As the two teenagers from Europe set down their mice and took their hands off their keyboards, they turned to each other in disbelief: They had just won $3 million playing a video game.
Players have flown from all over the world to compete at the first ever Fortnite World Cup, a large sporting event at New York’s Arthur Ashe tennis stadium with $30 million in cash prizes. The epic tournament will determine this year’s best Fortnite solo player Sunday and has already found this year’s best duo team.
Fortnite is a game that involves 100 players dropping onto a virtual island and fighting to be the last one standing while a health-point draining storm brews in the background.
Aqua, 17, and Nyhrox, 16, lived through that storm.
Fans and announcers were stunned late Saturday when Aqua and Nyhrox, two underdogs, beat out 49 other teams, many from larger, more funded organizations.
Aqua is from Austria and his real name is David Wang. Nyhrox is from Norway and his real name is Emil Bergquist Pedersen. Neither were the fan favorite to win the duo championship, and they’re supported by a smaller esports organization called Cooler Esport that’s based in Europe.
“I’ll remember this moment for the rest of my life,” Nyhrox told CNN Business. He said that he will save and invest his money, but also upgrade his gaming setup so he can “start doing streams and upload videos on YouTube.”
Aqua echoed his teammate’s sentiments: “Everything is amazing and I can’t really believe that this all really happened.” He said he planned to get a new PC with the money.
The duo won back to back rounds as the final survivor in a frenzied matchup against other pros. Not only did those two rounds earn them twenty points total, they also managed to secure plenty of kills throughout the tournament, bumping up their final score to 51 points. It was a slim margin, but enough to win them the $3 million which will be split.
Following the winners’ announcement, their social media accounts began to blow up with climbing follower counts and likes. Tweets began to go viral. This is just crazy @nyhrox, Aqua tweeted, spelling it “kreizy.”
“Nyhrox and Aqua are good players but not many people had them going this far…pretty much every team was expected to do better than the team who won.” said Rod Breslau, an esports and gaming consultant. “All of this makes for a good esports story.”
“I’d never heard of Aqua and Nyhrox so I was surprised,” said MRKN Kawzmik, a 14-year-old pro player who’s competing in Sunday’s solo finals. His real name is Kevin Tellez-Torres.
The second place winners, Rojo and Wolfiez, are taking home $2,250,000. In fact, the top four duos are all splitting million-dollar prizes. Wolfiez notably uses a controller, compared to most players who play with a mouse and keyboard, which is traditionally thought to be more precise.
The average age of Saturday’s competition was 16, according to an announcer.
Mongraal and Mitro, as well as Megga and Dubs, are backed by FaZe Clan, which is one of the better known esports organizations. Many expected them to place higher, but both teams still made the top ten. While they played a strong game throughout the six rounds, they couldn’t secure any victories and didn’t get enough kills.
Megga took to Twitter to reassure fans: “Got 7th [today] I know I can pop off tomorrow.” He’s splitting $375,000 with Dubs.
Other favorites also didn’t make the cut. Airwaks, who won the pros versus amateurs event Friday, told CNN Business he was upset with not performing better Saturday. “Competing today wasn’t an issue,” he said, “But I’m really unhappy with today’s result.” He finished in 29th place with his partner, Nikof. He tweeted, “Sorry,” with a sad emoji, but promised “to come back stronger.”
It was not all for nothing. Everyone competing Saturday won at least $50,000 just for qualifying for the finals, even those who placed last.