Fortnite took the world by storm when it launched into the market as a free to play Battle Royale in 2017. With more than 125 million players in less than a year, the game became somewhat of a cultural phenomena and many argued that it contributed to the rise in popularity of gaming. In South Africa, young players flocked to the game, which could be played on PC, Playstation and Xbox. Esports tournaments soon followed, though many tournament organisers were hesitant to try to accommodate the 100 plus players needed to ensure a successful custom lobby.
Fast forward a few years and the world found itself stuck mostly indoors, which meant more people flocked to their PCs and consoles to play. Three South African players: Jacques “Spooky” Moolman, Adam “Neymar” Bhamjee and Raven “Goliath Rejects” Eloff recently finished first, second and third respectively in the Incredible Connection All Star Gaming Fortnite Competition. They shared their insights into the development of Fortnite in South Africa.
Signed to Bravado Gaming, Neymar is undoubtedly the most decorated Fortnite player in South Africa. He was the only South African that qualified for the Middle Eastern Solo FNCS Grand Finals where he placed 50th and has numerous other titles to his name. He says the situation over the past year definitely aided in growing the local player base:
“I do feel like it helped our competitive scene quite a bit. Most of the people who did play Fortnite had nothing else to do but to stay inside and play video games, which overall boosted our player base and increased the amount of tournaments that were being hosted at the time.
Goliath Rejects, who has signed to Goliath Gaming and placed in the top three in numerous solo tournaments locally agrees with Neymar:
“The past year definitely helped grow the scene and made more people invest in the game. Now, some of the biggest tournament organisers in South Africa are getting involved. That said, it has also hampered the scene in some ways, as tournament prize pools dropped heavily and big tournaments like the School Cup (which was the biggest solo tournament of the year) have been cancelled.”
Winner of the Incredible Connection All Star Gaming Fortnite Solos competitive, Spooky, reiterated Rejects views, pointing out that LANs are sorely missed:
“There’s more tournaments being hosted online which means its easier to have them more frequently and for anyone to easily take part. But, tournament organisers are unable to host LANs because of the restrictions. In my opinion, people might get bored because they don’t get the chance to get out and compete offline to prove themselves on LANs, as it is a completely different environment. To me, I think that’s what most people want.”
For Fortnite players wanting to enter the competitive space, as the pros have pointed out, there are numerous online events available. On average there are about 2 free to enter tournaments hosted a month by various organisers. The prize pools fluctuate considerably with anything from R1000 to R50 000.
Despite the growing local community behind Fortnite, it has still been tarnished by scandal in recent months. Spooky says that while there is a lack of responsibility from younger players on social platforms, the competitive community does come together, especially when a South African is playing in an FNCS platform event. Neymar says that a larger and somewhat young player base also plays a significant role:
“The South African Fortnite scene has had its dark times, but in my opinion, I do feel like this comes with having a bigger player base than many other games in South Africa. With most of the players playing the game being around the ages of 15 to 16, a little immaturity and not knowing how to handle certain situations ends up having a negative impact on our community.”
Despite the negativity Rejects believes there is value to be found in competitive Fortnite locally, especially with such a young and dynamic player base:
“The South African Fortnite scene is not a small scene and is a very competitive one, which drives a competitive mindset. When egos get involved in this context and setting, it can result in actions or scenarios that give the community a bad reputation. For the most part the community is a really supportive community, is very engaging (arguably one of the most engaging in the South African esports space) and is also very entertaining. Most of the people and players in the scene also only want the best for the industry and to see it grow and prosper.
I think brands could find success investing in the competitive Fortnite community because there is a lot of potential in this young and dynamic space. The audience is very engaged. We do have a disadvantage with our ping being 130, but we don’t let the ping issue hold us back and there have been many amazing achievements by players in the community. Investment into the competitive scene would be used to show just how talented our community is.”