By: Kenneth Croke
With the popularity of video games ever increasing, a new category of sports, eSports, has arisen and several video game developers are looking to break into this new field of competition. One such firm is Epic Games who is looking to turn their hit game, Fortnite, into the next big eSport title. Popular video games such as League of Legends, Dota 2, Call of Duty, and CS:GO have been at the forefront of the competitive scene for a long time in a market that is constantly evolving. With 127 million viewers tuning in to watch the League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational there is evidently a large following for eSports. Fortnite’s current popularity has made it a cultural phenomenon amongst people of all ages giving Epic Games the perfect opportunity to increase their player count.
Back in May 2018, Epic Games announced they would be providing $100 million to fund tournament prize pools during the 2018-2019 season. $100 million is an amount usually unheard of for eSports tournament’s prize money, making both players and viewers excited for the upcoming competitive season. The only other tournament to host such a large amount of prize money was in 2017, when Dota 2 paid out about $38 million in prize money with $25 million going towards the Dota 2 Championship.
In July 2018, Epic Games announced that they would be hosting an eightmillion-dollar online tournament called the Summer Skirmish that would span over eight weeks during the summer, ending with a physical event at the annual PAX West, a video game conference held in Seattle, Washington. Due to the randomness of the Battle Royale games, the developer changed up the format every week for the Summer Skirmish trying to fine tune the points awarded for both ranking and kills. This incentivized fighting and created more action for the viewer.
The first week of the Summer Skirmish went poorly with people dying due to game lag and other variables out of their control, which caused countless viewers to lose interest in the tournament. However, as they worked out the issues, the Summer Skirmish took off towards the end with hundreds of thousands of people tuning in to watch the tournament livestreams on Twitch.tv every week. The final week of Summer Skirmish was the biggest of all with one and a half million dollars in total prizes. The first-place contestant received $250,000 in prize money. In addition, any participant that came in first place in certain matches were awarded $25,000.
In the starting weeks, one could only compete in the Summer Skirmish if they were invited by Epic Games, however, the finale at PAX West was free to enter to anyone with a PAX West ticket, making the prize money available to a broader range of players. This allowed Epic Games to help relatively unknown players get seen by video game pro league teams each week. Contestant “Nate Hill” was signed to pro league team FaZe Clan after his consistent performances in the Summer Skirmish, as was “NotVivid,” who signed with Team Liquid after coming in first place in multiple different weeks. Even the firstplace winner of the grand finale, “Morgausse,” was relatively unknown and competed without an official team or sponsor attached to his name.
Looking to keep their momentum going, Epic Games created a new tournament series called the Fall Skirmish which began on September 21 and will end at Twitchcon on October 26. The Fall Skirmish only has $10 million of prize money to award; however, Epic Games has changed the layout so that players still have an opportunity to earn as much money as possible. The tournament has been split into both competitive and casual paced events, such as in-game golf cart races.
Epic Games is expected to release information this fall about the Fortnite World Cup Qualifiers, a large tournament open to any player. It is also expected that most of the $100 million worth of promised prize money is going to be awarded through this tournament. This sets up competitive Fortnite to become the next major player in eSports.