Fortnite's short (and frustrating) history in esports
Olivia R. October 6, 2019
Since its release in 2017, Fortnite has taken the video game scene by storm. It has consistently stood as the most-watched game on Twitch, with big-name streamers like Turner "Tfue" Tenney and Tyler "Ninja" Blevins keeping the battle royale in the spotlight.
While Fortnite has dominated gaming culture for years at this point, the game has had a less-than-stellar start to its time as an esport. With insanely large prize pools like the Fortnite World Cup's $30 million, Epic Games' has managed to retain the attention of viewers and competitors alike despite a lot of controversial choices and continuing technical difficulties.
Fortnite's first Summer Skirmish fails miserably
Fortnite's first foray into the esports scene was disastrous. Despite a $6,500 prize being on the line for the team with the most eliminations, competitors appeared to regret participating in the Summer Skirmish thanks to extreme lag.
Many players experienced game-ruining pings that prevented them from moving or building. Viewers watched top streamers glitch back and forth, unable to move forward. This sometimes led to competitors getting caught in the storm.
But lag wasn't the only thing that left viewers frustrated with the competition. The tournament itself was dull, since the focus on eliminations had most competitors playing it excruciatingly safe. Many players simply hid inside of buildings and structures they built, avoiding their opponents.
“Every duo builds their fort and then they are too afraid to leave it, because everybody is super good, so they wait until the circle closes and move to another fort. Until you have 30 people in a tiny circle, it lags like crazy and then something happens and someone wins," someone noted on Polygon's post about the tournament.
Epic responded to criticism by tweeting that they would be "improving server performance" and "using different formats each week."
Fortnite pros question Epic's dedication to competition
After winning the Fortnite Collegiate Starleague finals, duo Jack Stuttard and Ibrahim Diaz announced on-stage that they were quitting the game for good.
“Honestly, we really don’t like the game that much anymore, not gonna lie,” Stuttard said. “Epic is kinda messing around with the way that they’re balancing everything.”
To keep up with the casual community's demand for new items and new gameplay mechanics, Epic has continued to drastically change the game, regardless of how it impacts tournaments. This includes changing the entire map and even wiping out drop zones that pros religiously use leading up to events.
Last winter, Epic added the Infinity Blade to Fortnite on the day of the North American Winter Royale semifinals. The weapon was notoriously overpowered, offering players a larger health pool and regenerating shields, as well as increased movement speed.
But that wasn't the only time Epic ignored the wishes of their competitive players. Despite pros and streamers repeatedly explaining why they wanted the Baller vehicle to stay vaulted in Arena, Epic brought it back. This caused a lot of backlash from pro players, which went ignored by the Fortnite developers.
Just 10 days before the Fortnite World Cup qualifiers were set to begin, Epic announced that there would be a new ruling regarding screen resolutions. Despite most PC players preferring 4:3 resolution, they would be required to play with 16:9 resolution instead. It seemed like nothing was safe and anything could be changed at any given point.
The B.R.U.T.E. becomes pros' breaking points
Most recently, the Fortnite community became very vocal regarding their opposition to the B.R.U.T.E., which was introduced in Season X. Epic offered a few nerfs here and there, but it wasn't enough to appease disgruntled competitors.
Despite the continued outcry from pros, Epic chose to keep the B.R.U.T.E. in competitive modes and tournaments, including the Fortnite Championship Series. They explained that part of their reason for keeping it was to give casual players a better opportunity to win, a rationale that made many competitive players scoff at the developers.
With Epic's insistence that the B.R.U.T.E. remain in Fortnite, many popular streamers have announced that they won't be playing the game anymore. Ninja spent a lot of time playing World of Warcraft instead, and Timthetatman explained to his fans why he wouldn't be streaming the game anymore.
"I'm not playing Fortnite anymore. I'm not. I can't. I'm not having fun with it. I either win with a mech and it's boring, or I lose to a mech and it's boring. That is where I'm at right now. I'm not trying to yell at developers. I understand they have their own reasoning. But as someone who loves the game, I'm just not having fun," he said, echoing what other streamers have also said.
For many Fortnite professionals, it has started to seem like Epic is ignoring the concerns of the competitive scene completely in favor of keeping the game fresh. The developers' refusal to address many of their concerns has led to more and more big names swearing off the game.
Fortnite World Cup offers major prizes, major issues
Despite ongoing issues throughout their smaller tournaments, Epic Games went ahead and announced one of the largest esports tournaments in history. The Fortnite World Cup had a tantilizing $30 million prize pool, with $3 million going to the Solo winner, Kyle "Bugha" Giersdorf.
While Bugha gained international fame reaching beyond the esports world, the Fortnite community didn't seem happy with Epic Games throughout the event. Well-known competitors were not won over by the weekly $1 million prize pools, and remained quite vocal about their disdain over the Fortnite World Cup qualifiers.
“Online qualifiers are dumb,” Faze Clan player Dennis "Cloak" Lepore said on the event's structure. “Me and [Turner "Tfue" Tenney] had 6/10 lobbies with 0 pro players in them. Yet I watched [Thomas "72hrs" Mulligan] and [Noah "Vivid" Wright] play 10 games with almost full lobby of pros each game.”
The Fortnite World Cup qualifiers also had a lot of issues on the viewership side, similar to past tournaments. The spectator client showed players walking off of buildings or falling to the floor, which didn't reflect the actual action happening in-game. Every week, Epic promised that they would resolve these glitches, but the issues persisted.
And then there was Damion "XXiF" Cook. The Fortnite pro caused an uproar within the Fortnite community when he was caught cheating in the Fortnite World Cup qualifiers, but that anger was quickly redirected towards Epic Games when the developer chose to only suspend his account for two weeks.
This allowed XXiF to not only play in the qualifiers after his account was restored, but set him up to reclaim a spot in the Fortnite World Cup. Many pros spoke out about how ridiculous the situation was, noting that Epic didn't take cheating, or the game's competitive integrity, seriously.
Even though the World Cup's continuous bugs had many people frustrated with the event, there was one thing during the main event that brought every fan together: Cheering every time XXiF was eliminated on-screen.
Fortnite Championship Series announced
Aside from negative feedback received from professional players, the Fortnite World Cup was a success. It put Fortnite under the spotlight with both Twitch and mainstream media outlets. After making a huge buzz around the world, Epic decided to announce the Fortnite Championship Series.
This brought Trios to the forefront of both casual and competitive play and offered a substantial prize pool.
Unfortunately, once again, the excitement quickly transformed into animosity from the pro scene thanks to the aforementioned B.R.U.T.E. Throughout the competition, pros could be seen rage quitting from games thanks to less-experienced players eliminating them with the mech.
This carried over into their personal streams as well, with many players saying they were not going to stream Fortnite aside from competing in the tournament.
TwitchCon tournament reveals Epic's continued issues
Popular streamers from all over the world gathered in San Diego to compete at the $1.3 million Twitch Rivals Fortnite Showdown.
At one point, Nick "Nickmercs" Kolcheff was informed that he would be put into a practice game before the tournament started as the event staff attempted to sort out any issues with the set up. To nobody's surprise, it ended up being a real game and it was full of horrific issues.
Nickmercs started out the tournament with no audio and a keyboard and mouse that didn't function properly. This left him unable to build or move.
"If this happens again, not to be dramatic but I'm dipping," Nickmercs said. "I didn't come here to get fucked like that."
This situation spoke to an even bigger problem. These were similar to the issues that plagued Fortnite's tournaments years ago. It seems that Epic is unable to address these problems properly, which causes a lot of stress for the players when there's both money and pride on the line.
Pros form the Fortnite Professional Players Assocation to combat Epic
Including big names like Bugha and Benjyfishy, the FPPA was announced on October 4. It currently sits at 16 members, but is looking to expand in the near future.
According to the FPPA, the group is meant to provide a platform for pros to voice their concerns on the future of the battle royale's competitive scene. They are hoping this will lead to "productive dialogue" with Epic.
This comes after years of frustration with the game's competitive scene, including unaddressed, game-changing bugs, frustrating tournament structures, and constant changes to the map and items. Only time will tell if the FPPA will have any impact on Fortnite's future esports endeavors.