ESTNN explores the challenge of reaching the top of competitive Fortnite.
Competitive Fortnite Battle Royale is objectively one of the more intense and unique esports in the world. It encompasses more than just aiming and shooting. In fact, Fortnite’s building and editing mechanics set it apart from every other game. Perfection is nearly impossible, given the number of random elements the game has to offer. That hasn’t stopped hundreds of thousands of competitors ranging from ages 13 to 30 from playing up to 12 hours every day.
Only a handful of players across Fortnite's seven worldwide server regions can truly call themselves professionals. For every Fortnite World Cup Winner like North American player Kyle “Bugha'' Giersdorf, who became an overnight sensation and a millionaire in 2019, there are countless players striving to replicate his success. However, achieving greatness in Fortnite is far from easy. The game offers much less stability than its esports counterparts, which makes going pro and maintaining that status all the more challenging.
Talented individuals in every continent play more than eight hours per day to stay sharp and in form. While other esports titles require the same level of dedication, most have structured leagues and organizational stability. In competitive Fortnite, the former doesn’t exist and the latter is far from perfect. Players who grind their mechanics, editing, building and aiming ability do not see instant results via earnings or sponsors.
Instead, hopeful professionals must compete in the Fortnite Champion Series (FNCS) and Cash Cups to gain recognition. These competitions feature top-heavy prize pools, making it difficult to rely solely on tournament winnings to sustain a career. What’s more, the game itself is incredibly challenging master.
Competitors in Fortnite must understand unique properties such as moving zones, ping advantage, Storm Surge, rotations and how to assess certain situations on the fly. It’s a complex science that requires months of nonstop playing. Where competitive Fortnite is demanding, it does not always open doors for players looking to make a living off of the esport.
Organizational Opportunities & Involvement
Epic Games’ $100M USD investment in the competitive scene back in 2019 shows exactly where Fortnite was at the time. On the precipice of the inaugural Fortnite World Cup event, the game could not have been more popular. Players both old and new emerged as the cream of the crop during ten grueling qualifying weeks leading up to the World Cup Finals in New York City.
Many of those who qualified were able to leverage their talent and position in the $30M USD tournament into an esports organization contract. It was at this time that highly-touted talents such as Benjy “benjyfishy” Fish and Kyle “Mongraal” Jackson inked deals respectively with NRG Esports and FaZe Clan. Both European players remain on these rosters to this day and are two of the most recognizable names in Fortnite.
However, these opportunities came at the cost of playing thousands of hours while learning the ins and outs of each season. In September of 2019, Jackson reported that he played somewhere between 4,400 and 5,000 hours in Fortnite. That calculates to over 200 days or six months. For Jackson, his tireless efforts paid off. He established himself on social media and became an infectious personality because of his outlandish demeanor and comical rage.
At just 13 years of age, Jackson had essentially secured a full-time job as a professional Fortnite player. That opportunity afforded him the time required to stay on top of his game. Although he remained in school, he could focus most of his efforts on Fortnite and building his brand. Fast-forward to 2020, where Jackson’s hard work paid off in the form of a major championship win. He joined fellow European players — Dmitri “Mitr0” Van de Vrie and Tai “TaySon” Starčič — in hoisting their first-ever Axe of Champions, the reward given to all FNCS winners.
The Trials and Tribulations
For Jackson, he was able to achieve a career-long goal of etching himself into the history books for more than just his personality. However, where Jackson succeeded, many hope to follow that same path with varying results. Not only is Fortnite a challenging game to master, but it’s also difficult to sign with a top-tier organization and find the correct complementary pieces to complete a formidable team.
Roster changes occur quite often in Fortnite. Some players struggle to find the right combination. This factor inevitably adds more pressure to a game with so much uncertainty. Let’s not forget a little thing called education. Many of Fortnite’s best talents range between 13 and 18 years of age, and schooling often cannot take a backseat to those rising through the ranks.
Top Professional Player Speaks on the Pressures
ESTNN had a chance to speak with current professional Fortnite player “Xoonies,” who competes under the Luminosity Gaming banner. He discussed the pressures of maintaining a high level of play and the roadblocks he encountered along the way.
“Well it is pretty stressful trying to be at the top. You have to be consistently placing in the top 20 and making content on all socials and on top of school it makes it really hard,” he said.
It’s not easy to continuously place in the top 20 to catch the attention of organizations such as Luminosity all while staying relevant. Xoonies mentioned making content, which often goes hand-in-hand with success in Fortnite. Players who grow a following on platforms such as Twitch and YouTube open up more opportunities. Add in schooling, and it’s evident that flourishing in Fortnite, regardless of skill, does not happen overnight.
We asked Xoonies, who plays between 6 and 12 hours per day, what would make competing less stressful. He responded, stating, “No school or less school. Luckily I just finished highschool, so now I don’t have to worry about it. It'll make everything easier.”
To conclude our brief conversation, we wanted to know the NA East player’s plans for the next year in competitive Fortnite. “Play until World Cup and then see how it goes from there,” he said.
Xoonies isn’t alone, the entire competitive scene is anxiously waiting for the next Fortnite World Cup event. It could give the game a boost at a time when the world is hopefully nearing the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. If and when it happens, the pressure will reach unforeseen levels. Players who qualified for the 2019 World Cup wear that achievement as a badge of honor. Earning the opportunity to compete for $30M USD in New York made careers.
The Future of Fortnite
Fortnite continues to develop and evolve beyond what it was two years ago. The game’s constant evolution means players will have a much more challenging time qualifying. Bundle that aspect with school obligations, building a brand, adjusting to each meta, maintaining adequate tournament results, finding a suitable team and gaining organizational sponsorships, and you have a whirlwind of pressure that is not easy to overcome.
For every Mongraal, Bugha and Benjyfishy, there are thousands who strive for similar success and notoriety. Reaching the top is not easy, and staying there is even more insurmountable. Success comes with a hefty price but certainly not impossible. Thousands of players have made a name for themselves. Talent seems to find a way despite the odds.