Bursting the battle royale bubble
The battle royale genre has become hugely popular over the last year or so, with games such as H1Z1 and PUBG gaining traction on Twitch before Fortnite blew them both out of the water and became the pop culture phenomenon it is today. It has long been argued that battle royale games are not fit for esports. RNG is too much of a defining factor, the argument goes, and the supporting cast of overpowered weapons and bugs make the game LiTeRaLlY uNpLaYaBlE. However, with PGI 2018, PUBG Corp. outlined how and why PUBG esports is perfectly viable. It’s hard to watch that and not be hopeful of a future for battle royale esports. So with that out of the way, we look at Fortnite. PUBG is proving that it can be done on a large scale and – whilst only time will tell us of the success PUBG sees – there is no reason Fortnite can’t do it bigger and better, given the fanbase it already has. What we’ve seen already of Fortnite tournaments hasn’t been convincing – pros coming up against players in public matches in UMG’s Friday Fortnite, the opening Summer Skirmish series being plagued by lag issues. Clearly there is room for improvement, and proper strategy needs to be devised, but the battle royale genre shouldn’t and wouldn't be the defining factor in Fortnite’s esport success.
Making it worth the money
Epic Games broke the internet (kind of) when they announced that the first year of Fortnite esports would feature a total overall prize pool of $100 million. First thoughts are that this is incredible. Despite the fact they make that back in a couple of weeks, $100 million is a ludicrous amount of money that sees Fortnite pro players gain a sense of longevity and trust in Epic providing them a proper career. This also trumps the prize pools featured in other esports – in fact it is almost equal to the total prize pool of the top ten esports in 2017 COMBINED. https://twitter.com/OpTic_Crimsix/status/998608325892812801 But what this really means is that the pressure is on. People were interested in Fortnite already. $100 million was not a necessity in the slightest, but now it’s been announced and people are genuinely interested in esports that may not have even heard of it before. So how are Epic likely to deal with this pressure? They’ll do what they do each and every day, and they’ll listen to the community. The amount of vaulted items, nerfed weapons and buffed equipment we’ve seen in the short time Fortnite has been alive is testament to how much Epic care about listening to the community and providing something that the general audience wants. There is no reason to believe they wouldn’t do this exact thing for the esport. Developer support is paramount to the success of all esports, most particularly the tier one esports that have had years to refine their game as much as possible. If Epic want to prove their $100 million investment is worth it, they’ll be consulting with the pro players as much as possible – and I have no doubt in my mind that they already are.
The fanbase is already there
Never in my lifetime has one game received so much viral attention and media coverage as Fortnite has in the last six months. I always thought YouTube was at its peak for gaming with Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, after Modern Warfare 2 had initiated the huge growth in gaming content. In fact, prior to Fortnite, I really thought gaming content had as good as died on YouTube, and it wasn’t a way for creators to make the big bucks anymore. Fortnite changed that completely. Streamers and YouTubers are developing rabid fan-bases thanks to the game, and top pro players already have a consistent viewership that would have much less interest in gaming were it not for these personalities playing Fortnite. My little brother, who has always been a very casual gamer at most (FIFA is pretty much all he has ever been interested in), will now regularly sit and watch players such as Tfue and Daequan, discussing tactics and strategy with me and taking a genuine interest in what Fortnite esports has to offer. This reminds me somewhat of Call of Duty in its earlier years, where personalities helped grow the esport more than anything else could have. Whilst back then Nadeshot and Scump drew thousands in to Call of Duty esports, we now have Ninja, Myth, Tfue and more getting the next generation involved. The game is spawning a new breed of gamer, and if even a small percentage of these players become esport fans through it, the industry will have grown massively. So even for the esport purists, it is impossible to deny that Fortnite has all the potential in the world. If only we give it time to grow and prosper, Fortnite may just join the esports elite.