After 10 weeks of open qualifiers attracting more than 40 million competitors, the Fortnite World Cup finals will be held this weekend in New York. Up for grabs for the 100 qualifiers – many of whom are between 12 and 16 years old – is a total prize pot of $30m, the largest ever for an esports event.
With more than 250 million players, Fortnite: Battle Royale has become one of the most popular video games in the world since its launch in 2017. The World Cup represents the title’s entry into the lucrative world of professional games tournament circuits, where revenues are set to pass $1bn this year, due to exploding sponsorship, advertising and broadcast rights.
Epic Games has arranged a three-day festival around the finals, with thousands of fans expected to attend. Saturday will see the Duos final with 50 teams of two competing, while Sunday features the Solo competition, pitching 100 players against each other. Both finals are played over six matches, with points awarded for match placement and number of kills. Winners of the Solo and Duo finals will receive $3m each.
Competitors are coming from all over the world after winning a series of open, online heats, which also offered hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money. There are no women among the finalists, and most competitors are under the age of 20. Many are part of professional gaming teams such as Faze, Envy and NRG, which provide managers and training facilities for star players.
Several UK competitors will be present, including one of the favourites to win, Benjy “Benjyfishy” David Fish, who is competing in the Solo and Duo competitions for NRG Esports. The 15-year-old told ESPN that if he wins, he will buy a house for his family.
Fortnite: Battle Royale has had unprecedented growth since its release as a free offshoot of coop shooter game, Fortnite: Save the World. In each online match, 100 players are parachuted on to a colourful island and must search for weapons and items while shooting competitors. The last person standing wins.
The battle royale genre was popularised by Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, released in 2017. Apex Legends attracted 50 million players in a week after its launch in February. Fortnite, meanwhile, has proved enormously popular with younger players thanks to cartoon visuals, amusing dances and high-profile star players who attract millions of spectators on their YouTube and Twitch channels.
Fans can watch the finals live online via Fortnite’s Twitch and YouTube channels from 1pm ET (6pm BST) each night, and can tune in through the game itself, selecting to follow a major broadcast or to view the live streams of individual players.
Industry insiders speculate that Fortnite’s popularity has peaked, with viewership of Twitch streams falling through 2019, and May revenues dropping 38% from 2018. The viewing figures from these finals may provide the most compelling verdict yet on Fortnite’s popularity.