The rise of Fortnite has been incredible to witness, especially thanks to the spectacular Fortnite World Cup in New York a few weeks ago. Though the journey to the top has been far from smooth, especially for the game’s esports scene.
Fnatic’s Fortnite Team Manager Victor Bengtsson has seen it all in the industry so enjoy his four-part series below as he recalls his standout memories during his personal journey in helping Fortnite grow into the esports phenomenen that we see today.
1: The creation
In February 2018, we were joking about what extravagant meal we’ll order after winning the first Fortnite tournament - if there ever was one. Fast-forward a year later and the players in that group chat have amassed over $100,000 in prize fees and entertain 2.6 million fans across their social media.
Fortnite flipped what it means to be a player in esports — this is the scene that was created in chaos.
Fortnite was the Unicorn. After being connected to Drake, The Super Bowl and $100m in prize earnings, no one can claim anything else. Fortnite kicked open doors of living rooms across the world, then onto classrooms, football pitches and mainstream talk shows. Ninja was becoming a star, not an esports star but an global superstar that suburban mothers would take pictures with because they recognised him in their local coffee shop. We all saw the commercial possibilities but behind the mainstream success of Fortnite, a scene was taking shape across Discord servers and Twitter DMs. Those who sought to conquer the new Battle Royale arena were creating squads that would be pushing hours upon hours into becoming the most mechanically skilled contenders.
It is important to stress that, at the very beginning, Fortnite did not have an easily accessible practice system. Training for a competitive environment, which we didn’t even know would exist, required coordination, strategy and planning. I believe that the silver-lining of not having the custom servers available to everyone was the reason the Fortnite community grew strong but also ventured beyond just players. There were kids managing Discord servers with thousands of people timing their entry into the game to maximize the chance of players ending up in the same lobby. The Discord servers had intentionally been set up to collect those who had taken the game from casual to competitive. Having 46 players from one pro Discord server end up in the same game was better than having none. It also meant that the servers came crashing down because the gamer client couldn’t handle the speed they used the in-game functions. It was a hilariously strange time where some of the strongest friendships in Fortnite were created.
As the pro Discords were being defined, personalities from the scene were becoming superstars overnight. An Instagram or Twitter account went from 234 followers to 16,000 followers within days and reached over 1 million within a few months. Having a profile on social media platforms and adapting to a possible future audience was becoming a necessary component if you wanted to reach the most successful among Fortnite players. From there we grew: graphic illustrators, video editors, management staff, agents, coaches, growth hackers, social media consultants and the remarkable part was all of these positions were held by unpaid, driven and dedicated 17-year-olds.
Within a few months, a full ecosystem had formed which was nurtured by young people who were literally in the dark as to whether this would become a competitive esport. Without input from anyone but those who shared the same vision, they, as a community, had taken the first baby-steps towards what would soon become the most profitable esports in the history of competitive gaming.