Fortnite’s Summer Skirmish tournament had an embarrassing start (and an early finish)
We were hoping for a true battle royale experience, with bloodthirsty duels and high-stakes showdowns to be the last player standing.
Instead, the first week of Fortnite’s eight week summer tournament felt like the bits in the Hunger Games where Katniss walks around aimlessly and takes a nap in a tree.
Players camped in their crazy towers, the lag was affecting play, and Epic Games yelled “CUT CUT!” after just four games. No team reached the first place goal of two wins or ten matches played.
There was so much hope and excitement for the battle royale game’s forage into international esports. Epic poured US$100 million dollars into developing the scene, and the first weekend of Summer Skirmish had a US$250,000 prize pool.
But it was far from a promising start.
Lag has been the go-to excuse and running joke of competitive gaming -- “that dumb play wasn’t my fault, it was the lag!” But over the weekend, the lag was real, and Epic’s servers could not keep up.
Esports tournaments often take place in official venues with players all together on stage.
That’s how Epic set up its Pro-Am Fortnite tournament in June. But this time, it used a different format where players compete from home, and viewers tune into individual players’ streams to watch the tournament.
Fortnite also had a main broadcast that flipped back and forth between streams for official commentary on what was going on.
But since this wasn’t in a typical LAN style, with everyone piling into one custom matchmaking game from everywhere, the lag was pretty bad. And things got out of hand when large groups of players started clumping in the safe circles. Viewers and players alike were not happy.
Epic had invited 49 teams of two for week one, featuring popular streamers, notable moderators on Fortnite forums and players of professional esports teams. But even some of these top gamers couldn’t fight through the lag.
And even when they could play… well, many went back to the age-old, tried-and-true method of staying alive: camping. After all, there was a lot of money on the line for the winning team. Epic’s cash incentive for racking up the highest kill count per game obviously wasn’t a big enough lure for competitors to break out any daring plays.
Many kept building and hiding, making the tournament a bit tedious to watch.
But there is a silver lining.
Epic did acknowledge some server issues and promised it was ironing out those problems.
It is definitely an embarrassing start to Fortnite’s esports dreams. It’s the world’s hottest game and Epic is not a small indie company. But as host Toaster explained before the event was cut short, this is a learning experience for Epic.
For the next seven weeks in the Summer Skirmish, Epic will be trying different tournament formats to see what works for its battle royale baby. And that includes seeing how servers hold up and how people respond to it. Next week it’ll be attempting to include EU players as well. (We’ll see how that goes.)
At US$8 million this may seem like an expensive experiment, but if it could prevent Fortnite’s esports future from crashing and burning because of lag, it’s well worth it.