AWS Startups Blog

How video game streamer Bebo successfully organized a “Fortnite” tournament in one week flat

Even if you don’t play video games, you’ve probably heard the name “Fortnite” in conversation. Whether it’s Drake talking about playing the “Hunger Games”-esque game with popular Twitch streamer Ninja or watching World Cup players mimic the game’s silly in-game dances—”Fortnite” has taken pop culture by storm.

Therefore, it’s no small feat to throw a tournament for “Fortnite,” let alone a celebrity version that’s streamed to millions of people. But that’s exactly what the team at video game-streaming app Bebo decided to undertake earlier this month.

Inspired by the “Fortnite” Celebrity Pro-Am charity tournament that took place at E3 2018, whereby 50 “Fortnite” pros were paired off with celebrities like talk show host Joel McHale and NBA player Paul George, Bebo Head of Partnerships Jason Hitchcock says his team was intrigued by the idea of “big personalities playing for a big prize.”

The team quickly hunkered down to plan and execute. They ultimately decided on a $20,000 prize pool, invited 64 influencers, and gave themselves seven days to make it happen.

Furqan Rydhan, Bebo’s CTO, wanted to create a live experience for viewers that surpassed what people normally get on Twitch.

The biggest problem with tournaments on Twitch is that viewers have to leave the website to see the standings, bracket, and scoreboard, he notes. Scores are updated by volunteer moderators on a mess of spreadsheets. The net result? Watching a competition but rarely ever knowing the score or time.

“One of the biggest features of our app is that we use computer vision to track what’s happening in the game,” says Rydhan. “So if our tech sees a kill, it will automatically update a scoreboard on stream; it’s basically the same tech Google uses for self-driving cars, or Snapchat uses to identify your face.” To get this done, he adds, their 10-person engineering team was up all night Friday and Saturday to prepare for the tournament on Sunday.

Ultimately, Rydhan’s engineers planned for a 10x number of streamers for the big day—only to see their predictions blown out of the water. “We peaked at 400,000 people concurrently watching the tournament on Twitch,” says Rydhan. “Nearly 30% of all Twitch traffic was watching the tournament”—leading to some engineering challenges.

“We had to scale much more quickly than we were expecting,” says Rydhan. “We had to go from 300 API calls to half a million—half our graphs suddenly didn’t work anymore.” Luckily, he says, they were able to turn on some autoscale features from AWS to help balance the load. “For engineers, it’s all about reaction now,” he added. “You can press a button and 3x your capacity, which physically was not possible five to seven years ago.”

In the end, the dust settled and Tfue & Cloakyz claimed the $20,000 prize pool. According to Bebo, over five million viewers tuned in for the tournament, proving that Sundays are no longer just for the NFL.

So what happens next?

“Get a bit of sleep,” says Rydhan. “Then start getting ready for the next Sunday tournament.”

Michelle Kung

Michelle Kung

Michelle Kung currently works in startup content at AWS and was previously the head of content at Index Ventures. Prior to joining the corporate world, Michelle was a reporter and editor at The Wall Street Journal, the founding Business Editor at the Huffington Post, a correspondent for The Boston Globe, a columnist for Publisher’s Weekly and a writer at Entertainment Weekly.