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From July 26 to July 28, 2019, New York's Arthur Ashe Stadium hosted the biggest video game competition of all time — the Fortnite World Cup. The event, witnessed by a live audience of over 23,000 and more than 2 million fans online, was the culmination of a 10-week qualification process that whittled down the approximately 40 million hopefuls to the final 200 competitors. In a true testament to the game's universal appeal, the contestants hailed from 34 countries and ranged in age from 13 to 24.
The thrilling competition, which awarded a staggering $30 million in prize money over the three days, comprised four different tournaments. The event began with the Creative Finals that showcased Fortnite's recently launched Minecraft-style mode. The 32 finalists, split into four teams of eight, had to play three unique games designed by their fellow players: Sky Showdown, Junction Juke, and World Run. After four hours of intense battle, it was Jack 'FaZe' Cizzorz and his team 'Fish Fam' that took home the top cash prize of $1,345,000. The rest of the $3 million prize money allocated to the tournament was distributed to the remaining teams based on their wins. Given that members of Cuddle Crew, which came in last, took home $195,000, it was a productive day for all.
Next up was the Celebrity Pro-Am, or professionals versus amateurs, contest. Similar to the previous two Pro-Am events, held on June 12, 2018, and June 19, 2019, 50 celebrities, paired with 50 gamers, competed for a charity of their choice. The list included stars like Toronto rapper NAV, EDM artist Marshmello, and popular professional players like Tyler 'Ninja' Blevins and Nick 'Nickmercs' Kolcheff, both of whom failed to qualify for the World Cup. Though the battles were fierce, it was the reigning champions — musician RL Grime and Twitch streamer Karim 'Airwaks' Benghalia — who earned the top prize of $1 million for their favorite cause. The rest of the $3 million total prize money allocated to the event was distributed to the next eight winners.
Though the two events, both of which took place on Friday, were exciting, the highlight of the three-day competition was the duos and solo championships that began on Saturday. They both followed a similar format. Players were required to compete across six 100-player Battle Royale matches and were awarded points based on placement skills.
Thanks to the open nature of the qualifying rounds, which allowed all Fortnite registered users to compete, the final lineup, especially in the duos competition, comprised mostly unknown players. After failing to crack the top ten in the first three matches, 17-year-old Emil 'Nyhrox' Bergquist Pedersen and 16-year-old David 'Aqua' Wang mounted a remarkable comeback in the final three games, to take home the total grand prize of $3 million.
The solo tournament was equally exciting. Sixteen-year-old American Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf outplayed gaming veterans like Turner 'Tfue' Tenney (who finished in 67th place) and Timothy 'Bizzle' Miller (23rd place) to take home $3 million. This is the highest prize money awarded to any individual in e-sports history.
However, unlike the duos championships, Giersdorf, or "Bugha" as he likes to be called, led the competition from the first match. The Pennsylvania teen was introduced to Fortnite two years ago by his father and was instantly hooked. "I saw it, and I was like, ‘This is something I’d be interested in playing,’” he said. “And I just started playing with my friends, and it got pretty fun. I started playing every day.” The youngster, who now spends six to eight hours on the game daily, intends to invest most of the prize money. He does, however, expect to splurge on a new desk!
Twenty-four-year-old Harrison 'Psalm' Chang, a full-time gamer since 2016, came in second place, taking home $1.8 million. The Orange County, California native, who has 19 years of gaming experience, also does not have big plans for the winnings. “I’ve always lived kind of frugally, and I’m not really big into, like, spending big,” he said. “I’ll use it somehow to make more money, though.”
Shane 'Epikwhale' Cotton of Redondo Beach, California took home the third place trophy and $1.2 million. The 16-year-old, who had never played in a major tournament before, practiced for the event for six to eight hours a day during the school year and stepped it up to 10 hours in the summer months leading to the finals. Besides splurging on some new clothes and shoes, the youngster has no big plans for his winnings either.
Following the success of the inaugural Fortnite World Cup, developer Epic Games announced a new challenge for fans. Starting with Season X, which was launched on August 1, 2019, players will compete weekly to become the Fortnite Season X champions. Though few details were revealed, the company has promised winners "millions of dollars!"
For those not familiar with the video game, Fortnite is a third-person survival shooter game in which players battle zombie-like creatures called Husks. First unveiled on July 25, 2017, the game's popularity has increased exponentially since the September 2017 launch of the Battle Royale mode. In this mode, teams of one, two, or four gamers are dropped into a large map to defeat other players, while a storm continually shrinks the map. The last player(s) standing wins, and achieves the coveted Victory Royale! Fortnite now boasts over 250 million registered users worldwide, and with the success of the World Cup, the numbers can only increase!
Resources: Theverge.com, CNN, com, wired.com, epicgame.com