Does Esports Have Room For Both PUBG And Fortnite?
Like two gunmen in an old Western, Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite have been circling each other for months.
Both have massive fan bases. Both seem to be on the verge of becoming esports. Both have developers scrambling to keep up with onslaughts of players hitting their servers each and every day. Both obviously share the same DNA, that of battle royale ArmA mods.
In the world of esports, it seems inevitable that the two will battle it out for viewership supremacy. On Twitch, they’re consistently in the top five games slots, regularly beating out the likes of League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Dota 2 -- all without consistent tournament play.
Most agree that it’s time for the battle royale games to make a push for full-blown esports relevance. But is there space for both of them?
The answer is an unequivocal, “Yes.” They bring two very different things to the table. But to get their respective games to the top of the esports mountain, Epic Games and Bluehole are going to have to figure out how to take advantage of those differences.
The Tactical Advantage
PUBG is definitively the more “hardcore” of the two titles. As the game that most resembles the vigilant military accuracy of the ArmA series, it effectively demands players play it like a tactical shooter.
It requires knowledge of gun spray patterns, ranges of specific weapons, and even bullet drop. To be considered among the best in the world at Battlegrounds, you’ve got to have some serious know-how of the game’s version of military weaponry.
In squads, teamwork is key. Peeking corners, coordinating rushes, and utilizing grenades to their fullest effect is all necessary to compete. PUBG is at its best when you’ve got a group of coordinated players doing exactly what they need to do to be the last survivors on the island. Watching a fully in-sync team play is almost as impressive as watching the best team shooters, with the added advantage of PUBG’s inherent chaos.
And that’s what Bluehole needs to fully embrace to get PUBG into top tier of esports. They need to encourage teams to field full squads on their various maps. They need to ensure that the highest tier and most public players are those playing with a dedicated squad. It should be the team game that it always seemed destined to be, at least on a professional level.
Not only would it make the game easier to watch, something it definitely needs, it would make the game that much strategically deeper.
Oh, and if more bug fixes came in and all the cheaters were banned, that’d be nice, too.
The Solo Arcade Experience
Fortnite is definitively the more polished of the two battle royales, but it’s also much sillier. It’s got a cartoony style, some fantastical weapons (the Boogie Bomb, anyone?), and generally doesn’t take itself anywhere near as seriously as its militaristic counterpart.
It’s also free-to-play, has drastically truncated matches, and a rapidly climbing player and viewer base--one that has surpassed even the mighty PUBG.
It’s a downright cultural phenomenon. Even professional hockey players are getting deep into Fortnite. So obviously Epic Games has got to be looking to expand their game into the competitive scene.
To pull it off, just like Bluehole and PUBG, they’ll have to play to their strengths. Fortnite’s shorter match times and action-focused feel make it a perfect candidate for a more solo-focused experience. Whereas PUBG matches regularly last up to 35 minutes, Fortnite drops match times down to around half that. The result is a game that can be played repeatedly in rapid succession.
Given that, solo matches with a point system that finishes after a multitude of rounds seems to be a great way for Fortnite to go, competitively. Let players show off their individual skills while allowing the most fair representation of their competitive prowess.
Mostly, it’d be cool to watch a whole bunch of pro Fortnite.
Epic has done a good job of embracing Fortnite’s silly side so far. If they can take that fun mentality over to the esports side, they’ll have a massive hit on their hands -- just as long as they can keep it competitive, too.
There’s a worthy comparison between battle royales and MOBAs.
In a lot of ways, Fortnite is the League of Legends to PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds Dota 2. Fortnite is the slightly cartoonier, more accessible (but still competitive) version of the battle royale, while PUBG is the one for the more hardcore, dedicated player. And there’s nothing wrong with that!
It’s worked for Riot Games and Valve, after all. The MOBA developers managed to create two distinct, but still successful scenes without cannibalizing each others’ audiences. Sure, there will always be lingering competition between the two scenes, but the fact that they both continue to exist shows that there is historical precedent for two games within the same genre thriving simultaneously. It can be done!
Just like with most esports, both games rising up and becoming competitive games will be good for the scene as a whole. The respective developers just have to figure out how to differentiate themselves.
You can follow Taylor Cocke on Twitter @taylorcocke
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