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In Fortnite World Cup, Esports Puts Money Where its Mouse Is

7 Aug, 2019

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
High-Stakes Sell-Out Event Proves Doubters Wrong, Shows Viability of New Venues

We’ve heard all the arguments: Esports aren’t real sports. Esports are just a fad. Esports are just an online phenom. But at the end of July, the fledgling sport put its money where its mouth (or perhaps its mouse) was and proved doubters wrong.

In terms of economic impact, the Fortnite World Cup Finals landed like a meteor on the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center (and by extension, on New York City), laying waste to the prize pool in many other sports. (The top prize winner took home $3 million. Second and third place were $1.8 million and $1.05 million, respectively. And every qualifier took home $50,000.)

Side note: Wow.

And with the arrival of the event at one of the nation’s previously single-use, purpose-built facilities, it’s safe to say other destinations will be reimagining their venues in terms of hosting. After all, the numbers don’t lie, and Forbes, the New York Times, CNN, TechCrunch and The Esports Observer provided them:

It’s a youth sport:

16:  The age of grand prize winner, Kyle 'Bugha' Giersdorf

13: The youngest age players were eligible to compete in the World Cup. This was represented by Thiago Lapp, known as "King." Lapp, who hails from Argentina, was the only non-American to make top five.

24: The age of second place winner Harrison "Psalm" Chang. This put Chang into the older demographic represented. ("It's great representing the old dudes: Experience and composure trump everything," Chang told CNN Business. "Fortnite is a young man's game, though.")

100: Percentage of the players at the event in NYC who were male, despite a rapidly growing female player demographic.

Numbers of players and spectators:

250 million: The number of individuals who have played Fortnite since it launched two years ago (Yes, a two-year-old game is making this impact)

40 million: The number of players who participated in qualifying rounds

14 million: Hours of content watched over the World Cup weekend

1.3 million: the number of people who watched the Sunday finals via Twitch tracking site Githyp

But not everyone watched online:

23,000-plus: The number of seats at Arthur Ashe Stadium in at the USTA BJK Tennis Center. The tennis stadium sold out through the weekend for the Fortnite World Cup.

$50-$100: What people paid for individual tickets

100 screens, 100 cameras: No matter where you sat in the stadium, you could see the action

What it took to set it up:

60: Tractor trailers of equipment (one, according to the New York Times, was filled just with gaming chairs)

25: Miles of fiber-optic cable (Note: The Times article noted the event required “racks upon racks of servers, as well as hundreds of computers and video cameras).

And it’s paying (something else the doubters said would not happen):

$100 million: Amount in prizes that Epic Games will give out over the course of 2019.

$1 billion: Estimated revenue that the esports industry will bring in this year, according to marketing firm Newzoo.

$3 billion: The profit Epic Games brought in over 2018, according to TechCrunch. (“It may have had something to do with Fortnite,” the article noted dryly.)

$15 billion: Epic Games’ valuation following a $1.25 billion funding round last fall.

And just to remind us that all sports have bad actors, Forbes noted this:

1,221: Player accounts banned in the first week of qualifiers. Reasons included account sharing and teaming up with a competitor; one was for using cheating software. Prize winners were included in these penalizations, most egregiously 196 who illegally played in multiple regions.

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