Following the Fortnite boom in 2018, the next logical step to many was for the game to be pushed into competitive gaming so it could be monetized with events and tournaments.
It’s a progression that we’re all too familiar with. Anytime a player-vs-player video game becomes popular, people have to try to make it into the next League of Legends.
But Fortnite esports has always kind of felt like trying to stick a square peg through a round hole. While competitive pub-stomp competitions helped the game during its rise, it was the personalities that truly made the game shine.
Many of the game’s mechanics made the battle royale difficult to watch as an esport. The fast-paced building battles and lag-laden endgame situations due to too many players surviving for too long were a turn-off.
But with the game recently peaking at more than 500,000 for three days in a row on Twitch, the first weekend of Fortnite Champion Series (FNCS) qualifiers showed what esports can do for the game.
Fortnite is known for having some of the most popular events in all of gaming. Whether it’s something in-game or if TheGrefg is unveiling his customized skin, Epic knows how to turn heads for a special moment.
Despite that, this weekend was the first time in the past year that the game peaked at more than 500,000 viewers for multiple days in a row—and it was all because of highly popular players vying for a spot in Fortnite’s FNCS.
Over the weekend, the game racked up 15.8 million hours watched with an average of 219,974 viewers, according to Twitch statistics website SullyGnome.
Much of that was driven by people like NICKMERCS, Clix, Mongraal, and TheGrefg recording 300,000 or more hours watched in just five to 10 hours of competing.
While the main Fortnite channel had a five-hour broadcast of its own that racked up more than 200,000 hours watched with an average of nearly 40,000 viewers, it was just one small part of what made the game successful over the weekend.
Fortnite is one of the most popular games in the world because of its colorful animation and gameplay pacing that allows personalities to shine on stream. That’s how gamers like NICKMERCS, who's played little Fortnite in the past year, can top the category in viewership for a weekend whenever he decides to go back to his roots.
As the FNCS qualifiers continue, we'll likely see more weekends like this one. There are two more qualifiers over the next two weekends. But when the semifinals, "Reboot Round," and finals weekend approach, the players remaining in the competition could determine how successful it is.
Fortnite has power through its personalities, not its competition. To some extent, that’s a universal truth for all sports or competitive games. But for Fortnite, it’s especially prominent.
In the coming weeks, it'll behoove Epic Games and the Fortnite community to use the FNCS as an opportunity to showcase and highlight players for their gameplay and for their personality as well.
By making its competitive events as a promotional tool for personal content creation, Epic can clear a path for Fortnite that complements the work it’s already doing with in-game events and skins. This will help the company kick to the curb the archaic notion that every popular PvP game has to have a traditionally formatted competition that can be called an esport.