Teenage gamer Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf walked off with a cool $3 million prize purse after triumphing at the inaugural Fortnite World Cup last week. The 16-year-old displayed remarkable dexterity en route to beating 99 competitors at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. It catapulted him into the top 10 highest earning esports stars of all time and turned him into an overnight celebrity. Here are the top five things we learned from his victory:
A Resounding Success for Epic Games
Fortnite developer Epic Games is desperate to turn Fortnite into a leading esport so that it can enjoy the sort of longevity that titles like League of Legends, Dota 2 and CS:GO currently boast. It has invested $100 million into prize pools at Fortnite tournaments this year in order to kick-start the scene. The World Cup was always going to be the main event and it turned out to be a roaring success for the developer.
A total of 40 million people attempted to qualify for the tournament, and that helped Fortnite see off stern competition from Apex Legends and PUBG to hold onto its crown as the world’s most popular battle royale title. The qualifying heats gained plenty of attention, but it ramped up significantly for the World Cup in New York. Sixteen thousand screaming fans packed into Flushing Meadows to watch the action unfold, while millions more streamed the action from around the world.
Epic said that 2.3 million people tuned in to watch the solo final take place. It pales in comparison to the 205 million that watched Ivictus beat Fnatic in the League of Legends World Championship final last year, but it still beat most esports tournaments. More importantly, it generated huge social media buzz and a massive amount of traditional media coverage around the world.
Several teenagers became millionaires: Bugha is 16, the third-placed Epikwhale is also 16 and he took home $1.2 million, while a 15-year-old from Essex in England won more than $1 million for finishing second in the doubles tournament. A 13-year-old from Argentina finished fifth. These teenagers earned life-changing sums by playing video games, and that was too tempting a hook for newspapers to ignore.
This media blitz should inspire many more teenagers to spend their time playing Fortnite in a bid to emulate those success stories. It will also provide kids with plenty of ammunition to fire back at parents that demand they put the controller down and do some homework.
Hard Work Pays off for Bugha
Bugha spends six to eight hours each day holed up in his room playing Fortnite, and that intensive practice paid dividends when the tournament began. He came into the tournament as a relatively unknown quantity, as all the hype surrounded celebrity streamer Tfue. “I got my leopard print vest on ready to ttv dunk on these fools,” declared Tfue before the action unfolded. He is often a favourite due to his high-profile antics, but it turned out that his bluster and bravado was no match for the hard-earned skills of Bugha.
He finished in first place in Week 1 of the World qualification rounds in North America and then set about preparing for the big tournament. Bugha soared into an early lead by vanquishing all his rivals in the opening game, and he never relinquished it. He placed high and secured kills in most of the other games, finishing in the top 10 in the final round. That supreme consistency saw him finish with almost double the score of the second-place competitor, a level of dominance that should really be unheard of in such a talented field.
Build Speeds and Fearlessness are Vital to Fortnite Success
Most streamers point the camera at their faces while playing Fortnite so that their fans can revel in their reactions to the action. Yet Bugha has recently opted to point the camera at his wrists to show just how rapidly they are moving during a game. He can pull off precise, elaborate edits and lightning speed, taking on rivals and building without missing a beat.
It is a joy to behold and it shows just how much skill is involved in Fortnite. Critics say that the battle royale format hampers its chances of success in the world of esports, as the randomness throws the competitive balance out of whack. But over a best-of-six final, Bugha’s skill, speed and dexterity shone through, allowing him to dominate his rivals, regardless of what the RNG tossed up.
Another notable quality was his utter fearlessness as the game progressed and the storm pushed the remaining competitors closer together. He displayed phenomenal aggression throughout proceedings, and that allowed him to secure more kills than any other player. Some of his plays were astounding, going from low health and no materials to almost maxed out thanks to quick-fire kills, and it provided superb action.
His bold shockwave plays in the opening game set the tone for his victory. Meanwhile, Tfue was eliminated early on in matches, he was humbled by comparatively low-profile players. It just goes to show that having millions of Twitch and YouTube subscribers counts for very little when the game begins, and some of the celebrity streamers would do well to spend more time improving their build speeds.
Esports Emerges as a Genuine Rival to Traditional Sports
It was symbolic that the Fortnite World Cup was held at Flushing Meadows. Later this month, it will host the US Open tennis tournament and the champions will walk away with a similar prize purse to Bugha’s. The total tournament carried prize money of $30 million, which is similar to the women’s soccer World Cup held this summer.
There are now 450 million esports fans across the world, and the industry is worth more than $1 billion on an annual basis. It is easy to see why Epic Games is keen to crack into this market, as it is growing exponentially. It allows games to enjoy great longevity in what is otherwise a fickle market, and it has seen major companies piling in with sponsorship deals.
It was great to see 16,000 fans cheering on their heroes at the Fortnite World Cup and to learn that millions more streamed it from around the world. Esports transcends international boundaries with ease, and 30 different countries were represented at the event.
Competitive gaming has the potential to rival traditional sports in the near future, and organisers of tennis, football, basketball and golf tournaments could learn a lot by watching the Fortnite World Cup. It placed a huge emphasis on social media interaction and it allowed fans to watch on mobile devices by choosing their own streaming services and it.
Battle royale games are still difficult to follow, dye to the dizzying multitude of perspectives required and the speed-editing box fights, but recent changes to scoring and mechanics have improved Fortnite’s meta and it made for some gripping action at the World Cup.
A Huge Unaddressed Market
The 100 leading qualifiers from around the world headed to New York to battle it out for glory at the Fortnite World Cup. Every single one was male. This is an issue across many esports, as the industry seriously struggles to appeal to half of the global population. Developers like Epic Games, Valve and Riot Games need to work harder to foster a community and gaming culture that is attractive to female players, as they are currently missing out on a huge unaddressed market.