Epic Games announced late on Monday that it will provide $100m in prize pool cash for Fortnite competitions during the game's first season of competitive play.
The first official competitions are expected to start later this year, although very little has so far been revealed about what size and shape the contests will adopt. Regardless, the $100m prize pool is going to draw a lot of attention from players, perhaps convincing some battle royale players from PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) and H1Z1 to hop over and start practicing their building.
A blog post from Epic said the company is "getting behind competitive play in a big way, but our approach will be different – we plan to be more inclusive, and focused on the joy of playing and watching the game. Stay tuned for more details about competitive structures and eligible platforms in the weeks ahead.”
Their approach will need to be different. PUBG struggled to engage an audience with esports due to the problems of prioritising placement over kills making the game surprisingly conservative. With a smaller map and a faster pace, Fortnite will likely have a slightly easier time, but at some point the competition starts to be dictated by where the randomness of the circle, forcing stronger players to have to march through several miles of shootouts while the luckier teams can instead hide in some bushes.
However, Fortnite has an additional challenge: the millions of people that play the game are not part of a core gaming audience, so energising these fans to check out the competitive scene of the game could be a struggle. However, Fortnite has exceeded nearly every expectation set for it so far, so if anyone can nail it down, it's likely to be Epic.
Next month, Fortnite is hosting a Pro-Am tournament that'll see 50 celebrities teamed up with 50 top video and streaming content creators for a 50 team duos tournament. It should go a long way to getting casual players invested, and will give us a strong indicator of what the interest levels for the game's esports scene are like.