Last week, 50 celebrities and 50 professional video game players gathered near the north end of a soccer stadium in Los Angeles to play Fortnite for $3 million in prize money and drew more than 1.1 million viewers live on Twitch. The line to get in sprawled across every available stretch of sidewalk around the Banc of California arena.
Despite the star-studded lineup, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins was far and away the most sought-after celebrity in attendance. Photo by Nick Statt / The Verge
Epic’s next mission is to change Fortnite from a compulsive pastime into a competitive e-sport. The company has pledged $100 million in prize money for the game’s first year of competitive play, and strategically announced its intention to host a Fortnite World Cup in 2019 in the middle of the Pro-Am stream to ensure the news had the maximum impact to its most valuable audience.
Fortnite has enjoyed headlines about obsessed MLB players, basketball pros’ self-described addictions, and its cross-over pop culture appeal. Big names in hip-hop and EDM like Drake and Diplo have participated in record-breaking live streams with Ninja, whose rise to stardom has been more meteoric these past nine months than any other internet celebrity in recent memory.
NBA player Paul George exchanging phone numbers with Twitch streamer and Fortnite pro Ali “Myth” Kabbani before the tournament started. Photo by Nick Statt / The Verge