Game Developers: One Game, Two Versions

In March of this year, Google unveiled its much anticipated video game streaming platform, ‘Stadia’. The company presented its platform as the next generation in gaming, bringing high-quality games to anyone with an Android device and sufficiently fast Internet. It has already sent Stadia development kits to more than 100 game studios, helping them get off the ground so they can bring their products to the streaming game platform.  This is yet another explosion of opportunity within the esports landscape. 

Paul Chaloner (aka Redeye), a major esports personality, was recently discussing the idea of esports and how the major game to take competitive esports to the next level ‘hasn’t happened yet’. He said:

“I don’t believe we’ve seen the big game that will explode Esports and make it even more mainstream. I don’t think we’ve seen that game yet, you might think it’s Fortnite, you might think it’s Overwatch, you might think it’s League of Legends or DOTA or CounterStrike but it’s not. We haven’t seen that game yet.”

He may be right. He may not be. It may be less about ‘the game’ and more about the Game Developer’s attitude toward their games, esports as a platform, esports communities and how the three of them interact and evolve with each other. 

Epic Games and Fortnite

Epic Games has done an admirable job in continuing to build on Fortnite’s popularity. They continue to release updates in the form of new maps, new features and new items to keep the game interesting and to allow other ‘partner creators’ to use and push the game on their Twitch and YouTube channels.  For many who weren’t aware of the already formative presence of streaming and esports, the Fortnite revolution brought it to the forefront. There was really nowhere you could go to escape its influence and impact.

Support a Creator

In October of 2018 Epic Games announced a ‘Support a Creator’ program in Fortnite which allowed fans to support their favourite streamers via in-game purchases.   By December, the event was made ‘permanent program’ in Fortnite, and, in February of this year, Epic announced that it would be implementing the program throughout the entire game library in the Epic Games Store.

The basic idea is this: ‘Support a Creator’ allows fans to support the content creators who inspire them using in-game purchases. Fans build community and engagement around specific creators and they get a sense of personal connection in supporting them.  Fans are able to support their favourite creator by entering the creator’s unique code during an in-game purchase or a purchase in the Epic Games Store. 

The ‘Support a Creator’ program has been a major success, and it’s yet another way Epic is able to keep Fortnite culturally relevant and revenue-generating.  The program’s success is also a telling indicator of how involved and invested fans and communities want to be with a specific game and streamer.

Fortnite and Esports

When Epic moved Fortnite into the world of esports, they announced that some pretty significant prize would be injected into Fortnite’s competitive scene: $100 million prize pool across all Fortnite competitions in 2019 to be exact. For the Fortnite World Cup, Epic structured a $30 million prize pool with weekly $1 million qualifiers. 

But what Epic didn’t account for was the intensity of fandom within the competitive Fortnite community, and the community’s frustration when changes are made to Fortnite’s gameplay, because of the disruption it causes to the quality of the competition.  Epic’s timing with these additions and changes isn’t always the best either, sometimes releasing major changes to Fortnite’s gameplay right before tournaments.

It’s Every Developer’s Dilemma…

Epic’s commitment to their ‘Support a Creator’ program, and it’s effort to create a competitive ecosystem, indicates that the Developer wants to cater to both the casual and competitive communities, not unlike every other Developer in the esports space.  The problem is that they have one product and two very distinct sets of desires.

Epic continually updates Fortnite’s gameplay via ‘patches’ that players download as they become available. But what if Epic released two separate Fortnite patches, one for the casual fans, and one for the competitive scene? What if the elite athlete could be challenged and the casual gamer satiated?  Mr. Chaloner was right to suggest that we have yet to see a game that takes esports to the ‘next level.’ And while new tech, like Google Stadia, will make video games more accessible, competitive esports will continue to be stifled until Game Developers change their attitude, and truly embrace the casual and competitive spaces.

Thanks for reading my blog. The above content is not legal advice but observation about the vast esports field. If you have any questions or comments or would like to schedule me to speak at your event, head over to my website

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