The finals of the Fortnite World Cup are taking place in a stadium in New York, with the winner set to earn more prize money than Simona Halep and Novak Djokovic won as Wimbledon champions.
Forty million players attempted to qualify over 10 weeks of online competition but only 100 finalists have a shot at winning the $3m (£2.4m) prize at Flushing Meadows.
The prize pool is the biggest ever for an e-sports event, with $30m to be awarded in total. All finalists will take home at least $50,000 and the runner-up, as well as third and fourth-placed finishers, will all become millionaires.
Fifteen-year-old player Benjy Fish – his player name is Benjyfishy – from Sunbury is one of a handful of British gamers to make it to the finals.
Speaking at his New York hotel, he said it’s the culmination of eight hours of practise every day for the last five months. If he wins, he plans to buy a house for his family. But he admits to being nervous.
“It will be a bit different when I’m on the stage because I’ve never been on a huge stage like that before,” he said.
“I’ve only ever played in my bedroom so it will be different but right now, I’m really confident because I’ve been training so much. For the last two weeks, I’ve put in about 12 hours of training every day.”
Another fancied British player is 14-year-old Kyle Jackson. Known as Mongraal, he’s been a pro player since he was 13.
“It’s a lot more serious than people think,” he said.
“It took a lot of work to qualify so it’s not just playing the game for fun. I’ve played at least 8-10 hours a day for consecutive months to be here.”
On Thursday players were given a tour of the arena where the competition will take place.
A two-tiered stage has been set up with circles of computers. Each player will be able to compete on their exact home set up with the same mouse and keyboard or controller they are used to. Giant screens will cut between the action for the audience.
Tens of thousands of fans will fill the Arthur Ashe Stadium – usually home to the US Open tennis tournament – with millions more expected to watch online to cheer on the stars of the enormously popular online shooter game, which boasts 250 million users worldwide.
The event also marks the second anniversary of the battle royale title’s launch.
It’s arguably the world’s most popular game and involves 100 players being dropped onto an island where they have to find weapons, build structures and eliminate each other until one player comes out on top.
He says he’s not nervous because he’s used to streaming his matches in front of big audiences.
“Being World Champion would be a great feeling. That’s why I play competitively, to win,” the teenager adds.
The tournament is part of a drive from Epic Games, the company behind Fortnite, to break into the burgeoning e-sports industry.
According to a recent report from analysts Newzoo, 2019 marks a major milestone for the global e-sports market, which will for the first time exceed the billion-dollar revenue mark, with most coming from sponsorship and media rights.
The researchers predict global e-sports audiences will grow to 453.8 million worldwide this year.
Epic made waves in the e-sports world when it announced in 2018 that it would award $100m in prizes across its yearly competitions dwarfing every other competitive gaming title. It matched that in 2019 and broke the record for one event by offering a $30m prize pool.
It comes as some in the industry suggest the game may have peaked. Although it is still incredibly popular for players and viewers, other battle royale titles like Apex Legends are attracting players.
Fortnite is free to play but sells in-game items like character skins and novelty items which is estimated to make the company hundreds of millions of dollars a month.
The Fortnite World Cup’s status as the biggest prize pool won’t last long though.
The 9th annual DOTA 2 tournament, The International, takes place in Shanghai next month and looks set to have $30.2m worth of prizes up for grabs after fans started a campaign to raise more money.
Source: BBC News