LOS ANGELES - The minute I walked into the Banc of California Stadium and saw the Fortnite logo covering the entire upper level of the arena, I knew I was in for a wild ride.
I just watched Epic’s Fortnite Pro-Am celebrity tournament here at E3, and it was a bonkers and joyous celebration of the hottest game in the world right now.
The Fortnite Pro Am brought together 50 pro gamers and 50 celebrities, pairing them up in teams of two to battle it out in Epic’s massively popular shooter in the name of charity. YouTubers and Twitch stars such as Ninja, Myth and KittyPlays duked it out with actors, artists and athletes such as Joel McHale, Paul George and Janina Gavankar, and a raucous time was had by all.
When I walked into the event’s pre-show waiting area, I felt like I stumbled into a Fortnite-themed street fair. There were cosplayers dressed as the game’s most iconic skins, a face painting area, an ice-cream truck, and, of course, a real-life Battle Bus (though nobody was parachuting out of this one). The stadium’s food stands were named after Fortnite’s fictional eateries such as Pizza Pit and Durr Burger, and there was even a pre-show dance-cam that had attendees imitate the game’s famous dancing emotes. Epic sure knows how to play to its audience.
While the action took nearly two hours to get started (which was likely agonizing if you were stuck baking under the hot L.A. sun in the front seats), the event was a blast to watch once it kicked off.
Commentators Alex “GoldenBoy” Mendez, Dr. Lupo and Kassie “Gloom” Isabelle did an excellent job keeping the crowd hyped up, and there were no shortage of thrilling tower battles, tense shotgun showdowns, masterful moments of fort-building and clutch long-range snipes. If you like high-level Fortnite, there was a ton of it on display – largely thanks to the pros in attendance. My video producer Doug, who isn't much of a gamer, became totally captivated by the action – a testament to just how watchable Fortnite is.
I’ve watched dozens of hours of Fortnite on Twitch, but having the sounds of the game’s assault rifles and pickaxes fill up a sports stadium to thunderous cheers was an entirely different experience. The Fortnite Pro Am had the production values of a legitimate esports event, but also felt refreshingly playful compared to your typical pro gaming tournament.
The Pro-Am consisted of three matches in total: a free-for-all singles event, a team-based duos event, and a second team match in which $3,000,000 in charity money was on the line. Perhaps fittingly, the game's top streamer Ninja ended up taking home the big money match alongside EDM artist Marshmellow after just barely losing the second game to popular pro Kinstaar. Nearly every match ended in a thrilling tower battle in which players frantically built and blasted in a series of ever-expanding structures, showing off competitive Fortnite at its very finest.
Here are the big winners:
- Game 1 (Solo): NoahJ456
- Game 2 (Duos): Kinstaar & Sean O'Malley
- Game 3 ($3,000,000 Charity Match): Ninja & Marshmellow
Looking Forward: The Fortnite World Cup
Sure, it ran a bit long and started a bit late, but Fortnite's Pro Am was a lot of fun to experience in person. You can expect similar events to pop up in the near future, too -- Epic just announced the 2019 Fortnite World Cup, which will consist of a series of solo and duos contests all over the world. According to Epic, competing in the World Cup will be based on skill alone, and won't require you to have the backing of a pro team.
Fortnite has had massive presence at E3 2018 between the Pro Am, its wonderfully ridiculous floor booth and the game’s surprise Switch debut, and Epic’s online shooter phenomenon is showing zero signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Credit: Mike Andronico/Tom's Guide