For esports fans, it’s almost hard to imagine that there was a time before Fortnite — and it hasn’t even been around for long. Fortnite Battle Royale came out in late 2017, exploded by spring 2018, and became one of the biggest games of all time. It’s a difficult, unforgiving game where only one player can survive. And Kyle ‘Bugha’ Giersdorf is the king of staying alive.
The esports scene is a rapidly-growing space, with huge opportunities for a tiny slice of players good enough to play on the biggest stages. Fortnite is one of the most lucrative games to play, but it also requires painstaking attention to strategy and detail.
Especially in solo matches, with no team to watch your back. And that’s where Bugha shines. Here’s how he became one of the top-earning competitors in esports.
How Bugha became a pro Fortnite player
Bugha started off gaming as a literal infant. He sat on his father’s lap and waved the mouse around in the relatively technical team-based first-person shooter Battlefield 1942. He immediately got an accidental kill, a sign of things to come.
When he got older, the Call of Duty series became his shooter of choice. He played casually with friends, with no ambition to pursue it from an esports perspective. When Fortnite: Save the World came out, Bugha gave that a try, but didn’t play it much.
Then the new, free mode for Fortnite arrived: Battle Royale. Bugha tried it, and excelled at surviving the brutal single-elimination format, especially as a solo player.
As his wins continuously racked up, he realized that there was something to his skills. He started entering official online tournaments held by Epic Games, the developer of Fortnite, and won many against the most decorated players in the game.
How Bugha won the biggest Fortnite prize of all
Going into the inaugural Fortnite World Cup in July 2019, Bugha wasn’t favored to win. That honor went to esports darling Tfue, who had the wins and resume to earn high favor in betting markets.
He also wasn’t close to the most famous. Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, the massively popular Fortnite streamer, had major hype behind him going into the event. Millions of fans had seen him repeatedly dominate online Fortnite games for months.
Tfue breezed through the World Cup qualifier as many expected. But Ninja washed out, immediately signaling that dominating public games on stream might be a different skillset than hard-nosed esports competition. Matches packed with nothing but players who compete for a living, for the first time, was a whole new experience for Fortnite fans.
While Tfue did incredibly well, it was Bugha who consistently rolled over his competition. He played with an aggressive, risky style that he didn’t always exhibit in public games.
He went out of his way to start fights, repeatedly taking seasoned players off guard. Considering how much money was on the line, it seemed few of these nascent Fortnite pros could cope with the idea of a competitor risking so much. Bugha took the win, as well as the enormous $3 million top prize that Epic put up as the ultimate incentive.
The intense training regimen that propels Bugha to Fortnite supremacy
Bugha may have stumbled into Fortnite due to finding he was far better at his hobby than he bargained for. But developing and maintaining that skill at his level, now that he’s a professional player, takes enormous effort.
He spends six hours a day, sometimes more, streaming his intense training sessions. It’s a level of dedication that already paid off to the tune of millions in prize money and more from endorsement deals. But given current, unforeseeable circumstances, it is an investment in himself that could pay off yet more over the next year or more.
The sports world is at an inflection point. Esports, already ascendant, is uniquely positioned to take up some of the slack caused by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Bugha’s future in Fortnite appears to remain bright. Little did he know, when he dedicated himself to this newfangled game, that he could be a big part of the future of live competition as a whole.