Can Fortnite: Battle Royale truly become an esport?

Fortnite: Battle Royale is one of the most popular games of today, with millions either playing the game or watching others play it on Twitch. While the game enjoys mainstream success, can it carry that over to a successful foray into esports?

Fortnite’s ‘Solo Showdown’ mode just went live, it is a new limited-time competitive mode where players can earn rewards for performances across a series of matches. With the release of a full-fledged competitive mode for a Battle Royale type of game, it opens the conversation of the genre’s place in the greater sphere of esports.

READ MORE: Fortnite releases new competitive ‘Solo Showdown’ mode

While Battle Royale games like Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) have enjoyed widespread popularity recently, with millions playing the games themselves or watching streamers on Twitch, the genre has yet to make its mark in the esports industry.

Image courtesy of Epic Games.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle for the genre is its own design concept, Battle Royale games thrive on the thrill and chaos of having its players engage in a last-man-standing-deathmatch in a continually shrinking map. However, esports matches are predicated on having predictable outcomes, where an equal playing field means superior skill and strategy is the key to victory.

How Fortnite’s publisher, Epic Games, plans on doing that with the release of its competitive mode remains to be seen. 

Will it follow Solo Showdown’s point system and determine winners according to total points accumulated over the course of a league or tournament? The genre’s concept itself makes it even more difficult for an esports-friendly format to be found.

However, Epic’s timing with the mode’s release has been impeccable, as the movement to get Fortnite into esports has been gaining a lot of traction recently, no matter the questions surrounding it.

READ MORE: A US university is offering a Fortnite scholarship

Should Fortnite actually dive into esports soon enough, it is in prime position to be the leading title in its genre due to a more innovative gameplay concept compared to its competitors.

Fortnite’s ‘build’ mechanic allows players to harvest materials from the field and use those to construct structures, such as walls, floors, stairs, and so on, thus making the game more complex and raising its skill cap. While lower-skilled players would be playing the game much like any other shooter with the ability to build a small ramp for protection, high-level players have practically no limits on building anything that gives them the edge in the battlefield. This is a large step above other games in the genre like PUBG, where arguably the winningest strategy is camping, which is something an audience would not be too thrilled to watch.

Image courtesy of Epic Games.

If the game’s avid audience on Twitch is anything to go about, then it’s safe to say that Fortnite will pull in viewers online no matter what. But whether that same audience will actually flock to watch Fortnite in an arena is another matter entirely. Unfortunately, that’s not the only pressing issue the game has.

Currently, Fortnite lacks a skill-based matchmaking system, so the gap between skill levels in a single match can vary wildly. That other player you’re stalking from a distance can either be a scrub or John Wick, it only takes firing a single shot to find out which.

Not the most exciting of prospects now, is it?

Solo Showdown might be the first step towards a solution to that issue, while also providing top-tier players opportunities to set themselves against opponents of the same skill level or even get exposure for potential professional careers.

But for now, we can just wait and see. Epic will be hosting a pro-am tournament at E3 this June, it just might be where they’ll reveal whatever plans they may have for Fortnite in esports.