Fortnite World Cup Brings eSports To The Main Stage

Kyle Giersdorf by Epic Games
Kyle Giersdorf by Epic Games

This past weekend, hundreds of people descended upon the sold-out Arthur Ashe Stadium in the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York to witness 100 players, with an average age of 16, battle it out in the Fortnite World Cup for a prize pot worth $30m.

For those unfamiliar with Fortnite, it is an online crossover video game available in three distinct game modes: A shooter-style survivor game (Fortnite: Save The World), a freeto play battle royale game (Fortnite Battle Royale), and a free-play game where players create their own worlds (Fortnite Creative).

The Fortnite World Cup began in April 2019 with online events over 10 weeks up until the finals played over the threeday weekend starting July 26, 2019. On Friday, the Fortnite Pro-Am was held teaming popular streamers with celebrities for a $1m prize that Streamer Airwaks and music producer RL Grime will split between their charities. Saturday and Sunday saw the duo and solo tournaments respectively. Emil Bergquist Pedersen (“Nyhrox”) and David Wang (“Aqua”) took home the $3m Duo Grand Prize and 16-year-old Kyle Giersdorf, known online as Bugha, took home the Solo Grand Prize of $3m.

Commentary was broadcast on multiple social platforms with some allowing viewers to focus on their favorite gamer. The head of esports at Endeavor, Stuart Saw, said the production truck for the World Cup had twice as many feeds as the Super Bowl.

The move towards accessible entertainment and esports is troubling many traditional sports that bank on on-site attendance and their older fanbases. Targeting younger consumers means embracing nontraditional sporting options. Even the International Olympic Committee decided to add skateboarding, surfing, and three-on-three basketball to Tokyo’s upcoming Summer Olympics and esports has been confirmed as a medel sport for the 2022 Asian Games.

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