E-Sports: The Rise of Competitive Fortnite

Since Fortnite’s initial release on July 25, 2017, it has become one of the most popular battle royale video games. Battle royale games are games with multiple combatants that fight each other until there is only one left standing. Even at Groton, it appears to be the most commonly played video game, and can be seen played regularly among lower school boys. According to rankings listed on Newzoo.com, the game is currently the third most played game in the world. Even more impressive is that while all of the top twenty most played PC games have been available for download for at least 5 years, Fortnite celebrated its first birthday just a few months ago. According to NewEconomy.com, Fortnite racked in over 1.2 billion dollars in its first ten months alone with 125 million new players.

With the competitive Fornite scene’s rise in popularity, the monetary value of the prize pools has skyrocketed. Professional Fortnite competitions are organized every few months, and there are sure to be more in 2019. According to CNBC, the prize pool that Fortnite is providing will total at 100 million dollars over the course of 2019, breaking the previous world record of 38 million dollars by Dota 2 over 2017. The money will split up into multiple different tournaments. Many professional eSports teams have focused their usage of funding on Fornite due to its explosive surge in active players. 

Teams such as FaZe Clan have sought to acquire top players like Turner Tenny, nicknamed “Tfue” to make them the current number one team; he is considered the winningest Fortnite player in the world currently, and has taken home first place at multiple Duo and Solo events. There are hundreds of Fortnite professionals, but only a few of them make enough to sustain playing Fornite for a living. Most of these Fornite professional players get the majority of their money from streaming platforms such as Twitch and posting regularly on YouTube. Twitch is a streaming platform for gaming that users subscribe to, and if a streamer stops streaming for a day, they begin to lose subscribers. If a streamer stopped streaming, he or she would lose money because of the lack of donations and subscriptions. According to CNBC, the 27-year-old Fornite streamer and professional Tyler Blevins (Ninja) makes over half a million dollars every month. He has also been sponsored by Red Bull, a company that usually only sponsors extreme sports professionals. Students can now officially earn a Fornite or eSport scholarship in college, and Ashland University in Ohio was the first college to offer a complete professional Fornite course. In order to become a professional Fornite player, players need to spend countless hours everyday practicing the game. According to Polygon.com, Ninja has a 12-hour streaming schedule, so that he can practice his Fortnite abilities while making money on Twitch.

Overall, making a sustainable living as a Fornite professional is very difficult, and is only possible for the most skilled and entertaining players. Multiple students at Groton enjoy watching professionals play, so that they may put the skills they learn into their own game. Shane Kim ’19, who watches Fortnite pros from time to time, said, “It’s like watching any other professional sport. They spend thousands of hours on their craft so it’s entertaining.” Oliver Orr ’23 jokingly commented, “Fortnite videos are the tiny twig that save me from the never-ending boredom.”

Most students at Groton who play Fortnite play with or against each other. Most of them are not as good as these pros, and are not good enough to play for money online. Overall, the Fornite competitive scene has grown exponentially in the past two years, and many players strive to improve their skill by watching pros.