A 16-year-old just won $3 million playing Fortnite. Think. About. Those. Words.

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$3 million. 

How can you earn $3 million?

You can…

  • Win the lottery
  • Be an early employee and cash in when your company goes public
  • Inherit it
  • Invent something amazing
  • Be a professional athlete

Is this an exhaustive list? Of course not. But does each option point to the fact that making millions is pretty unlikely? Yes. 

Specifically, some opportunities require you to be a certain age, a few require pure luck, and many require exceptional skills. 

Age. Luck. Skill.

Which of these does any one person have true control over? 

Try as many do to be older when younger and younger when older, your age is a number based on a calendar, based on the earth’s rotation. Have fun. 

With luck, well, you can increase your luck by putting yourself in certain situations, but luck comes and goes without any true rhyme or reason. (See: Las Vegas). 

But skill? Exceptional skill can in fact net you a multi-million dollar payout, and - ding, ding, ding - building exceptional skill is within your control. 

Oh, which reminds me—I forgot one way to earn $3 million. 

  • Play Fortnite

I’ll type it again to prove it’s not a typo: play Fortnite. 

This is not click-bait. This is not conjecture. This is not a dream world. This is fact. 

Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf is proof. He’s 16, and he’ll receive over $3 million for winning the solo division of the Fortnite World Cup. The sum of his earnings for doing so supasses what Novak Djokovic received for winning the most recent Wimbledon ($2,938,748), and what Tiger Woods received for winning the 2019 Masters ($2,070,000).

If you need to see it to believe it, ESPN tweeted out this graphic:

Djokovic. Tiger. Bugha. 

No, one of these things is not unlike the others. 

Djokovic and Tiger have dedicated their lives to being among the world’s best in tennis and golf, respectively. But don’t let the fact that Fortnite is a video game fool you into thinking the same level of dedication isn’t required. 

Meaning, today’s video game landscape is a far cry from yesterday’s. Gaming is no longer relegated to couch potatoes or described as a time waster. There are jobs to be had from designing and developing, but also millions to be made as a player. 

In fact, eSports can become the next billion dollar industry, and there are a handful of very good reasons that cement gaming as a sport. (This is an opinion, and we can debate it, but that’s for another time). 

For now, if learning that a teenager just pocketed $3 million for being really good at a video game has rocked your world⁠—and has caused you to wonder how that’s even possible⁠—we’d like to provide some insight. 

Being young helps

One of the most fascinating aspects of this year’s competition was the youthfulness of the lobby.  Bugha is 16; King - who placed 5th with a measly $900,000 - is only 13. These pros are young! In fact, only 6 participants (out of 100) were over the age of 21

Now, being young is not required to be a Fortnite pro, but it certainly seems to help. The youthful knack for picking things up quickly is a serious advantage, and as maps and loot constantly change, good players have to be adaptable.   

Skill (I told you!)

In any piece on the benefits of video games, you’ll read about the role hand-eye coordination, problem-solving, and stamina play in any gamer’s success. But beyond these blanket basics, anyone who wants to earn money as a professional gamer will need to up their skills within a specific title of choice. 

With Fortnite, aspiring pros need to be able to process information like a supercomputer—in matches where 30 people are still alive in the final circles, things move quickly. Taking in all of the presented info and then having the hand-eye-coordination to perform the necessary in-game motions is paramount.

Not to mention the need to learn how to use every weapon and item appropriately, given that anything can pop up when looting. This goes along with needing to understand the ins and outs of the map, which changes constantly. 

While all of that sounds difficult enough, one of the most-often bungled pieces of the skill-puzzle is the ability to understand the stages of the game. 

For instance, pro players have fantastic knowledge of when to farm mats, when to rotate, which method of rotation to take, when to hunker down and camp, when to go high-ground, when to run a ground game, when to hop into a box, and more. (While we’re talking about strategy, here’s Ninja’s guide to Fortnite.)    

An intimate understanding of the different timing of the game, and Bugha’s strategy based on those timings put him in first early, and allowed him to stay there. 

Time (Also see: “Being young helps”)

Bugha’s mom admitted to ESPN that Bugha spends about 8-10 hours on Fortnite per day. Most top eSports athletes spend 6 or more hours per day on their craft—this isn’t a hobby for them.  

Which leads us parents to decision time–If you have a child that exhibits an insanely high level of eSports skills, you'll need to decide if you're going to let them devote energy to it. 

And, you guessed it—“letting them devote energy to it” means allowing them to spend hours per day gaming, just as Tiger spends hours per day golfing. It’s been said you need 10,000 hours to even consider mastering any craft.

Continued and renewed focus

With success comes opportunity, and such opportunity requires you to share your time across multiple activities. 

Ninja, CourageJD, DrLupo, Timthetatman—some of the biggest names in Fortnite didn’t qualify for the World Cup.  

But don’t worry, they’re doing just fine...They’ve got insanely popular Twitch streams, massive social media followings, product and team endorsements, and more. Their skill level puts them into an elite category of players. Their personalities have made them extremely likeable.  Their work ethic is unmatched. 

Their focus, though, is on building a brand, a following, and a long-term success pipeline. And for those who want a successful stream, the focus is on streaming. All of these things take time away from practice.  

Thus, if the goal in on developing as a player, the focus must remain on matches.

Are we still “playing” video games?

As Bugha’s recent winning might allude to, is this still even considered “playing” video games? Do professional athletes describe their days in and out as “playing a game?” Hardly. 

This is next level stuff. Lifelong passion and commitment. Sure, it started from “playing,” but over time,  transformed into a life-altering opportunity that could only be attained by going all in. 

"I literally feel like I'm in a dream right now," Bugha’s mom states in a recent ESPN.com article

"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."

Foster your child’s passion for competitive gaming and eSports

If you are the parent of a teen who is interested in gaming or the booming eSports industry, check out our eSports summer camps for ages 13-18. In this intensive, two-week program, they’ll discover what it takes to kickstart a successful eSports career, touching on gameplay, streaming, engagement strategies, and more!

Interested in how gamers can command such earnings, and where that money even comes from? Keep reading our posts 8 facts about eSports and Video games should be considered a sport for more info. 

A photo of Ryan

Ryan has been in EdTech and with iD Tech for 13 years—building experience, expertise, and knowledge in all things coding, game development, college prep, STEM, and more. He earned his MBA from Santa Clara University after obtaining his Bachelor’s degree from Arizona State. Connect on LinkedIn

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