100 Million Reasons Why: Epic Announces a Massive Prize Pool for Fortnite’s Upcoming Esports Debut

June 22, 2018

If you think you’re a pretty good Fortnite player, Epic Games has just given you 100 million reasons to become a great one.

Epic, the producers of the hugely popular battle royale game, have just announced their intentions to launch it as an esports title – and they are providing $100 million in tournament prizes for the 2018-2019 season.

Photo Credit: YouTube

Fortnite is extremely popular, and it’s player base is large and diverse, from pro gamers, to athletes and hip-hop artists, to college and high school students. The analytics firm Sensor Tower estimates that Fortnite collects more than $1 million per day on mobile alone. While the game is free-to-play, Epic sells in-game cosmetic items like character costumes and dance moves. (In response to the $100 million announcement, one Reddit user posted, “You’re welcome Fortnite community. All that money solely comes from me buying dances.”) Epic made $126 million on Fortnite in February – and that was even before the iOS version of the game was added.

So, while Epic is likely to recoup that $100 million in less than a month, it is still an impressive amount. In fact, it instantly puts Fortnite among the top esports prize pools.

To date, the largest esports prize pool occurred at the 2017 International Dota 2 Championships. The total amount given away at that tournament was $24 million with the winner, Team Liquid, taking home the lion’s share, $10.8 million. However, Dota 2 prize pools are largely crowdfunded. Dota 2 publisher Valve releases an in-game app called the Compendium and 25 percent of every in-game purchase goes towards that year’s International prize pool.

In total, Dota 2 has paid out more than $140 million across 900 tournaments since 2013. Over that same time span, the next closest esports are CS:GO and League of Legends at just over $50 million each.

Photo Credit: Wali Zahid

Compare Epic’s announcement to Blizzard’s Overwatch League which, when it wraps up the inaugural season, will have paid out just $3.5 million.

If it seems unfair to say, “just $3.5 million,” it is. But that’s the world we’re living in now. It’s wild to think about the implications of this scenario. Fortnite is already hugely successful, and the $100 million total prize pool will only generate more interest. It’s hard to imagine a situation where at least some of that interest doesn’t translate to other esports titles.

However, the one thing we don’t know is, well, anything about what the competition will look like. The only information we have on the tournament is from Epic’s official statement, which was brief:

“We’ll be supporting community organized events, online events, and major organized competitions all over the world, where anyone can participate, and anyone can win. Fortnite World Cup Qualifiers begin in Fall 2018 and culminate in the first Fortnite World Cup in late 2019. Whether you’re in the competition or watching at home, we want this to be fun for everyone.

“What about the specifics? The $100,000,000 will be split between many events at different levels of competition around the globe. Fortnite World Cup play will focus on Solos and Duos, but there’ll be plenty of opportunities to squad-up in competition, too.

Photo Credit: Dexerto

“This is for you, the players. Qualifications for the Fortnite World Cup will be based on merit. Epic will not be selling teams or franchises and won’t allow third-party leagues to do so either.

“Rules, Player Code of Conduct, specifics about platforms and Fall 2018 schedule are on the way. If you’re interested in learning more about Fortnite competitive play sign up here. Stay tuned for more!”

In May, Fortnite ran a special event called the Solo Showdown that was also the first time the game attempted any sort of player ranking, which has lead many to suspect it was a dry run for competitive play.

The way Solo Showdown worked was that players were awarded points for the first 50 games they played (contestants had to play all 50 games to qualify for awards). 100 points were awarded for a win, and points decreased down to 25 for the bottom quarter of players. In addition, players were not able to communicate with each other in Solo mode, so there was no teamwork (and, equally as important, no toxicity).

It is possible that esports tournaments will follow a similar system. While skill is certainly a factor in Fortnight, luck does play a part (i.e., where you land, what weapons randomly generate near you, how the storm closes the field). The Solo Showdown seems to be a solution that mitigates one or two “unlucky” by taking a broad swath of games into consideration.

Another possibility is an event that was recently put on by top Twitch streamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins at the newly opened Esports Arena in the Luxor Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. More than 200 people from around the country flew in to compete against him (and each other). Ninja awarded competitors $2,500 for finding and killing his character in the game and an additional $2,500 to the winner. Of the nine games played, Ninja won one and finished second twice.

Photo Credit: Hip Hop Wired

This event was streamed live on Twitch and peaked with 667,000 viewers which shattered the site’s single-streamer record. The previous record (just over 600,000) was set only last month – by Ninja when he played Fortnite with the rapper Drake, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, and rapper Travis Scott.

“I did not think [starting to play Fortnite] would be here, ever. That’s just because, I don’t think a game has ever done this. You have popular esports games like League of Legends and those are obviously super popular and competitive, but a game that’s gone viral and infected the world, really, especially with a younger audience, it hasn’t happened since Minecraft, in my opinion,” Ninja said.

Epic’s E3 2018 competition could offer some clues, as well. It was a 50-team, 100-person battle royale that paired celebrities with skilled streamers (Ninja won with his partner, EDM DJ Marshmello). This was also the first time that viewers had a chance to watch the Fortnite esports-viewing platform. While the game is a first-person view (or over-the-shoulder view), the esports viewer provides a third-person camera angle of the battles. Also, to make it easy to spot the players and their alliances, teams are shaded in different colors to differentiate them from rivals.

Between the announcement of $100 million in prize money and the celebrity promotion, Fortnite’s esports debut promises to be a fun ride.

For more on our thoughts about Epic’s bombshell announcement and its implications for the esports scene – and how you or your brand can take advantage, give eGency Global a call at 972-323-6354.