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Video Games Take Over Sports As Teenager Wins $3m Prize At The Fortnite World Cup

E-sports, or competitive video game championships, are quickly becoming one of the most popular sporting events, and 16-year-old Kyle "Bugha" Giersdorf is living proof.

Kyle "Bugha" Giersdorf, a 16-year-old from Pottsgrove, Pennsylvania, took home the staggering $3-million-dollar main prize for winning first place at the Fortnite World Cup solo event in the Arthur Ashe stadium, New York—where the U.S. Open Grand Slam takes place every year. In the pairs championship, Europe's Emil Bergquist Pedersen (“Nyhrox”) and David Wang (“aqua”) shared the $3 million grand prize.

What is Fortnite?

For those of you who don't know, Fortnite is a free-to-play battle royale video game where players compete against each other to be the last one standing. The game has become a global phenomenon, with highly-dedicated players from all around the world paying on a regular basis.

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As the largest prize pool in the history of electronic sports (e-sports), the tournament had a total of $30 million dollars shared among all winners—including all categories and runner-ups.

During the past decade, e-sports have immensely grown in both size and popularity, as well as in importance within the world of sports and competitive arenas. Rising from being a fringe phenomenon most experts were happy to dismiss, e-sports are now a major force around the world that most people must take seriously as a true competition of skill, endurance, and discipline.

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The scope of the e-sport phenomenon

To give you some perspective, Giersdorf won more money at this tournament than Tiger Woods won at the masters, with the latter taking $2.07 million home for his title. The $30 million Fortnite total prize pool matched the one from this year's FIFA Women's World Cup—the single most important event in women's football ("soccer"). 

Next month, in the very same venue, the U.S. Open will take place, and the singles' winners will secure $3.85 million—not much more than Giersdorf. As e-sports, and Fortnite in particular, are becoming more popular at a staggering pace, it's safe to say next year's prize will overshadow the U.S. Open's and that of many other high-profile sporting events around the world.

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It is estimated that in 2019, the total audience of e-sports has grown to 454 million viewers and that revenues have increased to over US$1 billion. And that's just the beginning, as the industry will likely keep growing over the next few years. 

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The Fortnite World Cup alone drew a total audience of around 2 million from concurrent livestreams on Twitch and YouTube, with thousands of fans attending the event live at the stadium. Since its release in 2017, Fortnite has earned over $2.4 billion dollars worldwide.

A big tournament

With that degree of popularity, it's hardly surprising children now dream with becoming Fortnite champions rather than astronauts—strange though that might sound. More than 40 million players competed online in the World Cup, with only 100 solo players and 50 pairs moving on to the finals. 

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After winning his coveted award, Giersdorf told the BBC that he doesn't want to spend much of his prize money just yet. In his words, "All I want is a new desk and maybe a desk for my trophy."

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