Fortnite esports, huh? Well, they certainly tried their best.
Let's start with this: Fortnite is incredibly popular and so is the competitive side of the game. The sad fact is, however, that it will never be taken seriously or become the must-watch event that I once thought it would be.
There are a ton of problems with Fortnite esports, with the greatest one being in the name. Fortnite is inherently random. Random loot, random chests, random zone, AR BLOOM for the love of God!
There are bigger issues than just the format, though, and they're holding Fortnite back. Here's my hot take on why Fortnite will never be considered a top esport.
OG Fortnite fans will remember the good old days of arguing which organization had the best players. Was it Team Liquid with Chap, Poach, and 72hrs? FaZe with Tfue and Cloakzy? TSM with Myth, Daequan, and Hamlinz?
This was back when Fortnite esports was fun to watch. Orgs were creating teams that had personalities and storylines.
Nowadays, trios split after one bad performance. You can't be a fan of an org in Fortnite esports, as most signed players team up with players from competing organizations. It's not uncommon to see Liquid, NRG, and FaZe represented on the same team.
The open qualification nature of official Fortnite tournaments only adds to this issue. There are too many new players to follow as some of the biggest names routinely miss the cut.
Excited to see the all-star squad of Bizzle, Bugha, and Clix? Too bad, they didn't qualify.
It's too hard to be a fan of a Fortnite team right now, which is a massive issue for the longevity of the competitive side of the game.
🏆 Clix x Bugha x Bizzle 🏆 Trio FNCS pic.twitter.com/ZFV3Ut8jgj— Clix (@ClixHimself) February 2, 2021
No more LANs
Will we ever see a Fortnite LAN event again? The recent announcement that Epic won't host LAN events until 2022 isn't promesing.
Who is the best player in the world? Which region has the most talent? We don't know the answer to these questions anymore because no regions face one another unless they're playing off-ping.
The world is opening up and developers are beginning to host LAN events once again. Epic are content to save money by broadcasting online tournaments, where everyone plays and casts from home.
You can cry "COVID" all you want, but this strikes me as a lazy, money grab that will put almost four years between Fortnite LAN events - if they ever even come back.
Performance has always been a problem in competitive Fortnite. In the early days, it was a young game that was still figuring things out. Three years into the pro scene and things haven't gotten much better.
Pros are always crying about performance, and rightly so. This is a AAA video game with serious money behind it, yet Epic still can't figure out how to host servers that don't break and cost players significant earnings.
And don't even get me started on Storm Surge. This mechanic is a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. The server can't handle all of these players? OK, make a mechanic that punishes players for staying safe IN A BATTLE ROYALE. Great idea!
It would be one thing if Storm Surge fixed server performance. It didn't fix anything, and additional mechanics like fire and cars have only made the performance worse over the years.
Dwindling prize pools
This topic is a bit overblown in my opinion, but it's worth mentioning nonetheless. Epic came out of the gate HOT with their prize pools, offering hundreds of millions of dollars in prize money their first official year.
After Epic didn't see much of a return on their investment, they began cutting the esports budget with each subsequent event.
There's still a lot of money up for grabs - more than a lot of other games - but the reduction in prize money has sent a message that pros read loud and clear.
See, the lowering of prize money isn't the real issue, here. It's that the pros in the scene don't feel supported. They feel like their opinions don't matter and the Epic just want to sell skins to casuals - an attitude that isn't entirely wrong.
and with prize pools constantly getting less and less its gonna be even harder for unknown players to start making a living out of the game which will eventually make them want to stop playing and the comp scene will slowly start dying out if it carries on— benjyfishy (@benjyfishy) January 10, 2021
A viewability debacle
Most games are difficult to follow if you don't play them, yourself; the barrier to entry that esports needs to overcome, as a whole.
Even as an experienced Fortnite player, though, I find official Fortnite events nearly unwatchable. This adds to the lack of fandom because it's nearly impossible to watch your favorite player on the official broadcast.
Viewing parties hosted by people like EmadGG are the best way to watch, as you can see the individual perspective of players in-game.
Most players don't stream major events, though, for obvious reasons. In the official stream, you're stuck watching the kill feed and missing most of the action unless the spectator team gets lucky and follows a pop-off trio.
Unfortunately, I don't have a solution for this problem - it seems to be the way Fortnite is as a game. Watchability could be the most troubling issue on this list.
You might ask, Jaxon, you have all of these problems with Fortnite esports - how would you change it?
Easy. Two words: Ninja Battles.
Ninja Battles was an invitational, 20-team tournament (60 players) that Ninja developed last year. It was a thrill to watch, with fewer players reducing the server lag and making the game much easier to follow.
The invitational style of the event added to the enjoyment as well. Here, we had the biggest names in the game battling it out - even if those big names may not have been the best players Fortnite had to offer.
Tournaments can't all be invitationals, but we need to have some sort of league format if Fortnite wants to continue as an esport.
Allow teams to generate rosters and qualify for the Major League where the top 20 or 25 teams can win significant money.
Relegate poor-performing teams to the Minor League at the end of each season, promoting the best teams in the lower division. Most importantly: lower the player count so server performance isn't as much of an issue.
This won't fix all of the problems but it would be a significant step in the right direction. Right now, though, it feels like Epic are only using esports as a promotional tool for the game.
Unless they truly dedicate themselves to revamping professional Fortnite interest in the online-only, region-specific tournaments will only decline. As it should.