New York, N.Y. — Smoke and confetti filled the air at this weekend’s Fortnite competition at New York’s Arthur Ashe tennis stadium, after fans flew in from around the world for the first ever World Cup.
Epic Games transformed the stadium into a triple-decker set of displays so attendees can see their favorite players compete. Live video shows close ups of furrowed brows and in-game strategies.
For a snack break, fans grab Fortnite-themed pizza and juice, snap selfies with dancing mascots and run over in a stampede when they spot their favorite gamers.
Finalists who qualified from all over the world have flown in to compete for a $30 million prize pool at the World Cup. Over 400,000 people are watching online.
“You walk in here and it’s like a whole little city. I thought that it would be a smaller event,” said Perri Cox, 17, who traveled from San Francisco. She also streams Fortnite on Twitch using the gamertag impearey.
Epic Games set up multiple activities for attendees to try including a meet and greet with the game characters, face painting and an obstacle course.
On Friday, Avelar Junior, 24, from Brazil, said he’s tried the cheeseburger but has plans to try Fortnite’s slurp juice — a slushie that imitates the in-game healing potion.
Junior and his brother Rodrigo Silva, 17, took a plane from Brazil after playing for the Fortnite World Cup qualifiers and not making the cut. “I felt bad because I tried so hard, but sometimes you have to get lucky to win,” said Junior. He streams Fortnite games to Twitch under the gamertag zugorow, where he has over 65,000 followers.
The main attraction by far is the competition. Celebrities and professional streamers like Ninja, Marshmello, Dr. Lupo and RL Grime competed for charity on Friday. On Saturday, the best duos from around the world are competing for a $3 million top prize. Solo players will compete for the top spot on Sunday.
So far, Epic Games has been running tardy. The Pro-Am competition Friday should have started at 4 pm ET but was delayed about two hours. The duo competition was thirty minutes behind. Epic did not respond to a request for comment about the delays.
Online gaming brings people together, and some were able to meet up at the World Cup for the first time.
“I’ve personally met a lot of my friends through Fortnite, so I just wanted to come hang out with everyone and record the event,” said Cox, the 17-year-old from San Francisco.
Cox and three friends, who come from places like Vancouver and Brooklyn, met through playing Fortnite and communicating online through Discord, a voice chat software popularly used by gamers.
All four have played Fortnite, although some prefer to watch streamers on Twitch and follow their favorite players. The World Cup is the first time they’re meeting in real life.
Monifa Charles, 19, of Brooklyn, said that three of them rented an Airbnb in Queens for the week so that they could crash together.
While the most well-known Fortnite streamers like Ninja and Dr. Lupo did not qualify for the finals, there are still tons of young teens with large followings those in the Fortnite community are avidly supporting.
Junior and Silva said they came to support Brazilian player C9 Nicks and to visit New York. But even if Nicks doesn’t win the duos on Saturday, they said that it would still be worth it.
“He’s so young, so even if he loses, I think it would be okay. He already did so much, just by making it here,” said Junior.
“For duos, I’m rooting for benjyfishy and mrsavagem, although I’ve been watching almost all the duos and will be excited for whoever wins,” said Cox.
Benjyfishy, 15, from the United Kingdom and MrSavageM, 14, from Norway, are both professional Fortnite players with significant social media followings.
“I wouldn’t mind if the players I’m rooting for didn’t win,” said Isabella Costa, 22, who met up with Cox Friday. She flew in from south Florida and paid $100 for a better view of the competition. “Three million dollars could change anyone’s life and these people worked really hard for it so they deserve it.”