Fortnite World Cup: A $30M Prize Event, or Fortunate in Fortnite
Epic Games has created a game that became the cultural phenomenon of the late 2010s. Fortnite doesn’t start as a Battle Royale game, and it wasn’t the first of its sort, but that didn’t stop it from becoming to the genre what Xerox copiers have become to the entire device class. Making crazy money on it, Epic Games didn’t miss its chance to establish Fortnite as a self-sufficient cybersports discipline. The first Fortnite World Cup took place in New York on July 27-28, with ten weeks of online events to select the finalists.
No doubt that $30 million that Epic Games spent just for the prizes is a serious sum. And it doesn’t include the rest of its expenses on conducting the tournament. It’s just a share of what the publisher earns, of course, but it’s still a grand investment.
If You’ve Been Out
The idea of Battle Royale isn’t new; in fact, the genre owes its name to the Japanese dystopian movie of 2000, telling the story of schoolkids forced to kill one another on a lonely island, until there’s only one. Too brutal for the Western cinema industry, and too dramatic to resist, the movie became a cult immediately. Followers like The Hunger Games shaped the tradition. But it took years of MMO development for the gaming industry to respond properly.
Well, all the characters are quite grown in the game, and no one is taken to the island violently, but it doesn’t change the rules. As one hundred fighters get deployed to the island, everyone needs to pick up weapons, materials, or vehicles, and use them to survive. You can just kill others, escape combats or fight openly, ride vehicles, walk, run, or crawl, but there’s nowhere to hide as the storm drives all the survivors to the small eye for the final showdown.
With almost no narrative behind the gameplay, Fortnite is a story in its own right. Side quests and new locations are presented constantly, new weapons appear, and old ones get vaulted, and only one thing remains: the game is free to play, and all the weapons and armors are available to anyone. A player only has to pay for extras that don’t impact the balance, like customizing their appearance. Surprisingly, it worked even better than squeezing the money out of players for every upgrade.
The Festival for All
Well, even if you had to read the section above to understand the game, the tournament had something to entertain you, too. How about Marshmello, one of 2019 Top 10 DJ’s, playing for the public? He has already played an online set in Fortnite, and now he’s here in the flesh. There were also broadcasts, ads and other entertainments.
Sowing money is great when it comes to fostering popularity. No Battle Royale game feels now as new as in 2017, but none has to. There is another way of promoting sports: not like it’s fresh, but like it’s always been around, and will always be.
Transforming Fortnite from a brand new hot game to an established esports discipline is the best way for Epic to act, and it acknowledges that. That’s why millions get burned, and this spectacular fire attracts more millions. Well, over 9 million viewers were online on YouTube these days, and many more will watch it later.
Yesterday we witnessed the duo contest, and the winners were quite predictable. The champion duo turned out to be Emil Bergquist "Nyhrox" Pedersen and David "Aqua" Wang. The winners were rewarded with $3 million they had to share.
And today’s solo winner is – applause! shout out! - Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf, Pennsylvania, now the first official solo champion and the only owner of another $3M prize. 2019 is no time to wonder that the champion is only 16 years old. The young champion feels unreal about that, despite being an esports pro already.
Other duos, competing in Fortnite Pro-Am, included a professional streamer and a celebrity, like Josh Hart (L.A. Lakers), Reggie Jackson (Detroit Pistons), DJ and producer Dillon Hart Francis, or singer Gallant.
Fortnite Goes Big
It’s harder to acknowledge that the prize sum is about three fourths of what the winner of US Open is about to receive, making cybersports and tennis quite comparable in terms of the money they roll. Both competitions, by the way, take place at the same Arthur Ashe Stadium. As for tournaments like Wimbledon, they humbly follow behind, with their prize funds much smaller.
There were many esports stars on the list, and some of them will probably become the next champions. But the real winner is, of course, the entire industry – and Epic Games in particular. After this World Cup, Fortnite has become more than just another video game.