A 16-year-old took home $3 million for playing ‘Fortnite’

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Yesterday, Epic Games wrapped up its “Fortnite” World Cup Finals at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens, New York. 

If hosting a “Fortnite” tournament at a tennis stadium where the U.S. Open typically takes place wasn’t crazy enough, there is also the small matter of the rather large cash prizes competitors took home. The largest haul a player could win? $3 million. And 16-year-old Kyle Giersdorf took home the money in the solo competition, one of “Fortnite’s” biggest tournaments and spectacles to date. 

The ‘Fortnite’ Grind

Giersdorf (aka Bugha) beat out several well-known pro “Fortnite” gamers like Tfue and Timothy “Bizzle” Miller to win the tournament. The 16-year-old won the first round and piled up in-game kills to reach 59 points, which placed him in the lead comfortably. The only thing left was to bank his $3 million. 

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“Words can’t really explain it. I’m so happy,” Giersdorf said. “Everything I’ve done in the grind has all paid off and it’s just insane.” 

Ah yes, the “Fortnite” grind. The grind where you forego the traditional route of traditional schooling to foster an obsessive relationship with llamas and game characters who do the floss dance. All in a day’s work. 

“From the start, I had a big lead,” Bugha told ESPN. “From there I knew I had to have consistent games, which you can’t always rely on placement but also kills. Looking for those kills really pushed me up in the leaderboard.”

Giersdorf wasn’t the only one to win big at the World Cup Finals. 24-year-old (ancient in competitive “Fortnite” terms) Harrison “Psalm” Chang won $1.8 million in second place. Third place went to Shane “Epikwhale” Cotton who won $1.2 million. 

But if you think that Giersdorf will blow all his money, think again; according to ESPN, he is planning to put his money into savings. 

“I literally feel like I’m in a dream right now,” Giersdorf’s mother said. “It’s so surreal. This is life-changing for him. He’s been playing video games since he was 3, so this is his passion. He told us he could do this, he put his mind to it and he did it.”

‘Fortnite’ Becomes a Force In eSports

While the “Fortnite” World Cup Finals turned a 16-year-old into a millionaire for playing video games overnight, the “Fortnite” World Cup Finals did something else: Confirmed Epic Games’ and “Fortnite’s” bona fides as an eSports heavyweight. 

For the past year, Epic has poured money into making “Fortnite” a legitimate eSport. The challenge is significant seeing as “Fortnite” is unlike many eSports. It’s equal parts social media experience as it is a competitive game. It’s a shooter and simultaneously much more. That said, the lead up to the World Cup Finals was shaky but by all accounts, the spectacle and sheer scale of the Finals was a sight to behold

Beyond the major cash prizes, the finals generated a massive audience. Over two million live viewers tuned in to watch Giersdorf lift the solo competition trophy and Arthur Ashe Stadium’s 23,000 seats were sold-out through the weekend. So “Fortnite” finally grabbed a seat at the eSports table.

Whatever happens next with “Fortnite” in the eSports realm, you can be sure that Epic will do it big.