In the esports landscape, Fortnite sits in a peculiar spot. It’s indisputable that it’s a hugely popular game with one of the youngest fan bases out there. The only game to have seen more tournament prize money dished out is Dota 2. Players boast large followings on social media and opportunities to compete are plentiful and easily accessible.
Despite all this, it has been criminally underserved with LAN events, players are often accused of being faceless and lacking personality, and it is never really held in the same regard as popular esports such as League of Legends, Valorant, or Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
In what could be seen as the start of a turnaround, Epic will next month host its first Fortnite Championship Series LAN event, the FNCS Invitational, in over three years – the last being the huge Fortnite World Cup in 2019. While there have been some third-party Fortnite LANs since the pandemic, Epic has been slower than most other publishers to get back to live esports events. So could this be a turning point, and with live competition seemingly returning, what else needs to change to bring Fortnite esports back to World Cup levels of popularity?
With some of Europe’s top talents assembled in London for the Wolfiez Den bootcamp, hosted by Red Bull athlete and 2019 World Cup runner-up Jaden ‘Wolfiez’ Ashman, The Loadout got the chance to pick some pro players’ brains and pose this very question.
For Wolfiez, who describes the current Fortnite scene as “a bit dead” and “stale”, there’s one simple answer to getting back to the hype of the Fortnite World Cup – put on another one. He says that across the entire scene there have been talks about bringing the World Cup back, and he hopes it materialises.
“Everyone’s been saying ‘Oh, when’s the next World Cup?’ and believe that [another] World Cup is going to revive Fortnite,” Wolfiez tells The Loadout. “Seeing all the LANs come back you know, it does give us hope for maybe there being another World Cup and a real opportunity to grind for.”
While Wolfiez made a name for himself in that fleeting live event era before the pandemic, two players that excelled in the following online era are Guild’s Henrik ‘Hen’ Mclean and Falcons’ Tai ‘TaySon’ Starčič. Both have won FNCS championships online and are heading to Raleigh for their first Epic-hosted LAN, and both have strong feelings on Fortnite esports.
For Hen, he wants to see Epic communicate its future vision for Fortnite more with the players.
“They tell us what’s happening now, but they don’t really tell us about the future,” he says. “I hope they [start to] speak more in terms of the schedules and what’s actually going to be happening later on.”
TaySon also believes that improvements need to be made on a gameplay level as well to freshen up the viewership experience. When asked about which duos are looking strong for next month’s Invitational, he says that the current meta makes it hard to place any player above another because the lack of diversity and consistency with the loot pool puts everyone at “a similar level”.
“Luck is going to be a big factor,” he says when talking about what, if anything, can separate the teams from one another.
Hen agrees. He has become frustrated with the constant vaulting and unvaulting of items, and says more consistency would benefit the pro scene.
While constant content updates, new mechanics, and loot pool shake ups are important for keeping regular players engaged, it seems the same can’t be said anymore for pro players. In a similar vein, the online era that has been financially well supported (and seen the likes of Hen and TaySon win hundreds of thousands of dollars) has now worn thin, and players are eager to get competitive Fortnite in arenas again and build the scene back up to the highs of 2019.
You can read more about the Red Bull Wolfiez Den event here, and can watch the FNCS Invitational from November 12-13.