Fortnite’s competitive format doesn’t allow for proper teams, which ruins its chances of becoming an enjoyable esport to view or follow.
Fortnite has been able to maintain its position as one of the most popular video games for the past few years, and its numerous crossovers with some of the largest franchises in television, movies, and other video games make for a very unique gaming experience. Despite Fortnite’s overwhelming popularity, the way Epic Games has formatted its competitive scene ruins Fortnite‘s chances of becoming an enjoyable esport.
That’s not to say Fortnite isn’t a successful esport. The 2019 Fortnite World Cup event had more than 2 million concurrent viewers during its live broadcast on Twitch, and the solo grand prize was $3 million. The 2019 League of Legends World Championship had a prize pool of $2.2 million, despite being an established esport and drawing in more than 100 million viewers. There’s no doubting Fortnite‘s financial success or popularity, but it’s not actually a fun esport to follow.
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For some, Fortnite can be hard to watch because of how fast players build. Build battles can be intense moments for players, but they are disorienting and confusing for viewers. Still, nauseating camera twirling isn’t what makes Fortnite an unenjoyable esport; competitive Fortnite’s lack of teams and openness to everyone makes it difficult for viewers to find players to cheer for.
Fortnite’s Open Competitive Format Ruins Its Esports Appeal
When Fortnite started to gain popularity, popular esports organizations like FaZe Clan and Team SoloMid began putting together professional Fortnite teams. These were made up of some of the largest creators of that time, such as TSM Myth and FaZe Tfue. These streamers gained massive followings because of their personality and skill, and they were believed to be the best Fortnite players out there. However, in 2018 and 2019, Fortnite held World Cup Qualifiers, and only a select few of these big-name creators made it into the top 100 players. The majority of the qualifying players who participated in the Fortnite World Cup were ones whom very few people had heard of before. This is because Fortnite allows anyone to compete, regardless of platform, organization affiliation, or the size of their following.
A large part of what makes esports and sports in general so entertaining is the team mentality they allow viewers to form. Fans will gravitate towards a specific team, causing them to attend sporting events, buy merchandise, and devote large amounts of time to their team’s specific activity. This is apparent for video games like Overwatch, CS:GO, and League of Legends that hold large events specifically for these professional teams. Fortnite’s competitive format doesn’t lend itself to these kinds of teams because of its open format. Allowing everyone to compete may draw in a large number of participants, but it eliminates the possibility for organizations to build brands around professional Fortnite players and teams.
Imagine if football teams were eradicated, and instead, every Sunday, hundreds of thousands of random athletes showed up to compete. It might be an entertaining spectacle at first, but it would quickly lose its appeal. Instead of viewers rooting for the Pittsburgh Steelers or the New England Patriots, they wouldn’t have any organized teams to cheer for. Fortnite‘s open format offers anyone the opportunity to earn cash prizes if they’re good enough, but it forfeits the ability for proper teams to form.
This is most apparent when looking at the standings of Fortnite’s latest competitive events. The top 10 placements are rarely familiar names, which means even cheering for the “best” Fortnite player is impossible. It would be different if there were consistent players that ranked in the top 10 or 20 every week, but that isn’t the case. Some streamers, such as Clix, benjyishy, and Zayt, place in the top 10 on occasion, and this has helped them build a community on Twitch or YouTube. But these few are the exceptions in a player base saturated with unknown competitors.
There are plenty of other issues that stem from a hardly vetted pool of competitors, including underage players, teaming in solos, and tasteless actions. Unsportsmanlike conduct has become an apparent issue in Fortnite’s competitive scene, especially for 2019 World Cup winner Bugha. On a number of occasions, competitors intentionally sabotaged Bugha’s chances at winning competitive matches. This could be a large part of why Bugha and other popular competitors don’t place among the top players as often as they otherwise could. Many times, if players know they won’t be able to win an event, they will seek out other players to grief. This could be because younger competitors haven’t matured enough to properly cope with losing, but could also be due to the lack of organizations checking the quality of players.
Some fans may think Fortnite’s open competitive format is a positive because it eliminates the feeling of exclusivity that organized teams tend to generate. Yet, there are plenty of other negative emotions and overly dramatic situations that make Fortnite‘s competitive scene feel immature. When a professional athlete is traded or an esports competitor is dropped from a roster, that player usually maintains their composure. Fortnite players are different, as they tend to take these same actions more personally. Fortnite allows players to create their own teams, and that means all of the responsibility falls on the players’ shoulders. If a player sleeps in and misses a tournament, for example, the team will have to find a last-minute replacement. Since teams aren’t bound by contract, they can drop and swap players as they wish. This leads to players getting their feelings hurt when they underperform and are replaced, which, in turn, leads to bitter players posting their feelings on social media.
Fortnite’s open competitive format has ruined its chances of becoming an enjoyable esport. The same can be said for the majority of battle royale games, as their competitive scenes mimic that of Fortnite’s. Regardless, Epic Games has found a formula that ensures Fortnite will continue to be a profitable and popular experience, despite its lack of appeal as a viewable esport.
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