"Today's the day."
That's what Kyle "Bugha" Giersdorf tweeted as he walked into Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York on Sunday. A few hours later, the 16-year-old resident of Pottsgrove, Pennsylvania, left with a trophy and $3 million to his name as the first Fortnite World Cup champion.
That's more than what tennis champion Novak Djokovic took home from his Wimbledon victory two weeks ago, and more than Tiger Woods' winnings from this year's Masters Tournament.
It is also the largest amount a single individual has won from an esports event in history. The past two years, Fortnite publisher Epic Games has dedicated $100 million each year for an esports prize pool, which included this weekend's $30 million World Cup.
This is against the backdrop of Fortnite's rapid growth thanks to its battle royale mode. Since Fortnite's battle royale launch in 2017, the game has grown to 250 million players. Last year, the online video game generated $2.4 billion in revenue, according to SuperData, which made it the top grossing free-to-play game in 2018.
The game's success has also helped Epic Games reach its current $15 billion valuation. The publisher raised $1.25 billion from a group, aXiomatic Gaming, in October, and Tencent currently has a 40 percent stake in the company.
Kyle, a 10th grader, signed up to play Fortnite's battle royale mode shortly after its launch, drawn by how the building mechanics in the game especially allow you to "be creative in your own way." He then quickly involved himself in the game's competitive scene.
"From the really early stages, I saw the teams and [a lot of the best players' videos], and it made me want to grind more to get into those videos," he said. "I joined competitive ladders and worked my way through."
In March, esports organization Sentinels signed the teen. The LA-based Sentinels, whose CEO is former Paramount Pictures vice chairman Rob Moore, are currently partnered with Kroenke Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Los Angeles Rams.
The teen had already established connections with the team prior to his signing, and had been spotted thanks to YouTube gameplay highlights he had posted.
And as far as Kyle is concerned, this year's World Cup was just the tip of the iceberg for competitive Fortnite. At Sunday's solo finals, Epic Games announced that the Fortnite Championship Series, a new competitive format, would debut with the game's next in-game season that begins Thursday with millions on the line.
Sunday's solo finals netted more than 2 million concurrent viewers on Twitch and YouTube. The World Cup's popularity plus the introduction of the upcoming Fortnite Championship Series lead Kyle to believe that Fortnite will become bigger and better.
"There were already around 2 million concurrent viewers," he said. "It's already crazy and if they keep putting out tournaments, they'll get more players and more viewers."
"I think that [after seeing this World Cup], everyone will just keep improving and all the pro players will keep striving to be better," Kyle added, emphasizing how inspirational the event was for him and the other players who competed.
Second-place finisher Harrison "Psalm" Chang, a 24-year-old former Heroes of the Storm player, netted $1.8 million. Argentine 13-year-old Thiago "King" Lapp won $900,000 to finish fifth in the field of 100 players who had qualified for the solo category.
As for what Kylef will do with his $3 million, the World Cup champion told CNBC that he hopes to save most of it and is aiming to finish school. He and millions of other players around the world are looking forward to the upcoming season and what Epic has in store for competitive Fortnite.
"It feels amazing, and the game has changed everyone's lives drastically," he said.
Shortly after the trophy ceremony, Kyle took to Twitter once again with a short message for both his old followers and the tens of thousands of new fans he won over.
"Today was indeed the day," he concluded.