Fortnite Launches Ranked Play, Commits $100M to eSports

Fresh off of Fortnite’s first foray into ranked play on May 17th, Epic Games has committed $100M in prize pool money for Fortnite competitions in the 2018-2019 season. The ranked play ‘Solo Showdown’ game mode was available to players from May 17th through May 21st as a limited time mode (LTM). Players were given points in each of their first 50 matches in the game mode, earning 100 points for a win, down to 25 points for finishing in the bottom 25% of a match. Winning 50 games in a row (a near impossible task) would earn a player 5000 points.

At the conclusion of Solo Showdown, vRxthless came out on top, with 4881 points out of a possible 5000. For their performance,vRxthless earned 50,000 V-bucks, Fornite’s in-game currency worth about $500.

Despite Fortnite’s popularity and financial success, there is still not a large eSports presence for Fortnite, or the battle royale game mode itself. NewZoo, a gaming market researcher, tracks hours watched on Twitch and Youtube. Below are the hours for April 2017.

Fortnite and PUBG, the two most popular Battle Royale games, are seeing a lot of success for total hours watched. On the eSports side, however, Fortnite and PUBG are far behind multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games, Dota 2 and League of Legends, as well as first-person team-based shooters (FPS) game, Overwatch, and CS:GO. This makes sense, as Battle Royale games are relatively new, and there isn’t much structure in place as it relates to eSports.

Seeing the success that Fortnite has had overall, and their introduction of ranked gameplay, it’s clear that they are gearing up to further develop eSports around the game and the genre. On Monday, Epic Games announced that they will provide $100M in prize money for competitions. We think eSports popularity for Fortnite will help bring eSports more mainstream. The Battle Royale game mode will bring a unique format to eSports competitions, as multiple teams will compete in a single match, which is different than the typically head-to-head team matchups for MOBA and FPS games. Fortnite’s financial commitment reiterates their belief in the long-term outlook for eSports surrounding the Battle Royale game mode.

While other game developers are adding Battle Royale game modes to their existing franchises, we don’t think that they will generate the same authentic interest that Fortnite has. Over the past few months, Fortnite has become a cultural sensation, as demonstrated by its total viewership hours and presence on social media platforms, sports celebrations, and pop culture references. While adding Battle Royale is a positive move for existing developers, it will be hard to replicate the same level of success that Fortnite has achieved.

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