The Fortnite World Cup saw 100 young men battle for $44 million: So where were the women?

Fortnite

Fortnite World Cup winner Kyle ‘Bugha’ Giersdorf. Source: Fortnite's Twitter page.

If you have a son in school, or know a teenage boy, you have probably heard of Fortnite. The survival shooter game is just two years old, but in that time, it has amassed a worldwide player population of 250 million. That’s more than the number of people in Brazil.

Last weekend, the online video game was given one of the world’s most prestigious and coveted sports arenas — the Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York, where the US Open will take place next month — to host the first-ever Fortnite World Cup.

Surprising?

Not when you consider that Fortnite is one of the biggest entertainment brands on the planet. Already in 2019, audience figures for competitive gaming have reached over 450 million people.

Over 10 weeks, 40 million players competed for one of 100 spots to play in the finals of the World Cup, which occurred over three days last weekend. The age range of the players was between 14 and 24, with the average age being 16.

The 100 competitors who qualified were guaranteed prize money of US$50,000 ($73,755). Four took home seven-figure sums.

In front of 16,000 spectators, the finalists battled it out for the biggest prize pool in eSports history: US$30 million.

The tournament was won by 16-year-old Kyle ‘Bugha’ Giersdorf from Pennsylvania, USA, who took home $US3 million.

That’s almost 50% more than Tiger Woods received for winning the Masters in April this year, where Woods scooped US$2.07 million.

The young Fortnite champion earned more than most adults in the developed world earn in an entire lifetime.

Consider this. In July, the winning US soccer team at this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup had to split US$4 million among their 23 players. That’s just under US$174,000 per player. We live in a world where an adult female sportsperson is paid 5.8% of what a 16-year old boy in front of a screen is paid.

Out of the 100 finalists at the Fortnite World Cup, there was not a single female player, despite the fact Epic estimates women make up 35% of the game’s user base.

Research by the Entertainment Software Association shows 46% of gamers are women.

What does it say about our world that these young men (and it is, exclusively, young men) are getting these real-world rewards, this platform, this recognition, this power?

Money is power and this sort of access to power at such a young age is almost unprecedented.

In fact, eSports revenues are set to hit US$1 billion this year.

Last year, Fortnite made US$2.2 billion for its developer Epic Games and big names are involved. John Costas, former chairman and chief executive officer of UBS Investment Bank (a bank that’s now worth more than US$977 billion) was recently appointed vice-chairman of Team Secret, a global eSports brand that strives to bring together the best players to compete on the world’s biggest stages.

I can’t think of a single female-dominated sport or activity that has this prodigious degree of financial backing. Sure, Fortnite is a ‘children’s video game’, but it has had so much real-world impact.

And women are missing in action.

There are several reasons why females remain underrepresented in Fortnite and the rest of eSports spaces. The culture of ‘hardcore’ video game communities is overwhelmingly dominated by men, and by numbers, can be perceived to be unwelcoming to women.

Women are routinely exposed to rape threats, cyber groping and sexual insults.

“Trash talk is a standard in most online competitive games” journalist Keith Stuart says. Misogyny is part of common online banter. Female players are often belittled and objectified, with their abilities consistently questioned.

They are subjected to verbal abuse and comments are made about their appearances. “I spend quite a bit of my energy just proving that I fit in,” says Clara Reeves, president of game development studio Hipster Whale.

That’s energy boys and young men don’t have to expend.

Sponsorship and marketing of gaming events are male-centric: advertisements are mostly for products such as energy drinks, gaming tools, sportswear and fast foods. “eSports have grown into an economically significant media sport ecosystem,” says Julian Heinz Anton Ströh, author of The eSports Market and eSports Sponsoring.

What happens when females do get involved?

In June of this year, a 15-year-old girl entered a Nintendo game Super Smash Bros tournament in New York. She was hounded and bullied online.

Then there is the Gamergate controversy, a widespread ‘internet culture war’ involving severe and vicious harassment campaigns against female gamers.

I watched a video about the Fortnite World Cup where the only women featured were interviewing the male teenage finalists. Both women were sexualised by the video-makers in a distasteful, derogatory manner.

The lack of female eSport players reflects the imbalance in traditional sports. Many surveys show that girls drop out of competitive sports at 1.5 to two times the rate of boys. The Women’s Sports Foundation cites various reasons, including fewer opportunities, safety issues, social stigma and lack of positive role models. In the world of eSports, the same factors are at play. And, of course, there’s the fact that women’s sports teams are not paid the same as men’s.

Most of the 100 players who competed at the Fortnite World Cup have established a strong following and have a long history of sponsorship from big companies.

Many of the competitors were part of professional teams and were supported with psychologists, nutritionists and other coaching assistance akin to normal sporting teams. I can’t think of a single activity where young girls are given the same platform, and financial and emotional support, as these boys received.

In 2017, tech innovator Eileen Bell said in a piece for Women’s Agenda: “Full gender equality at the professional level will take time to evolve, as eSports is only just gaining recognition as a global game beyond male dominance.”

Let’s hope the near future sees more rapid changes for women wanting to engage in this domain.

NOW READ: “This is us before we explode”: Mobile-gaming startup Lumi Interactive secures 500,000 pre-registered players for first-ever game

NOW READ: Why GGWP Academy founder Jacqueline Garrett is taking her eSports academy startup to an accelerator on the other side of the world

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gorak
gorak
1 year ago

Rank in gaming is EARNED not given by affirmative action.

Luke Robertson
Luke Robertson
1 year ago

The qualifying process was open to anyone, i guess no women made it

Joshua
Joshua
1 year ago

This is a stupid article, get your facts right for god sake I’m so tired of this equal pay and equal opportunity rubbish, do some damn research before throwing blind shots ????

Chris
Chris
1 year ago

if you are comparing Esports and sport sports then you should rethink this. this sort of tournament has to be earned and you need to qualify. no one chooses who plays. it’s just no women made it

Dio Brando
Dio Brando
1 year ago

Do you really got paid for writing such nonsense ?

Hoops
Hoops
1 year ago

There is so much wrong with this article. Female FIFA players don’t make as much because not as many people watch it as they do in e-sports. There are also many professional eSports female players such as ‘Team bumble’ – a fully female fortnite team. It’s true that eSports is dominated by men because it’s something that has a large majority of male players by choice. This is basically the same as guys complaining that there aren’t enough men winning equestrian championships.

Anthony Marcinkowski
Anthony Marcinkowski
1 year ago

Are you stupid or are you stupid? Why the hell bring gender into this. You wrote in your article how many people participated. so why were there no women? BECAUSE THEULY WERENT GOOD ENOUGH TO ADVANCE. Now shit up and publish some real news for Christ sake.

TheFIestyOrange
TheFIestyOrange
1 year ago

This was open qualification. If a women had the will and the skill she would have made it. Blaming emotional distress as to why they don’t compete with the competition is not an excuse in a competitive environment. You also lack to state in the same study that majority of female gamers mainly play Mobile games. Fortnite is available on mobile but is primarily a pc based game alongside the many other big e-sport games like LOL as just one example. In Hearthstone and Shadowverse which are now primarily mobile based games with similar sized scenes for ccg have a few pro and sponsored female pros. Also one of the biggest current streamers on twitch who are pros sponsored like Pokimane and Hafu make that much in a year that this kid got from one tournament which he worked the entire year to get too with no guarantee or support nets behind him. But after reading this and your other work you clearly have a radical feminist agenda which is sad that this company has lacked to see at all or supports which is just as bad as misogyny itself. Dissapointing that such talent you have is wasted to push a personal agenda rather than writing a good factual story for once in your career.

Spirit
Spirit
1 year ago

can’t we just admire that fact that a 16 year old boy won more money than some people make in a lifetime playing fortnite and not that there weren’t any females at an all gender video game tournament.

Ki Becks
Ki Becks
1 year ago

I admit Ive seen guys treat girls like shit in games but Ive also seen them welcomed. If they want to play then play! Guys dont be pricks and call out your friends if they are!

But there is some bullsh$t in here:

Sponsorship and marketing of gaming events are male-centric:
advertisements are mostly for products such as energy drinks, gaming
tools, sportswear and fast foods.

Umm Girls cant drink energy drinks? If they are professional gamers they will be interested in “gaming tools” or are you suggesting girls get millions for being casual players? Ummm Im pretty sure Ive seen girls wearing sportswear and holy crap Ive seen them at KFC and Mcdonalds too!

The imbalance in traditional sports is a result of the fan base. Men seem to like to watch men play and noone watches womens. Why arnt all the women tuning in to watch women play? Its not unfair its a result of the advertising $$$$$$$$$$