The Secret World of Fortnite Esports

There is a competitive world of Fortnite that does not appear on the surface of esports news coverage, organizations’ posts, or official press releases. More than that, these competitions are not advertised by Epic Games to the world outside of the game. We are talking about a company that can say it can hold its own esports competitions without relying on organizations or even sponsors. 

Epic’s stance in the market is pretty clear, although it causes the exact opposite impression to whoever looks at it: as the players’ avatars are personifications of themselves, the company does not show a face to the media. Epic is Epic, as Fortnite is Fortnite, in opposition to the relation Valve, for example, has with the figure of its co-founder and president Gabe Newell.

Following this though, Fortnite hosts its own world aimed at those who play the game. It features its own social life, events, and actions directed at the in-game audience, such as movie exhibitions and live concerts. It’s something like walking on the path imagined by Ernest Cline in his book Ready Player One. Along with all of this, as you may have imagined already, the game also includes a competitive scenario.

Besides the Fortnite Champion Series (FNCS) where the marketing efforts are directed to, Epic holds a heavy competitive calendar in its community without advertising to the “outside world,” with daily and weekly tournaments that give out tens of thousands of dollars every month to the winners. For last season, each region, according to the official rules, had a daily amount of $2.7K USD to be awarded to the first three places of the daily competitions, both for PC and console players. At the weekly tournament named “Cash Cup” (see rules), there was a variation between regions and platforms. In Europe, for example, there was a prize pool of $20K every week to be divided between the 20 best PC players

These prizes along with the possibility of anyone in the server joining the competitions for free (as long as the player has enough rank to be qualified for it) make the Fortnite competitive scene a full plate to any player who wants to go pro, releasing the player from the need of getting a contract with an organization.

On the other hand, it is fair to expect that players who are backed up by an organization and rely on a pro structure have better chances of getting the prizes, while the perspective of daily earnings added to sponsorships with a Fortnite team may be interesting to those who want to invest in the scene.

Even with the heavy investment that it tallies worldwide, as the same structure is followed on all servers, Epic does not count on sponsorships for its events. All earnings by Fortnite come from skin sales and in-game content, and it can explain Epic’s stance of highlighting that your avatar is you inside the Fortnite world, making players seek a style or appearance that better fits their desires and personalities. But more than that, Epic does not even show interest in bringing external brands to the game’s competitive scene. It is used much more as a way to keep the community engaged than as a commercial resource.

Although, there is a window for organizations and esports promotion companies to set up their own tournaments: Epic is open to talking with those who are interested in setting up competitions as a third-party, having its own sponsors and structure but not holding the status of an official Epic/Fortnite event. 

In addition to that, there is a desire by the game producer to make Fortnite reach the largest audience as possible. Any streamer or video maker can access files and produce content in their channels about the competitions, using official images. Also, a new platform is being launched by Epic encouraging influencers to promote their own tournaments with Epic providing the whole structure, including the prize pool. As an example, in July there was a Fortnite cup promoted by streamer and FaZe Clan player Kyle “Mongraal” Jackson. 

At the Mongraal Cup, Epic entered with the landing page, organized the whole tournament structure, and offered $10K to the winner, while Mongraal promoted the game by streaming the competition. Over 500K players registered to give it a shot. Epic is aiming to expand this cooperation with influencers as it feels the game will be valued, and sponsoring such channels may be a way for brands to get in the spotlight.

Overall, the whole competitive scene of Fortnite encourages those who want to try the pro-player life to give it a shot. All registrations for Daily Cups, Cash Cups, influencer cups, and even for the FNCS, are free and open for anyone who reaches a determined rank. Although, despite the heavy investment there is still no expectation that Epic Games will open its official circuit to brands. 

As the new Fortnite season started on Aug. 27 amidst a loud controversy with Apple, Epic announced through its official website on Sept. 2, that “prized tournaments will start two weeks after the season launches to let the meta settle.” Considering everything that was rolling there underneath the mainstream esports world, it will surely be interesting to watch the development of this “secret” scene. 

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