ESTNN takes a look back at all Fortnite Skirmish tournaments, pondering if Epic Games should resurrect the competitions that put competitive Fortnite on the map.
Fortnite: Battle Royale’s competitive landscape changed forever in July 2019, when developer Epic Games shelled out $30 million to the best players worldwide. Two-hundred talented players qualified for the Fortnite World Cup, which granted them the opportunity of a lifetime. Competitors would eventually walk away with life changing money regardless of where they finished. It was the peak of competitive Fortnite, in a sense, but it certainly was not the beginning.
The long and complicated history of Fortnite Esports is somewhat of a conundrum. Once upon a time, tournaments consisted of no moving zones, which meant the player or team with more healing items would usually win. The tournament scene became much different in July 2018. That summer marked the commencement of seasonal Skirmish competitions, which offered millions of dollars in prize money to invited players.
Twitch superstar Tyler “Ninja” Blevins recently revived the invite-only format in the form of Ninja Battles. As a result, professional players reminisced back to the summer of 2018 - when Epic Games dished out millions in the aforementioned skirmish competitions. It was a much simpler time; Some would wager the best times in competitive Fortnite. Now let’s take a trip down memory lane and decide whether or not Fortnite Skirmish tournaments should return on a regular basis.
Summer Skirmish 2018
Up until that time the summer of 2018, the only well-known Fortnite tournaments were the UMG Friday Fortnite bot races and a Celebrity Pro-Am that took place at E3 in 2018. Epic Games eventually made the decision to capitalize on Fortnite’s popularity and kick off a massive tournament to begin its esports endeavor. On July 11, 2018, the developers announced the first significant Battle Royale tournament in the game’s short history, known as the Summer Skirmish. The Summer Skirmish was Fortnite’s first real attempt to became a legitimate competitive video game. It offered an unfathomable $8 million prize pool spread out across eight weeks of competition and both Europe and North America.
The Summer Skirmish, however, was not an open tournament like what we see nowadays. Instead, Epic Games sent out invites to community creators and Fortnite players who have “demonstrated their competitive prowess.” The Summer Skirmish’s format would also rotate from week-to-week. That meant duos and solos were both in play, and the scoring system would fluctuate. It was the beginning of a new era, catapulting Fortnite from a public match stomp fest closer toward a competitive Battle Royale.
Several of the top Fortnite players and content creators at the time had their first chance to win some insane prize money and further their names in the public eye. The list was expansive - Tfue, Vivid, Chap, 72hrs, Myth, Hamlinz, Daequan, SypherPK, Cloakzy, Ninja, NICKMERCS - it was a virtual who’s who of the most famous Fortnite players in history. Epic Games knew the exact players they needed for the Summer Skirmish.
Across the eight week series, former Team Liquid member Vivid managed to win four of the eight individual sessions. He did so alongside duo partners Kevie1, Poach and GrenaderJake in weeks one, four, five and seven respectively. Vivid also won the solo tournament in week two. In total, the Team Liquid turned Cloud9 Fortnite player bagged over $144K USD just from his victories. Top pro players NRG Zayt and TSM Saf won the duos portion in week three, earning them $30K USD each.
The Summer Skirmish came to an end at the PAX West video game convention on September 3, 2018. After a round of open qualifiers, 99 players remained for the Grand Finals. With $1.5 million on the line - Bizzle, Poach, NICKMERCS, Tfue and many others went to war to decide the winner of the $225K USD grand prize. Six intense matches closed out the tournament and Morgausse claimed victory. Overall, Summer Skirmish was a milestone in competitive Fortnite.
Countless players from both North America and Europe ushered in a new era of Fortnite during the Summer Skirmish. Several popular players emerged as true stars both as entertainers and competitors. The competition would only continue from there as Epic Games amped up the tournament scene.
Fall Skirmish 2018
After the success of the Summer Skirmish, there was no question that Epic Games would bounce back with another multi-million dollar Fortnite tournament. Professional players were constantly improving and exploring new ways to dominate the competition. It only took less than one month for the Fortnite developers to conjure up a new tournament. On September 20, 2018, Epic Games announced the Fall Skirmish - a six-week, $10 million tournament series for North America and Europe. The developers made a conscious effort to double the efforts and increase the prize pool for its second official Fortnite tournament series.
The Fall Skirmish followed a similar format to the Summer Skirmish, alternating duos and solos each week leading up to the Grand Finals at the TwitchCon convention. However, this time around, Epic would split invited players into four different teams themed to Fortnite characters and locations. That list included the likes of North American players Tfue, Vivid, Zayt, 72hrs, Chap, Myth, SypherPK, Bizzle and Summer Skirmish Champion - Morgausse. Europe’s top representation came in the form of mitr0, k1nzell, Pate1k, Airwaks and several others.
The weather may be cooling down, but the battle is heating up 🍂🔥. Fall Skirmish starts soon, with $10,000,000 awarded across 6 weeks. Stay tuned for major details dropping later this week!
— Fortnite (@FortniteGame) September 10, 2018
Tfue continued his outstandingly consistent play from the Summer Skirmish in the Fall Skirmish. The former FaZe Clan player won weeks two and four as a solo, netting him $75K USD. Team Liquid’s original crew also remained atop the leaderboard with Chap, 72hrs, Poach and Vivid. Other players who placed consistently well included NICKMERCS, Bizzle, Saf, Zayt and Symfuhny in a multitude of different formats and scoring systems. For the European side, mitr0 emerged as one of the best players with two wins across the six-week competition.
The Fall Skirmish came to a close at TwitchCon on the weekend of October 26, 2018. Top players from both Europe and North America made the trip to the San Jose Convention Center in Calfornia to compete for a $1.85 million prize pool and multiple bonuses worth $50K USD. After a round of preliminary heats, the 50 best duos reached the Grand Finals. FaZe Clan duo Tfue and Cloak reigned supreme with 28 eliminations across the six matches. They collected a whopping $400K USD for their Fall Skirmish Finals victory. Fellow FaZe Clan duo Nate Hill and Funk took second place, netting them $225.5K USD. TSM ZexRow and TSM Vinny1x secured third and Ghost Gaming’s Bizzle and Dmo landed in fourth place.
The Fall Skirmish took what the Summer Skirmish started and elevated it to the next level. Epic Games was handing out millions and millions of dollars to these iconic names and some previously unknown players. It was an unprecedented time that many current competitors both former and present look back on with fondness. The last Fortnite Skirmish tournament followed fourth months later in February 2019.
Secret Skirmish 2019
The successes of both the Fall and Summer Skirmish tournaments legitimized Fortnite: Battle Royale as a competitive game. Despite the inherent randomness involved, the best players typically found their way to the top of the leaderboard. Tfue, Cloak, Chap, Vivid, 72hrs, Bizzle and numerous others had already established themselves as the cream of the crop. On January 18, 2018, Epic Games surprised competitive Fortnite fans with another invite-only tournament, dubbed Secret Skirmish.
One-hundred players received invitations to the Secret Skirmish based on their past performances in Fortnite tournaments. The best of the best arrived at an “undisclosed testing facility” on February 14 to compete for a $500K USD prize pool. Epic Games split the competition into two separate days; Day one followed a duos format and solos took center-stage on day two, both featuring six games and a nearly identical scoring system.
We're breaking into 2019 with a special invitational!
— Fortnite (@FortniteGame) January 18, 2019
Epic Games randomized all 100 players into different combinations for the duo competition on day one. That meant Tfue and Cloak, 72hrs and Chap, NICKMERCS and Aydan would not participate in the competition as partners. After six matches, Saf and Ronaldo claimed victory and took home the $27K USD grand prize. JTruth and Thwifo grabbed second place and Tfue and Dmo rounded out the top three. It was unquestionably the most unique developer-run Fortnite tournament at the time. The randomized component forced players to adapt to their new unsuspecting partner’s playstyle. Several of the best players in early-2019 managed to finish inside the top-ten and take home some money. For those who didn’t, the solo competition on day two was their last chance.
The final day of Secret Skirmish pitted all 100 invited players against each other in a six-game showdown. With $400K USD on the line, finalists had all the incentive they needed to go out and take first place. Former Ghost Gaming player Bizzle clutched out a win in the final match to declare himself the Secret Skirmish winner. It was life changing for Bizzle - who was already a household name in competitive Fortnite. He remains a top player to this day and the Secret Skirmish elevated his name above some of the others around that time.
Another former Ghost Gaming member — Saf — finished in second place after winning duos on day one. He, too, remains one of the best Fortnite players through the game’s illustrious three-year history. Former Team Liquid Member Vivid - who dominated the Secret Skirmish six months before - claimed third place and $36K USD. These are some of the most recognizable names in competitive Fortnite, all of whom remain relevant to some extent currently. The Secret Skirmish invited previously successful players, granting them an opportunity to win insane amounts of money for 12 games of work. It was a much different time than what competitive Fortnite is nowadays.
Should Epic Games Bring Back Skirmishes?
That trip down memory lane brings us to the looming question; Should Skirmish tournaments return to competitive Fortnite? It’s easy to look back at the Summer, Fall and Secret Skirmish competitions with rose-tinted glasses. Popular players remember these tournaments fondly because they were all on top of the world, at a time when Fortnite: Battle Royale seemed to capture the attention of every gamer.
The competitive landscape is much different now. Fortnite’s inaugural World Cup gave all competent players around the world an opportunity to make a name for themselves. It also lowered the minimum required age of participants to 13.
Now we have players like Clix, Dubs, Bugha, Megga and a laundry list full of talented players that weren’t around during the old Skirmish days. New outstanding players appear on the scene week in and week out through Cash Cups, DreamHack and FNCS, which are all available to players 13 and above. Younger players now dominate the scene with lightning speed movements and undefinable aim.
Skirmishes were unique in the early days of Fortnite because the tournament scene was still so green. Content creators were the absolute best players in the world. Tfue, Cloakzy, 72hrs, Bizzle and hundreds of others were given keys to the car of competitive Fortnite and told to drive. The invite-only aspect kept a relatively tight list of players as part of the equation. A lot of those players have since moved on from Fortnite for a variety of reasons. Even Tfue — who rose to prominence early on in Fortnite — has since moved on to different games. However, one of Fortnite’s biggest names stormed back into the scene looking to give back what the Battle Royale granted him years ago.
Could Ninja Battles Reopen the Door to Skirmishes?
It seemed that the era of Skirmishes had come to an end. However, a tournament series spawned in May 2019 that reignited an old flame. Gaming superstar Tyler “Ninja” Blevins worked with Epic Games to produce Ninja Battles - a weekly invite-only tournament series with a $480K USD prize pool. It brought back the vibes of Fortnite’s early days. The invitees ranged between content creators and professional players. Ninja got in the action on multiple occasions, making for some comical moments throughout.
Most of the weeks did not manage to fill lobbies, meaning the games were less laggy. Not many players or personalities had much to say from a negative perspective. Competitors waited a long time to experience a tournament with limited griefing and unexpected interference. The positive reception should plant that idea in the head of Epic Games. Not every tournament requires a $5 million prize pool split across console, PC and seven different regions.
The invite-only aspect of Skirmishes meant that all familiar faces and names would join in on the action. It made the broadcast and competition infinitely more entertaining. Players did not have to stress qualifying or having three to four “clout chasers” landing on them every game. Ninja Battles brought that feeling back to some extent, but we have seen what Epic managed in the past. There’s no reason to believe that they don’t have the funds and resources to organize a throwback Skirmish style tournament, potentially using the Arena Mode leaderboard or past tournament successes as a qualifier.
A seasonal Skirmish revival could breed life into the players that no longer regularly play Fortnite. Perhaps some new stars could come out of it as well. The writing is on the wall and the players want it, but Epic Games is the ultimate deciding factor. Hopefully, Fortnite can return to its competitive roots some day for old times sake.