With throngs of rabid Fortnite fans thronging the Banc of California stadium in downtown Los Angeles, the stakes were high and stress levels even higher as top-tier gamers competed for $3 million in prize money. According to YourEDM, notable Fortnite fixtures Ninja and Marshmello ended up taking the first place laurels, leaving their opponents in the dust in a photo-finish that saw a raucous cheer break out at the conclusion of the match. The pair decided to split the money, each pledging to donate the winnings to a charity of their own choice.
The inaugural Fortnite Pro-Am was held during this year’s E3 conference, a mecca to hardcore gamers and industry journalists alike. Taking place over multiple days of press conferences, huge floor presentations, and live demonstrations of new games and technologies as well as panels hosted by gaming celebrities and members of development teams, E3 is the culmination of a year of anticipation and excitement for everyone involved in the gaming business from players to designers.
ESPN reports that the action was unlike anything they’d seen before, with UFC world champion Demetrious Johnson engaged in deep conversation with WWE superstar and member of the four-time tag-team champs The New Day, Xavier Woods. Further away, internet sensation and viral dancer the “Backpack Kid” was awing and amusing crowds with his now-famed floss dance, legs and arms rowing rhythmically.
A cacophony of pop culture icons commingling in a bizarre amalgam of contemporary “cool” and a cutting-edge phenomenon featuring fans from all ages and all walks of life, Fortnite’s Pro-Am was as much about the spectacle of those surrounding the explosively popular subculture of free-to-play carnage as it was about Fortnite proper.
That’s not to say that there wasn’t any attention being paid to the esports competition and the high-level players themselves. Far from it. Team Luminosity’s star player Tyler “Ninja” Blevins and Team SoloMid’s standout Ali “Myth” Kabbani are legitimate idols for the mostly teenaged fans who were present at the battle royale showdown, household names with millions of views on their respective Twitch streams and YouTube replays. Blevins has a Twitter following of about 2.5 million fans.
At the end of the event, the remaining $2 million in the prize pool was paid out across the other 49 duos that competed in the finals. As Fortnite is a battle royale type game, along with primary competitor PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, 100 players are required to play each match.
The genre is growing in popularity exponentially, with AAA powerhouse Call of Duty even announcing that a game mode mimicking Fortnite and PUBG will be included in this year’s Black Ops 4, according to Gamerant. Via violent eliminations with a variety of wacky weapons, deaths attributed to staying outside of an ever-shrinking circle and being downed by “the storm,” and unfortunate fall damage leading to player suicide, the field is eventually eliminated until only one man, or one team, is left standing.