Sentinels leave Fortnite as Battle Royale loses esports appeal

Sentinels are leaving Fortnite competitive play.

Despite the game’s huge popularity and successes in various new areas of gaming, we have yet another esports team pulling out of competition. It isn’t the first team to pull out of its esports scene recently. This move leaves some of the best Fortnite players without an org in 2023. However, Sentinels leaving Fortnite raises bigger questions about how Fortnite’s unique esports scene might not be a good fit for the majority of teams at the moment.

Sentinels Fortnite

Sentinels leaves Fortnite, more teams contemplate pulling away

Sentinels have announced that they’re pulling out of Fortnite entirely. They’re going to be leaving all of their current roster as free agents, which includes Aspect and Bugha, the Fortnite World Cup and multiple FNCS Champion. This is probably one of the most high-profile players in the game and esports overall, so it’s definitely a loss for any org to let his contract expire unrenewed.

Sentinels aren’t the first team to pull out of Fortnite recently. Team Vitality recently pulled out. Teams like NRG have been pulling back too, ditching a lot of their roster. FaZe is left as one of the few big orgs to have an active roster still with potential for growth.

The team leaving isn’t for lack of success though, it’s in response to changing financial realities for orgs as esports enters a recession for the first time. The CEO of Sentinels explained the move specifically calling out that they wanted to focus on games with greater sponsor opportunities.

Why do esports teams struggle with Fortnite?

Fortnite is one of the biggest successes in gaming. It’s a free-to-play game that generates staggering income, setting the standard for ongoing Battle Royales and being arguably the first metaverse. In esports, they’ve had record prize pools and one of the games that made streaming what it is today. So why can’t pro-level games get off the ground sustainably for teams?

Despite all of its huge results, Epic’s Battle Royale has problems in being a good deal for orgs. Now that teams are shifting strictly to games that can sustainably generate profit, esports games like sponsor issues need to be addressed.

Fortnite Doesn’t Do Enough Event Broadcasts

Fortnite’s esports scene is organized around the FNCS. There’s a lack of events with regular broadcasts where sponsors can be seen. Streams for Fortnite FNCS events are typically done on a player’s personal channel. There’s no big sponsor from their team visible, no jerseys, and no opportunities for teams to monetize the tournament like they can regular games in titles like CoD and Halo.

They have done some of these in the past. The Fortnite World Cup was definitely a highlight. However, it’s been the only event of its kind. Even after the COVID pandemic passed and in-person games returned to a lot of games. Epic is still just playing the online events, aside from a single Invitational and broadcast a year.

This means that sponsors and teams don’t get much screen time for their Fortnite players or sponsors. Even if players like Bugha are winning events, it doesn’t mean too much for the host organization. The Fortnite Chapter 4 set-up for esports is looking like it’s bringing back some in-person events, but it remains to be seen how serious of a commitment Epic will make.

Bugha FNCs

Kyle Giersdorf / Sentinels

Sponsor Problems

The main issue for Sentinels leaving Fortnite seems to be sponsor potential. Epic’s game isn’t as profitable for sponsors as others. There’s the first point about the lack of opportunity with the type of tournament, but also Fortnite’s demographics.

Fortnite appeals to a younger crowd. Most esports orgs rely heavily on sponsorships like energy drinks, betting companies, and until recently a lot of crypto was involved too. These are all areas where the teenage demographic is basically useless.

Fans of Fortnite also tend to watch a content creator or pro streamer rather than follow a specific team. Players even have teammates in-game on completely different orgs. A fan might follow both players’ streams of tournaments and the Arena grind, but they’re not actively seeing much about the team or the sponsors, it’s just not the most profitable game for orgs given all this.

As we’re entering a bit of a different stage for Esports as a whole, teams are looking to focus on games where they can generate profit. Fortnite just isn’t one of them at the moment.

Epic’s Role in Sentinels and other teams leaving Fortnite

The same problems are facing every team at the moment. Sentinels leaving Fortnite might not be our last pull out. Games that don’t generate enough only from sponsorships just aren’t going to be viable on a wide scale. Fortnite definitely fits that bill, but it isn’t a new problem. Epic’s commitment to Fortnite esports has always been a bit off.

Epic is willing to host Fortnite esports events with huge prize pools, but it doesn’t exactly work with players to build a strong esports community. Their offerings are limited and they’ seem to have completely given up on growing the esports community. Instead, they keep it ticking over and often make bizarre decisions as far as the competitive meta is concerned.

More in-person events would make a big difference for teams, as it would regularly allow team sponsors to get shown off. But when Epic does so well without these kinds of events, is there much motivation to change?

The current setup does work quite well for everyone other than esports teams. Players do fine with streaming income, with thousands tuning in to watch high-level pros. Epic has a very successful game with its frequent crossovers. Everyone but the sponsors and orgs is getting plenty out of the setup, including fans.

Epic has had a lot of success with other areas of Fortnite, and doesn’t seem to be in a position to actually need to do much more for esports. This will mean teams dropping out even more though. Without changes though, it doesn’t look like Fortnite will be a more attractive prospect for a while.