As E3 rolls around the corner, Epic Games is making sure Fortnite remains the king of Battle Royale games. Besides providing a $100 million prize pool for all esports tournaments in the 2018-2019 season, there will also be a special celebrity tournament called Fortnite PRO AM 2018, taking place on June 12 with pro gamer/celebrity pairings. So far, the teams include Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, famed DJ Marshmello, Youtuber Mark “Markiplier” Fishbach, actor/comedian Joel McHale, Ali “Myth” Kabbani and NBA player Paul George. There are plenty more players to be announced in the coming weeks, but the announcement of a tournament like this is an incredible step forward for changing video games are perceived by the masses.
A brief history of how it became popular in the first place
The idea of a Battle Royale game being the poster boy of video games in 2018 seemed impossible before Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG). The battle royale phenomenon climbed the charts on Steam, and looked as if it was going to be the biggest game of 2017. Twitch streamers were popping up in droves, driving PUBG to become the most streamed game on the platform.
But on September 26th, 2017, some new competition stepped onto the scene. Fortnite Battle Royale.
Epic Games, the creators of the Gears of War series, was in the process of working on their game Fortnite. When PUBG gained immense traction, Epic Games took note of the game’s style, mechanics, and undeniable popularity. In July of 2017, developer Eric Williamson led a team to develop the Battle Royale mode of Fortnite that fans have come to immediately recognize.
Right around the release of Fortnite Battle Royale, complaints and criticisms regarding the toxic environment of the PUBG user base started to become known among players. The game was also said to have very little support in terms of bug fixes or cheaters. Combine these issues with the fact that Fortnite Battle Royale has a less violent tone and is free-to-play, and you can see how the userbase for PUBG decided to give Fortnite a try, as well as plenty of other players.
Since its release, it’s gained over 45 million players, has become the most watched game on Twitch, and has made Epic Games over $100 million per month (beginning in 2018). The game’s success has resulted in a wave of Battle Royale modes among upcoming games. It’s not an exaggeration to say that it has become the biggest game in the world. And Epic Games wants to keep it that way.
Why Fortnite is so popular can be boiled down to one thing: it’s easy
With PUBG, there is a very steep learning curve, and you have to rely on skills that have most likely been developed from other games. With Fortnite, you can figure out what you have to do fairly quickly, and the controls and mechanics are intuitive enough that someone who may not have a lot of gaming experience can still do fairly well. Instead of having an esport look incredibly complex and require an extensive skill set in order to play even casually, Fortnite brings a sense of ease. It’s a breath of fresh air when compared to the razor-sharp focus required for other esports like League of Legends. It’s an esport that can be both simple and incredibly complex at the same time. And that’s the appeal for so many viewers.
It’s important to note that this isn’t the first time that a celebrity tournament has happened. Back in 2016, EA held a special livestream for Battlefield 1 and had plenty of celebrities play the game as a publicity stunt. However, that was a free-for-all deathmatch, which ended up being embarrassing for a few of the celebrities. Because of this, the stream wasn’t nearly as entertaining as expected. This made the game look hard, and unappealing to casual gamers, which in turn led to a disinterest in the game. With the upcoming Fortnite tournament, there are teams made of one celebrity and one pro, which should lead to a much more balanced and exciting tournament. By making sure things are a bit more even, Epic is trying its best to make sure the event will be the biggest spectacle yet.
Esports has been garnering millions of viewers over the past decade. It’s been estimated that in 2016, 225 million people were viewing esports. However, with Fortnite, it appears that esports may be shifting to a much larger and more widespread demographic. Fortnite does not market itself as a hardcore competitive shooter. It does not market itself as a building simulator mixed with survival. It doesn’t even market itself as both. Epic Games noticed how streamers were not treating the game the same way as some would treat Counter Strike. Instead, there was a much more whimsical tone to the streams, which led to the developers to keep up that feeling. This allowed Fortnite to amass a fan base that transcends all kinds of demographics; mixed-gendered, multiple age groups, and celebrities have all taken a liking to Fortnite. Since the game is much more accessible to a wider audience, more people are interested in watching the game being played, which has led to an increased interested in competitive tournaments.
Why it’s about to get even bigger
Because of its mass appeal, Fortnite has plenty of celebrities flocking to it. With celebrities ranging from Chance the Rapper to Roseanne Barr, Fortnite is becoming somewhat of a Pop Culture reference. Some even invite their fans to play with them. It’s a smart PR move, and Fortnite is reaping the benefits with more engaged players.
Playing Fortnite username: CrackedPig8153 come join my team.
— J O E J O N A S (@joejonas) February 25, 2018
The inclusion of celebrities among Fortnite is imperative to the success of its upcoming tournaments. Ever since Ninja live-streamed with Drake, which led to a record-breaking 628 000 concurrent viewers, Fortnite received worldwide headlines. Ninja would soon break that record a month later, reaching 667 000 concurrent views, bringing it back to mainstream news again. This gives weight to the argument that more people are interested in Fortnite than other esports, and Epic Games is capitalizing on this. By bringing in celebrities from all types of industries, it is about to have a lot of new viewers. This is why Fortnite is making sure that its first tournament is to be the most prominent.
This is the gaming’s equivalent of Dancing With the Stars. Except the celebrities are still relevant.