On June 12th at the Banc of California Stadium, Epic Games hosted the Fortnite Pro vs AM event.
The Fortnite event consisted of 50 Fortnite streamers paired up with 50 celebrities in a duo format. The participants include Ninja and Marshmello, TSM Myth and Paul George, and many more. The total tournament prize pool was 3 million US dollars and first place secured 1 million of the 3. However, the winnings would go all to towards charity.
Apart from entertaining event itself, it was clear Fortnite is making the steps required for their game to create the leap into Esports.
¤ Proving that Fortnite can be an Esport
Since the release of Battle Royale games such as Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, there has been a lot of controversy on whether Battle Royale games can ever be an Esport. For the readers who may not know, Battle Royale games received a good sum of criticism on the problems regarding spectate mode. Since there are usually a 100 players in a game, it becomes rather impossible to keep track of a fan’s favorite player while the action is ongoing throughout the entire map.
I too had my fair share of doubts about Battle Royale prior to the event. I asked myself questions such as “How will they keep track of every single player to satisfy the audience?” and “How will they cover every single point of gameplay?”.
My doubts began to fade away while watching the Fortnite Pro-Am. From the moment the event started to the very end, I had not experienced even the smallest amount of discomfort or frustration while watching the games. The new and improved spectate mode with skilled operators felt smooth. Transitioning from action to action with interruption, it seemed to me that no impactful gameplay was missed. It was impressive enough to make myself feel sorry I ever doubted Battle Royale games.
While watching, I knew Fortnite was well on its way to joining the competitive scene. At the same time, I was astonished and happy that such a game could make the seemingly impossible leap.
¤ Incorporating Entertainment with Competition.
Just before the event had started, the casters showed the iconic dances available in Fortnite. The screens would display dance moves from ‘Best Mates’ all the way to the ‘Floss Dance’. Afterward, the audience was asked to copy the dances displayed on the screen the best they could.
Words could not describe the atmosphere of the stadium. It was a mixture of inspiration and the purest form of joy. With a count of over 3,000 fans attending, the portions of the crowd started dancing to the music.
Now, you may be asking how this all relates to Esports. Take a Basketball game for instance. In a Basketball game, there are cheerleaders dancing and kiss cams that bring more life and community engagement to the event. Adding fun and entertainment to an already amazing experience, Basketball consistently rewards fans for supporting the sport and showing up to games. Inevitably, this combination of entertainment and competition allows Basketball to grow in popularity as a competitive sport. Fortnite is on its way to accomplish the exact same thing.
Unlike other games that have gone 'Esports viral', Fortnite was held back through the problems of being a Battle Royale game. However, this incorporation of entertainment and competition will only lead Fortnite to have bigger and bigger crowds in future events. In essence, the community will grow to the point where Esports can be easily achievable for Fortnite.
As long as the community is in full support of a game, what really is there to stop Fortnite from breaking into the barrier which was once thought to be unsurpassable?
¤ Interactivity between professional players and the community
As with any game, one of the hardest aspects to satisfy is the relationship between the professionals and the community. However, with the event centered on integrating the community with the professional players, I was blown away.
Celebrities, like other normal human beings, have hobbies. By hosting the Fornite Pro-Am, Epic Games successfully integrated gaming influencers and celebrities in a natural way that didn't feel forced or unnatural. Most importantly, it allowed these figures opportunities to interact with normal, everyday fans in a memorable way.
As a casual Fortnite player, I felt even more close to the game and my idols than ever imaginable.
So what does this mean in regards to Esports? The easiest way for a game to become Esports viable is through community interactivity. For example, TSM had recruited Myth onto their official Fortnite team. One of the reasons that contributed to Myth's recruitment was his popularity with the Twitch community. The more players feel connected and close with their idols, the more people are inclined to become a professional player. In other words, the goal to be just like their favorite streamer or more.
I am not indicating that a bigger community will 100% lead to a bigger professional scene, but it does help. Increased professional players in a scene will incline the competitive scene to grow as equally.
¤ The future of Fortnite.
Noone can fully schedule out the Esports future timeline for Fortnite. However, from the event, I have clearly experienced more of the potential and less of the setbacks. In retrospect of the Pro vs AM event, Epic Games seems to be moving towards the right direction. Let alone, the 100 million dollar investment Epic is investing.
No one can tell what lies ahead for Fortnite. I only hope it can be an Esport solely due to Fortnite's uniqueness in being a Battle Royale.