Kiwi duo chase dream and massive payday at Fortnite World Cup

Like most Kiwi boys, Sam Pearson had a dream of becoming an All Black as he grew up in a rugby-orientated household where all of his brothers played.

But when he realised his future in rugby was limited, Pearson decided to put his focus into something else less physical - yet still highly competitive and skilful.

"I knew I wasn't that good at rugby," Pearson told Newshub. "I had more leadership roles within the team but I knew I wasn't going to be a NZ representative."

That's when he decided to turn his passion into esports which grew into a career in Fortnite. 

"A couple of years ago I put my head down and had a dream to represent New Zealand."

Flying the flag for his country is exactly what he will be doing in New York City at the Fortnite World Cup this weekend.

Since its release just over two years ago, Fortnite has become a pop culture phenomenon and is now most-played game in the world, with almost 250 million players with registered accounts.

Pearson and his partner Chris Hunt - who go by the gamertag names of Twizz and CoverH are the only all-New Zealand duo among 50 worldwide and are two of five Kiwis to be featuring in the inaugural tournament.

"There were 10 weeks of open online qualifiers that anyone could play in," said Pearson. "On Saturday and Sunday [each week] players would cue up to try and get as many points and in our region, the top duo or solo would qualify for the World Cup."

Kiwi duo chase dream and massive payday at Fortnite World Cup
Photo credit: Fortnit

They qualified in the first possible week, which instantly relieved a heap of stress.

"Originally when we finish our games we thought there was another duo who was going to win - so we weren't 100 percent certain we would win.

"Once we knew we'd done it was a giant sigh of relief. I had been doing full time streaming for a year, and I took a couple of weeks off streaming to put my head down and practice for the World Cup.

"Qualifying was so relieving all the stress lifted off my shoulders - knowing the hard work had paid off," Hunt added.

On Sunday, July 28 their dream will become a reality when they take the stage against the world's best players and compete for their share of the $US100 million prize pool ($NZ147m) - the biggest in esports history.

Both Pearson and Hunt have been avid esports players since an early age, beginning with Counter-Strike and Overwatch before deciding to focus with Fortnite once it became competitive.

"I was interested in it [Fortnite] because of the solo aspect - id been playing a lot of team games, being able to jump into a game by myself and just rely on myself was what appealed to me," Pearson said.

"The building aspect [of Fortnite] is really good because it increases the skill gap - it makes the bad players worse than the good players," noted Hunt.

The all-expenses-paid trip to the World Cup will be all business for Pearson and Hunt, who are looking to stamp their mark on the world's stage.

"We are coming into it as underdogs - the other players have high expectations we don't have that kind of pressure," Pearson admitted.

"We can go in and we don't have anything to lose and that works in our favour.

"My biggest focus is for us to play with no regrets. I don't want us to hesitate or go back on our game plan, I want us to play the way we know how to play and take every opportunity we can.

"Our biggest focus has been on our game plan I don't want to focus on anybody else who is there, I want us to focus on ourselves."

Esports has been widely criticised since it's become more mainstream, with people claiming it's not a real sport - something Pearson completely disagrees with.

"It might not be the same in terms of physicality but that shouldn't take away from the effort, the practice and the detail and the professionalism of the players involved in esports," Pearson told Newshub.

"Although the trade might be different, there's a lot of similarities between the two."

Win or lose, Pearson and Hunt will walk away with a hefty payday, with the first place duo set to claim a $NZ4.4m prize, while last place will still pocket $NZ147,000.


Contact Newshub with your story tips: