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Sentinels leaves competitive Fortnite, cites lack of lucrative opportunities

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On Wednesday, Los Angeles-based esports organization Sentinels announced that it would leave the competitive Fortnite landscape, citing the lack of lucrative opportunities.

“As our organization maps out the future, our strategy is to focus on games that provide the opportunity to activate for our sponsors or offer team-branded in-game content,” Sentinels CEO Rob Moore said. “Fortnite has not offered either of those.”

In the announcement, Moore also said that Sentinels would not resign Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf, Nick “Aspect” McGuire and Brian “Zyfa” Wielgolaski. Bugha won the Fortnite World Cup in 2019 title, bringing the Sentinels its first-ever major championship. The American player has not achieved many titles since that victory but remained one of the top professional Fortnite players. This year, he brought home three wins.

Although Aspect and Zyfa also did not achieve a lot of wins this year, they were relatively successful when participating in various North American squad competitions.

Despite parting from Fortnite, Sentinels said it would remain in other titles — Halo, Apex Legends and Valorant. Unlike Fortnite, these three titles have a partnership with their developers. They also offer esports organizations opportunities to reap profits within games.

Sentinels’ departure from Fortnite highlights a problem that hinders the development of the esports ecosystem, esports organizations’ quests to monetize their presence. The lack of investment has caused many esports teams to be selective of titles to remain involved in. As a result, some titles see a reduced number of participants.

The game’s target market is the younger population. However, most esports organizations rely on sponsorship from energy beverages, esports betting companies and crypto firms. These sponsors’ target markets do not align with Fortnite’s usual demography.

Fortnite fans usually also prefer to follow content creators or professional streamers than specific professional teams. Although avid fans are willing to watch tournaments in person, they look for the experience instead of seeing the team.

Many people also said that Epic Games — Fortnite’s developer — had thwarted the game’s growth with some of its approaches. According to analysts, Epic fails to promote a sense of community among fans of its competitive scene.

Epic organized Fortnite events around the Fortnite Champion Series (FNCS). Because of that, there are not many regularly broadcasted events where sponsors are visible. The streaming of Fortnite FNCS events is often done on players’ personal channels.

Moreover, although the pandemic situation already improves, Epic has not hosted any major event since the 2019 World Cup. So far, Epic mostly hosts online tournaments other than a single Invitational and broadcasts per year.

Unlike some other esports titles like Call of Duty and Halo, Fortnite also does not offer many in-game or offline opportunities for participants to gain profits by selling goods. For example, teams are unable to sell their jerseys because it does not host LAN events. Teams also cannot sell in-game items, unlike in CoD, where teams can offer in-game skins.

Fortnite remains one of the most popular global esports titles. However, Sentinels’ departure may indicate that other esports organizations also consider taking the step.

Epic Games penalized by FTC

In related news, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently ordered Epic to pay $520 million for tricking millions of Fortnite players into making unintended in-game purchases and violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. Of the penalty, $245 million is dedicated to customer refunds.

According to the FTC, Fortnite’s “counterintuitive, inconsistent and confusing button configuration led players to incur unwanted charges based on the press of a single button,” even when the game is in sleep mode or displaying a loading screen. Moreover, children can purchase Fortnite in-game items without the guardian’s consent.

Epic responded to the penalty, saying that the current practices in the gaming industry had changed, although the regulation was still the same.

“We accepted this agreement because we want Epic to be at the forefront of consumer protection and provide the best experience for our players,” Epic’s press release said.