Impact as an esport

Fortnite’s monster popularity has been looked at from seemingly every angle. This is perfectly understandable considering it is raking in money ($318m in May) from its 125m+ players and breaking down all sorts of barriers, especially when it comes to cross-platform play. However, Fortnite doesn’t get enough credit for being the first “esport” (hear me out) to bring in a mainstream audience. While Fortnite is not a team-based esport in the usual sense (teams, leagues etc), it is competitive and compulsively watchable. The game has even minted the first crossover personality, Ninja. It’s fair to say he is the first professional gamer that legions of parents are aware of.

It might seem obvious, but athletic sports need to score interest of non-players to create stars and build a sizable business. Not everyone that loves the NBA plays basketball or even used to play it. This has been the limitation of esports to date; very few people that don’t play Overwatch or League of Legends watch the competitions, and the teams are basically faceless. Contrast this with Fortnite’s Pro-Am event at E3, with a wide swath of competitors, celebrities, and full-on Fortnite stars, netting a viewship of millions of people that might not even think they’re watching an esport. Some media reports of this event compared it to a rock concert rather than a sporting event, which makes sense; once again, excitement is contagious because the game is accessible, colorful, with no intimidating esports baggage. It’s fun for everyone.

The Future

It’s not a wild guess to presume that Fortnite will find its way onto television soon, and score meaningful ratings in a way that TNT and ESPN’s previous esports broadcasts have not. Fortnite is a watershed moment in games that we’ll look back on as pivotal as the original Atari, the first NES, Mario going into 3D, Grand Theft Auto, and the release of the iPhone. Fortnite’s legacy is that of the title that finally ushered in the era of competitive gaming that non-gamers love watching.


Photo Credit: Nathaniel Wood