By Brianne Ledda and Arielle Noren
Griffin Spikoski made $200,000 playing video games between July and December last year – and he’s only 14.
The Smithtown teen is making a fortune playing Fortnite, a game that’s exploded into worldwide popularity since its debut in 2017. Epic Games announced that the number of registered players hit 250 million registered players in March, and plans to start hosting qualifiers for its first Fortnite World Cup on April 13.
The gamer is now making a foray into video game tournaments, as he travels to Berlin on April 10 to meet Misfits Gaming, an international esports team.
“Until very recently, tournaments were for 14 and up and he was 13 when it all just started,” Kathleen Connolly, his mother, said. “He wasn’t able to compete but he’s just starting the tournament scene now.”
Video games are exploding as the global organized video game tournaments, or esports, market revenue is expected to hit 1.79 billion dollars in 2022, according to Statista.
“It’s been a lot more mainstream in the last two years,” Jason Chung, a senior research scholar in the New York University (NYU) Sports and Society who developed and teaches NYU’s business of esports class, said. “Beyond the hardcore gamers, people are generally aware that this isn’t just for kids anymore, and this is actually a pretty big, important, new sports development that is happening and a lot of industry people are beginning to take advantage of it.”
Gaming centers, or LAN centers, are starting to host tournaments and build local communities, Chung said.
The Meta: Gaming and Esports was the second LAN center to open on Long Island in less than a year, as a more mainstream esports culture filters in from New York City. It opened its doors in Saint James on March 18; Waypoint Gaming in Garden City opened in April last year.
“We thought it was going to be a big hit, especially by the university, just having the right demographic for gamers and things like that,” Ryan Larkin, an owner at The Meta, said.
Besides offering gamers a place to congregate and socialize, The Meta hosts tournaments several times per week.
“I think this is a good idea, to get [kids] out of the house and to you know, meet other people because you can tend to isolate yourself, so I like this idea,” Melisa Lopez, who was attending a Fortnite tournament with her boyfriend and his son at The Meta, said.