, of course, so Kotaku examined responses from four player who finished the Fortnite World Cup Solo finals with exactly zero points. They had a sense of humor about it.
“Funk had maybe the best attitude, tweeting, ‘Honestly, it’s impressive getting zero points lmao. Ggs though, still made 100k this weekend.'
“Arius tweeted, ‘0 point wwwwwwwwwww.'”
Telegraph: What's next? The Fortnite Championship Series
Finally, the Telegraph explained what Epic Games has planned next. Spring boarding off the success of their World Cup, they're launching an entire new esports league.
“Fortnite developer Epic Games will introduce a new competitive esports league with ‘millions of dollars at stake' following the success of the Fortnite World Cup.
“Named the Fortnite Championship Series, the league was revealed during the World Cup in New York where more than 100 players competed for a total prize pot of £24 million.
“Epic Games is yet to reveal full details of the tournament's structure, but said it will begin during Fortnite Season 10 and will “bring together the world's best players”. The new season is set to begin on 1 August.”
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