Fortnite players are no strangers to game-breaking updates and have seen their fair share of outrageous changes to the game — from the P90 and Drum Gun to the turret, rocket damage through walls, and much more. While a majority of these can be chalked up to Epic Games simply not anticipating the community’s reaction, some come from an overall lack of item and mechanic testing.
Perhaps nothing has shown this more than the decision by Epic Games to release the Infinity Blade on the day of a million dollar tournament. As a general esports rule, you should not run a tournament on a patch that players have not had much of a chance to play on yet. And this wasn’t the first time Epic had done this either: We saw this before with glider redeploy right before the Twitchcon LAN tourney. However glider redeploy, whilst game-changing, was not game-breaking. Fast forward to 2018’s December 11th European finals for the same tournament, which had nearly flawlessly wrapped up the previous week, but as usual did not generate nearly as many views as the North American tournament would be expected to.
200 players from North America had sacrificed their Thanksgiving weekends to qualify for Fortnite’s first-ever open qualifier tournament. These players however would not be playing on the same patch that they qualified with, or even the same season. The game had already changed before the tournament even started, with brand-new planes and new points of interest. However, players did have adequate time to adapt to these changes before the tournament, but on the morning of the first qualifier, a new item was released: The Infinity Blade.
Words can’t describe the sheer power of this weapon, so a video will have to do. At 75 damage per hit, 25 damage on a long jump, 400 health, and consistent regeneration, this was arguably the most overpowered item to have ever been released into Fortnite. Many players figured that this wouldn’t be hard to counter, “just shoot at them and don’t let them get close,” seemed to be the agreed upon strategy, because it was only a melee right? Wrong. This weapon cut through builds while slicing players health up along the way. Neace, a pro player who qualified for the tournament, was relatively uncontested landing at Polar Peak in his first few games of the tournament, and he was able to take the sword with ease. However, once players noticed how easily Neace was able to rack up points, he began to be contested, and players like Psalm benefited heavily. As seen in the video, Psalm went on an absolute rampage, and got first place in his qualifying group. Players began to simply give up, and Team Liquid pro player Chap even went as far as spelling out his support a creator code with builds on top of Polar Peak. Needless to say, the tournament was seen as a joke before the finals even began. The finals themselves were just a mess. Usually at least 10 people were dropping Polar Peak like it was Tilted in a public game, and whoever got the sword dominated. While some people did stand out, with Nolanlul winning the whole thing, and lesser-known players like Tyler15 taking home third place, it wasn’t the best showcase of skill and gave players more insight into Epic’s competitive philosophy rather than the players themselves. The tournament if anything proved that Epic sees competitive Fortnite as a mere marketing tool for their game.
This was further proven in the WSOE tournament which, while not an official Epic event, was obviously sanctioned by Epic as third party events are not allowed to have prize pools of over 10k without Epic’s consent. WSOE’s total pot was 100k. For many players, this was their chance to make a name for themselves, much like what the Winter Royale could have been. It was free entry and open to all. At this point, it should be pretty easy to guess Epic’s next move: they released an update on the day of the tourney, three days earlier than it was supposed to come out. The item, a boombox, destroyed all builds around it and continued to do so for a significant amount of time. At this point players were outraged, and many had about had it with the game. The WSOE tournament was mediocre at best, in part due to this new item and other factors such as lag that were partially influenced by the new item.
Recently, Epic Games gave players an update on their “competitive philosophy” as they see it. This update, while brief, essentially stated that they will not push updates hours before tournaments anymore. Great news? Maybe. They said anywhere from two to seven days before a tourney starts is the maximum time for an update to come out, and nothing less. They also stated that this was only for official Fortnite events, so events like WSOE will not be affected, and can thus be ignored by this rule. This means that Epic can still use these tournaments and, by extension, their own tournaments a few days later to market the game. Fundamentally, there is something wrong with developers using their game’s competitive scene as an advertisement. Epic needs to change this if they want their scene to be taken seriously, that is if they even care, because frankly they are doing fine with or without it, so it comes down to what matters to them at the end of day: making Fortnite a fair, balanced esport or just their bottom line.