With the recent announcement of the Fortnite Season 4 FNCS tournament, high-level competitive players have been calling out Epic Games for the lowering of their esports prize pool after their massive $100 million splash during the 2018-2019 season.
Top competitors like BenjyFishy, Zayt, and others have taken to social media to call out Epic for the seemingly drastic lowering of the prize pool over the course of the last year.
Players who place in the top three of the most popular regions in the game are seeing about half of what they won a year ago. The winner of the European region in the FNCS will earn almost $370,000 less in Chapter 2 Season 4 than they did during the same tournament in 2019.
To be fair to Epic Games, there are a few reasons for this. Most obviously, Epic are now providing daily and weekly Cash Cups to their player base. These events might not garner as much attention as the seasonal FNCS and DreamHack tournaments, but they do count towards the total prize money that Epic give away for Fortnite esports.
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This might sound like Champaign problems to a lot of people reading this. Yes, we’re largely talking about young video game players who are competing for hundreds of thousands of dollars from the comfort of their own homes.
To the top players in the game, however, this isn’t all about the money. To them, it’s another sign that Epic don’t care about the competitive side of Fortnite. In their defense, they have years of evidence to back this up.
Esports reporter Rod “Slasher” Breslau weighed in on this topic on Twitter, stating that the real problem with Fortnite esports has nothing to do with the prize money. “Fortnite esports doesn’t need $100 Million in prize money for (it) to be successful,” he wrote. “Fortnite needs Epic Games to truly care about its competitive player community with a long term plan for the pros instead of treating esports as a nonsense marketing exercise to promote the game.”
In a follow-up tweet, Slasher evoked the ongoing battle between Epic Games and Apple and how many of the pros in the community remain indifferent on the objectively positive stand that Epic are taking. This writer has heard one popular pro claim that he wanted Apple to “clean out” Epic while raging about the Fortnite server performance in the Season 3 FNCS Grand Finals.
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As unfortunate as it may be, Slasher is right. Epic are using Fortnite esports as a “marketing exercise to promote the game.” They always have. When did Kevin the Cube come to Fortnite? In the middle of a tournament. When did the Infinity Blade come to Fortnite? The night before a tournament.
Chapter 1 Season 7 began four days before a $1 million Winter Royale tournament. That means that all of the qualifiers took place on a different Fortnite season than the finals. In fact, the EU finals and the NA finals for the same tournament happened on two entirely different seasons.
In his final tweet in the thread, Slasher acknowledged that “Fortnite esports is still in an okay spot, but given the size and impact of the game to the gaming community at large or even mainstream culture.” Fortnite might be the biggest game of all time when it’s all said and done, but the esports side of things, “could be so much more,” as Slasher states.
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Over the past year, in an interesting twist of fate, competitive Fortnite has become the number-one way to watch Fortnite on Twitch. Popular streamers like CouageJD, Ninja, DrLupo, and NickMercs have all left the game. Browsing the Fortnite category will primarily bring you streams of players like Clix, BenjyFishy, and Bugha broadcasting pro scrimmages.
At the same time, however, these pros are largely negative about the game that they all play. We all rage from time to time, but many of the Fortnite pros go out of their way to trash the game on other platforms – not just on-stream. It’s a problem for a game when its most popular players are constantly talking about how bad it is.
The worst part of this scenario might be that the game isn’t bad. It’s actually quite good. Casual players who don’t understand why these pros are complaining start to drift away from watching them. This was the primary cause of the philosophical divide that we’re now seeing between the casual and competitive Fortnite player bases.
There’s a way out of this for Epic Games, but we’re not too confident that they’re going to take it. Like Slasher said, Fortnite esports is in a good spot; despite all of the issues that it has. On a casual level, Fortnite has almost as many players as ever. Season 4 seems like a return to form for the core game.
As someone who was overwhelmingly excited for the future of Fortnite esports during the first Friday Fortnite tournament, though, I can’t help but feel disappointed. There was a ton of potential and it seems like we might already be past the peak. It could have been a lot more, but that’s not the route Epic are taking.
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