Over the past few months, several top Fortnite players became free agents. Recently, CLG, Ghost Gaming, Rogue, and TSM have all parted ways with notable players. They include Harrison “Psalm” Chang, Christian “Snood” Hastie, Zander “thwifo” Kim, Jared “Eclipsae” Elwood, Kyle “Herrions” Trusley, and Cloud.
All of these players performed well in recent events. Three out of the six qualified for the 2019 Fortnite World Cup. Their achievements speak volumes and none of these players displayed questionable behavior outside of the game. Ultimately, the reasons behind all of these players becoming free agents are unknown. The current climate surrounding competitive Fortnite has left both players and organizations wondering what is next. Without a major tournament announced by Epic Games, organizations will be hesitant to sign players.
An esport without organizations?
Fortnite is not the most receptive to outside gaming organizations. Most notably, the gaming company set harsh restrictions on apparel worn by players during the 2019 World Cup. Players could only wear clothing with small “Commercial Identification.” Additionally, organizations received no identification with the players’ display names. Fortnite‘s resistance against outside companies also expanded to sponsors. The 2019 World Cup saw no sponsorships. The world of esports typically embraces sponsors, but Epic Games decided against it.
Next, the most recent events lacked any official broadcast. The two most recent events were Winter Royale and FNCS Squads. Neither received any broadcast by Epic Games. Content creators stepped up to fill the void but did not have the reach of an official stream. Some of the most-watched events in Twitch and Fortnite history have been during tournaments. The decision not to display these events is quite strange, especially considering the multi-million-dollar prize pools.
Rising Fortnite salaries
Part of the equation is the players’ high salaries. The high prize pool from 2018 and 2019 justified paying the top Fortnite player a hefty salary. At this time, there is no known prize pool for 2020. Gaming organizations would be taking a huge risk to sign players without knowing about the possible returns on the investment. Organizations do not only make money off of a percentage of players’ winnings, but the 2020 prize pool by Epic Games will gauge the developer’s support for competitive Fortnite.
Player salaries at an all time high, Orgs are losing money. As a business it won't be sustainable for ever. It's not so much the game its esports in general.
— Joao Nunes (@RBK_ConCeaLeD) January 20, 2020
As the owner of Raised by Kings said, it is becoming increasingly expensive to run an organization. Additionally, the returns on expenses are not being recognized. This is likely a problem in other developing esports.
Doing it their own way
The above reasons are why organizations are hesitant to sign or resign players at this time. On the other hand, players could be deciding to leave organizations. Unlike other esports, players do not need an organization to compete in events. The events are open and provide anyone the opportunity to compete. The recent moves point towards both players and organizations recognizing this fact. While organizations are helpful for players, eventually players outgrow those they represent.
A new competition is likely to be announced by Epic Games in early February. At that time, more players should receive more interest. Psalm, Snood, thwifo, Herrions, Eclipsae, and Cloud are undoubtedly among the top players in the game. They are definitely the best free agents available. That said, these players will not remain unsigned for long.