Members of the Nordic Fortnite team, Become Legends, Settyz 8 and Kami celebrate winning the Fortnite Champion Series Invitational Competition on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022 in the Raleigh Convention Center. For winning the FCNS, Settyz 8 and Kami won $200,000.

Epic Games Fortnite Champion Series (FNCS) Invitational made its home at the Raleigh Convention Center Nov. 12-13, spotlighting global gaming talent through 12 duo matches fought in Battle Royale mode, a coveted share of the $1 million prize pool and a shot at winning a gleaming trophy. 

The competition featured 27 countries in combat, competing in 50 pairs amid the bright lights of the ginormous center stage and an approximated in-person audience of 3,500 attendees per day. Upbeat broadcast commentary from esports talent included Adam Savage, MonsterDface and more. 

Competitors included 2019 World Cup Solos champion Bugha, as well as long-time Fortnite competitors Mero and EpikWhale, returning to play against new and old faces. Rules remained consistent with usual Fortnite gameplay, with each match consisting of all players dropping from the infamous Battle Bus, building structures to protect against enemy attacks and avoiding the inevitable storm surge in the game’s final zones. 

Matches were played across both days, with the final winning duo announced Sunday afternoon on Nov. 13. BL Kami and BL Setty were crowned the reigning champions of the 2022 FNCS Invitational. The pair earned 368 points in total during the weekend, winning $200,000 and receiving the 15-pound iridescent Swarovski trophy from Epic Games. 

The 2022 FNCS Invitational featured a variety of vendors, including local food truck Golden K Dog and a Mr. Beast Burger booth, which included a lifesize statue of a goofy burger with the Mr. Beast Burger logo in its mouth for attendees to take photos with. Special selfie booths were also set up for attendees to catch a quick photo op. Merch booths were open on the second day of the competition.

In addition to attendance of gaming duos such as SMITE and Larson, the Invitational invited gamer influencers to attend the event. Cole Rodey, a competitive Fortnite content creator who goes by Rodey online, attended the invitational and said it was the best Fortnite event he’s been to. 

“I went to the Pro-Am [Epic Games] had in LA at E3 in 2018,” Rodey said. “That was really cool. It was at the stadium and they had a really similar setup the way it is here. … [The 2022 FNCS Invitational] is really cool. This is the best event I've been to. It's even better than the Pro-Am.”  

Planning for the 2022 FNCS Invitational started in February. The process began with Epic Games organizers dissecting the layout of the Raleigh Convention Center, thinking about seating and resources needed for staging. Setup also included back-of-house production, podcast areas, broadcast trucks and an extensive array of equipment needed to ensure a successful event.

“I mean, the folks that I asked [said] that everything was running really smoothly,” said Loren Gold, executive vice president at Visit Raleigh and GRELOC co-chair. “They were really, really excited about the event, how it rolled out. And that's one of probably the largest stage sets that we've ever had for an esports event.”

According to Gold, Epic Games had decided to hold an event in Raleigh because they hadn’t hosted an event in their hometown prior to the 2022 FNCS Invitational. This year’s event was the first live event since the 2019 Fortnite World Cup, held in New York City at Arthur Ashe Stadium, where the U.S. Open Tennis Championships had also taken place.

“So it was a big move, and we were fortunate to be able to work through it in partnership with Epic [Games] and Blast [Premier] to be able to pull it off,” Gold said. “The other piece of that is kind of where there's some ties to both the state of North Carolina and NC State. The state of North Carolina passed an esports production grant last November, December of ‘21. … And we've had a lot of inquiries because of that. So it's a bit of a business development tool that we now have, that I think really kind of elevates us.”

Marc Hoit, vice chancellor for Information Technology and CIO at NC State, brings people together to do research on esports as NC State builds its own esports arena and truck. According to Hoit, several factors have played into the growing presence of esports in Raleigh, including the Esports Industry Grant Fund mentioned by Gold. 

“The [Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau] was heavily involved in helping to get the funding that NC State has, but more importantly, they were heavily involved in the new law [by the state], like film industry law, that gives 25% support for if you come and have an esports game,” Hoit said. “You can get 25% of that cost covered by the city. And [the Raleigh Convention Center] sees esports as an opportunity to bring even more groups here. And they liken it to the Bluegrass festival; they liken it to how we could be the epicenter of interconnecting esports.”

Hoit also said the growing interest in technology in Raleigh and at NC State creates the perfect environment for esports. NC State’s engineering and design schools would benefit the most from conducting research about gaming through digital stimulations.  

“The technologies that underlie esports give us that platform to change the way we teach, to change the way we do research,” Hoit said. “I did computer simulation. My research was in structures, buildings and bridges, and when a bridge is there and a barge runs into it, does it fall down? Or does it stand up? … I did simulations about those types of things to make sure that strength was there. Esports is kind of that immersion of the ability for all of that, or social interactions for engineers to go in and look at the buildings and see what happens when a hurricane comes.”

Rodey said people who want to get into esports should make sure they are doing it for the right reasons and should follow what they’re passionate about. 

“Some people are like, ‘I want to do it just to make money,’” Rodey said. “And it's like, that's not gonna happen for a while, you know. That really shouldn't be the goal. … I think the people who've had the most success are really good at something and then they expand from that.”