Overwatch vs. Fortnite: A tale of two pro scenes
Last week, both Blizzard Entertainment and Epic Games were in the headlines after the Overwatch League’s former commissioner, Nate Nanzer, switched companies and joined Epic Games in a sensational move. Nanzer along with Epic Games will attempt to ensure a new era within the competitive scene of Fortnite as they look to take themselves past a fun battle royals game with significant flaws and truly cement themselves as a premier esport title within the next few years.
In this article, we’ll discuss the competitive history of both titles and how they have navigated those waters throughout the years, and figure out just how impactful this resignation as OWL commissioner will be to the health and long term success of both games.
Overwatch: an esport odyssey
Since the release of Overwatch just a few years back, the team based objective game has always lent itself towards high level team based play since its inception. Now just three years into its prime, and Overwatch continues to remain a powerhouse in that realm as Overwatch League regularly commands so much attention on a weekly basis for its fanbase.
On the other hand, some argue that Overwatch’s focus on esports has stifled the rest of the community as the bottleneck for casual Overwatch gameplay has become incredibly restricted with all the ‘high level’ streamers currently bossing around the market. There is no secret that Overwatch’s impact on Twitch has been heavily impacted by Overwatch League’s success, and its hard to tell at this point whether or not such a robust esport League this soon is necessarily a good thing for the game.
With Nate Nanzer’s move effectively taking place, many fans and investors within the Overwatch League are questioning the motive with OWL’s true success not even fully realized yet. Overwatch, regardless of its issues with playing back replays and capturing all the action in one lens, has been a leader within the space when it comes to esports, and Fortnite has been less than complete (to keep it mildly) when it comes to setting up competition and deciding winners with varying rulesets at basically every other tournament.
While Overwatch doesn’t need Nate Nanzer necessarily to succeed, the fact that Epic Games has enough pull to take a seemingly happy high ranking employee away from their competition does make us question just how secure this operation at Blizzard Entertainment could be. Its obvious with Nanzer’s parting statement that he had an affinity for his team at Blizzard, but the factors at play (whether financial or personal) that swayed Nanzer to sign with Epic Games are peculiar to say the least.
Fortnite: the esports anomaly
Fortnite has also been a game with massive highs and dismal lows over the course of its less than three year existence to date. At its peak, even with its flimsy tournament structure and lack of rules, Fortnite competitions featuring streamers and pro players within the scene were massively popular and the numbers suggested the fans may be hungry for more of this esport if they could develop the right format.
At the moment, Fortnite is suffering from a litany of issues that prevent it from being a volatile esport title. For one, the RNG that is involved with each game, map and scenario makes training to be a pro that much more difficult when you can’t minimize the variables that make each more unpredictable than the next. While the random aspect of loot and materials is integral to Fortnite as a game, the esport implications are not as promising and many pro players have had their fair share of gripes within the community.
Second, the level of cheating within the pro Fortnite scene has also been appalling when comparing those incidents with other prominent esport titles. Overwatch has set a precedent for stopping boosting, cheating or abuse of the game in any manner pretty well, especially in competitive circles. Fortnite on the other hand has seen cheaters deceive their way into tournament wins simply for gaming the system in ways the developers didn’t even know were possibly yet.
The infancy of Fortnite coupled with the massive fanbase that follows and plays this game with little to no repercussions for cheating has affected the pro scene a little bit, but these are not incidents that will forever taint the professional scene of Fortnite for years to come. To truly be taken seriously as an esport, Fortnite must develop a coherent system of rules that will reward fun, aggressive gameplay while still giving fans the immersive feeling of catching all their favorite esport personalities on the same map.
Often times the party that wins ‘Victory Royale’ is rarely the party that wins the game due to kill participation rules that decide what is more important to the winning team as they are playing. While the method behind this principle does make sense, there is an inherent disconnect that takes place for the average viewer as they have to deliberate on winners after a ‘winner’ has technically already won.
Fortnite is without a doubt a work in progress, but the polished league style that Nanzer was able to cultivate at Overwatch League will surely be a feather in his cap as he ventures into this new endeavor with Epic Games. Time will tell if Fortnite have what it takes stylistically to improve these growing pains and truly take over as the next big esport title.