Epic responds to World Cup backlash

The Fortnite World Cup had the bad fortune of launching during a period of major change for the metagame. Pro players haven’t responded well to this. Epic has faced a big backlash for their handling of the game and undertaking so many unpopular changes right before a major tournament. Epic biggest Esports event to date has almost been overshadowed by the fairly constant complaints of competitive players. Recently, Epic has reached out to try and resolve this situation. In their latest competitive development update, they’ve addressed the backlash and explained their reasons for the changes.

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© Epic Games

They’ve stressed in this communication that a constantly evolving game is pretty central to Fortnite. Things will be introduced and vaulted in quick succession. However, they’ve made some permanent changes to the game’s mechanics and rules. The most recent unpopular change was removing the Siphon from Fortnite. This was a feature which gave players a health and shield refill after they scored an elimination. It was introduced for a Pop-Up Cup and was well received. Competitive players thought the feature allowed them to rely less on RNG, a common problem for high-level play. However, this Siphon is now gone. More than that, it is gone specifically because epic doesn’t want to make the game for skilled players.

Fortnite is for the 99%

Epic has addressed the removal of the siphon, in a statement that seems to miss the point entirely:

Ultimately, Siphon increased engagement for the highest-skilled 10%, while the remaining 90% were more frustrated and played less.

What is really frustrating about this response is the focus on casual play. The siphon may have been an unpopular feature in the standard Battle Royale lobbies, but it was important for competitive play and practice. As Epic become more committed to encouraging a high-level competitive scene, they might occasionally have to use features that benefit this scene. Competitive players work better where a mechanic isn’t removed to add more randomness to the game. This response seems fairly typical of Epic’s muddled approach to Esports. While they want an active scene and are willing to pay big prize money, they don’t want the game to actually reflect its competitive popularity.

Another change they’ve addressed was the adjustment to FOV. A common feature of pro player’s setups was using a stretched resolution. The rules for the Fortnite World Cup enforce a set aspect ratio rather than allowing a stretched resolution. This was a controversial change but this response has made it clear it is here to stay. This is more of a technical issue, but it is more understandable than changes to the game’s mechanics.

Epic also acknowledged the ‘tension’ between their vision for the game and for the competitive scene. It will still come as a relief to competitive players that they recognise that the changes to the game have been a little too frequent during a major tournament. Epic acknowledged the problems this causes for high-level players trying to train. They’ve promised a more stable experience for the World Cup Finals.

This response is a mixed bag for competitive Fortnite. On one hand, it confirms that unpopular choices are going to remain in place for the sake of casual players. However, it also demonstrates a commitment to producing a more stable experience for competitive events going forward. If Epic can deliver on this, the Fortnite World Cup Finals should be less aggravating for players than the last few weeks of qualifiers.