NEW YORK -- For the second day in a row a teenager took home several million dollars after winning the Fortnite World Cup at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens, New York. American pro player Kyle "Bugha" Giersdorf, 16, dominated the competition and netted $3 million on Sunday, becoming the inaugural Fortnite World Cup solo champion.
Bugha defeated the likes of popular fan favorites Turner "Tfue" Tenney and Timothy "Bizzle" Miller, as well as other young talented players, including Cody "Clix" Conrod and Danny "Dubs" Walsh. Bugha was the first player to qualify for the World Cup Finals in the North American East Region in April and showed his dominance throughout the six-game series.
"Emotionally, right now, I don't feel too much, except I know that this could pretty much change my life forever," Bugha said. "It's just absolutely unreal."
Bugha's game plan resolved around picking fights and being aggressive, even at times when they were potentially disadvantageous, and racking up eliminations in every game. That same play style didn't fair well for other players in the duos tournament on Saturday, but for Bugha it netted a substantial amount of points and led him to victory.
"From the start, I had a big lead," Bugha said. "From there I knew I had to have consistent games, which you can't always rely on placement but also kills. Looking for those kills really pushed me up in the leaderboard."
Bugha took a Victory Royale in Game 1 and placed high in a pivotal Game 5 in which Bugha and eventual runner up Harrison "Psalm" Chang battled for the top spot. The Game 5 placement and several eliminations gave him a distinct advantage heading into the final. In Game 6, he took another high placement, fifth, securing his first place and $3 million. After being eliminated in Game 6, Bugha smiled into the player camera. He already knew he was the inaugural Fortnite World Cup champion.
Sunday morning, Bugha wrote on Twitter, "Today's the day." He was confident, he told ESPN. Within an hour of winning the title, Bugha gained more than 100,000 followers on Twitter.
Large groups of kids and their parents attended the Fortnite World Cup as Epic Games announced a sellout of the historic tennis stadium, though several sections remained empty, similar to Saturday during the duo tournament. But the crowd noise was still loud, pouring out of the venue into the festival area that featured Fortnite festivities such as a zip line, a DJ Yonder stage, paddle fighting and a zorb ball track.
The array of solo competitors featured boys and men aged 13 to 24, with the average age being 16. Several players had previously played other professional esports titles, such as Psalm in Heroes of the Storm and Keenan "Rhux" Santos in League of Legends. Every competitor took home a minimum of $50,000 in prize earnings, which began to scale once you placed better than No. 24 in the competition.
Among the interesting stories at the World Cup Finals, Tfue -- the most popular player and betting favorite competing in the solo competition, after the likes of Tyler "Ninja" Blevins failed to qualify -- underperformed, placing 67th overall. His performance resulted in an outpouring of criticism on social media on Sunday.
At home in Pennsylvania, Bugha would play eight to 10 hours of Fortnite per day, his mother Darcy Giersdorf told ESPN. She said her son had a regiment -- a specific Wawa sandwich and Gatorade before important online matches, including the day he qualified for the World Cup Finals in April. On Sunday, he didn't have either of his pregame ritual foods.
"Today was pretty much shrimp, Powerade and also water," Bugha said.
Darcy said Bugha becoming the first player to qualify for the World Cup Finals was the moment when she realized her son had a future in professional Fortnite.
All of Bugha's family traveled to New York on the train from Philadelphia to support the 16 year old. Decked out in esports team Sentinels gear, the family gathered and gave Bugha big hugs after he held the trophy. Bugha was then greeted by Ninja, who gave him a handshake and posed for a photo.
His mother, Darcy, described the moment as surreal and life changing. On Saturday, duo tournament winners Emil "Nyhrox" Bergquist Pedersen, 16, and David "aqua" Wang, 17 -- who took home $1.5 million a piece -- said they'd use their earnings to each buy new computers. But not Bugha; his is going to savings, he said.
"I literally feel like I'm in a dream right now," his mother echoed. "It's so surreal. ... This is life-changing for him. He's been playing video games since he was 3, so this is his passion. He told us he could do this, he put his mind to it and he did it."