Epic Games announced May 21 that it would be offering $100 million for competitions around its incredibly popular game “Fortnite.” This prize pool makes “Fortnite”the flagship for all other esports, which unfortunately means that its rise or fall will have far-reaching consequences for hundreds of thousands of fans and players across the entire industry.
On the surface, this prize pool seems really good for the industry. An incredibly popular, but more importantly, mainstream game will have the biggest prize pool ever offered in all of esports. Many will object to this statement because games like “Counter-Strike,” “Dota” and “Starcraft” have had monetized competitions for years. The fact of the matter is there has never been a game that nearly everyone has either heard of or played like “Fortnite,” with this amount of money attached to it. It feels like this is a game of the people, where everyone can understand the rules and it is fun to play at both the casual and high-level tiers.
This situation is the equivalent of “Call of Duty” at the height of its fame hosting competitions where people could win millions. Suddenly, it is no longer just a hobby or something people who drop out of college do in their parents’ basements. Video games have always been portrayed as something that only people who don’t have lives do, but now, they have been catapulted into the same price range as professional sports.
The world is changing and with the amounts these games are bringing in, investors are beginning to notice. Recently, “League of Legends” allowed its professional teams to be sponsored by corporations, bringing millions of dollars into the scene..
But Fortnite has a lot of pressure riding on it as a result of taking the top spot in terms of prize pools. To start, this is a game that is relatively new. It took years for the other esports to get enough support to host finals that would have a significant amount of money available for winning. Fortnite has been out for less than a year and is already making millions a day, and it has decided to start in the competitive scene. These actions speak to a certain volatility in the market where the fickle crowds have suddenly found interest. The fear here is that everyone will suddenly lose interest just as fast.
Other esports like “League of Legends” have slowly built their fan base and their support over years of careful changes and advertisement. If Epic Games fails, all esports could be lumped together under the subject “bad investment ideas” and completely forgotten about, destroying years of hard work to make it into the spotlight. If we look at fidget spinners as our model, the speed at which something becomes popular is about matched with the speed at which people lose interest. No one cares about fidget spinners anymore — we just have to hope that “Fortnite” and esports don’t go the same direction.
Another issue is that once people see how much money can be made in this sector, the market will get swamped with thousands of games that are poorly designed with the hope that one of them will get lucky. The same happened with “Clash of Clans,” so it’s now impossible to look at games on your phone without most of them strongly resembling the screaming warrior logo. Epic has not made their earnings a secret with this prize announcement, so it is expected that almost every developer will be jumping on the bandwagon.
There is so much potential here for esports to become as normal to people as physical sports and the players and teams to be equally recognized. There are so many parallels between the two already that with careful management, esports can become as entrenched as baseball in the mind of the world. This amount of money has made a statement that there is much opportunity here, but it is too bold with too much risk. Unfortunately, it fits an unstable model of success.
I will state here unequivocally that “Fortnite” will be almost forgotten by the mainstream by this time next year due to its abrupt rise and the developer’s outright bragging about the size of the prize pool.
I believe that the prize pool was in Epic’s best interests as it is trying to make as much money as it can before the inevitable decline, no matter if it has to destroy the rest of the esports community to do it. “Fortnite” will be around for a while, but I predict many empty lobbies and upset players only a year or two down the road. I sincerely hope that Epic won’t ruin years of hard work with its greed.