On 24 January, ESL (Electronic Sports League) and Epic Games announced that for the first time, an IEM (Intel Extreme Masters) event will include also a tournament of Fortnite.
ESL, owned by Modern Times Group through Turtle Entertainment, has been organising events since 2006, and its central fixture – the IEM – has attracted players from around the globe. The IEM Katowice in 2018, which featured a prize pot of around $500k, attracted nearly one million viewers, whose watch-time totalled around 55 million hours. Meanwhile the event in Birmingham that same year garenered almost 65 million hours of combined viewing time. Both events were broadcasted live on Facebook, Twitch, Youtube and Huomao, while the Brimingham also featured on Microsoft's Mixer.
Epic Games’ Fortnite is currently one of the most popular games in the world, and its battle-royale mode reached 200 million registered users by November 2018.
The tournament hosted by IEM will take place in Katowice in two weekends (22/23 FEb and 1/3 March): its first event is open to Polish gamers only, followed by a second worldwide event for all-comers. The first event has a prize pot of $100k, while the latter offers roughly $500k.
Fortnite is one of the most popular ‘battle-royale’ games in the world, a category that emerged only as recently as 2017. This genre is considered an evolution of the classic ’deathmatch’ – a multiplayer mode often present in first-person shooters, wherein the last surviving (or highest-scoring) player from a group of combatants will win the match.
Battle-royale's popularity has been driven in the west by Epic Games' Fortnite and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG). The latter was first to launch in 2017, but the former went on to find greater success half a year later, relaunched as a freemium title across more formats than PUBG.
In May 2018, Epic games deepened its commitment to Fortnite, announcing an investment of $100m aimed at developing its esports strategy. The company's plans were unclear at the point of announcement, but this deal with ESL brings some firm details to the fore. Given its reach, Fortnite has the potential to become a key title among esports' biggest brands.
It is also worth mentioning that Fortnite has only a limited role in mainland China right now, having only launched on PC (compared to PC, console and mobile elsewhere), and currently without monetisation due to regulatory issues. As the game finds more traction in such an important market as mainland China, so its overall standing as a esports proposition will grow too.