Guns, joysticks and mega millions: inside the esports explosion

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Guns, joysticks and mega millions: inside the esports explosion

The teenage Fortnite winner who collected R41m turns the spotlight on a booming industry

Laurence Dodds and Tom Hoggins

Kyle Giersdorf steps up to the winner’s podium and lifts the trophy above his head in a shower of confetti and artificial smoke. Just 16, in a baseball cap and jacket emblazoned with his team’s logo, he appears overwhelmed as he happily tells the host that “the grind has all paid off”.

On giant screens above, 20,000 cheering fans, as well as thousands more watching live broadcasts, see his family run up and embrace him – he is £2.4m (R41m) richer. “Ladies and gentlemen,” the announcer bellows: “Your Fortnite world champion!”

This was the climax of the first Fortnite World Cup, a three-day festival of virtual gunplay, real heartbreak and branded merchandise designed to establish the video game, often dismissed by parents as an addictive waste of time, as a serious competitive sport. It was a turning point in the esports industry, which is small in absolute terms, but growing rapidly. The industry is expected to break the $1bn barrier (£810m) in 2019, with its global audience growing by 70m to 545m...

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