All hail King Jesse.
In a ground-breaking weekend for the organisation, the Renegades Fortnite squad cleaned up in front of hundreds of fans at the inaugural Australian Open Fortnite Summer Smash in Melbourne.
With $500,000 up for grabs, RNG absolutely dominated from the solo arena to the ProAm event. Harley “mrfreshasian” Campbell & X2 Twin Jordan Eckley took out the celebrity Pro Am duo event with two wins and 60 eliminations between them, with the winning prize of $50,000 donated to support Water.org in financing access to clean water for over 16 million people in need, while Hersh “Hershicals” Notani’s 15 eliminations in the solo event was enough to see him crack the money, taking home $1,000.
But the weekend belonged to X2 Twin Jesse Eckley. The Australian superstar qualified for the solo tournament on Australia Day Saturday after two tightly contested qualifying matches.
Little did he know then that he would walk out of Margaret Court Arena on Sunday $100,000 richer.
“It was a really cool experience, the whole tournament and everything. I never would have expected something as big in the OCE region, definitely not. It’s all come such a long way since Fortnite first came out, it’s insane to think about.”
Crowned the “King of Australia”, Jesse opened his six-match account with three straight wins - all coming through a strategy devised around outlasting his opponents and playing to survive over hunting for every kill.
“I think most of it was deciding whether to go for kill scoring or for match placement. I didn’t see too many people get both kills and placements in the one game – I saw [mrfreshasian] get 11 kills and the win but other than that it was either placement or kill points. I’ve been practicing for the last year going for placement and I felt more confident sticking to what I know.”
A second place in a later game & 15 eliminations later and Jesse had done enough to lock himself in for the overall victory, taking home the monstrous first place prize of $100,000. To Jesse though, his dream to compete on stage in front of fans became a reality.
“Having that crowd in front of you and cheering after you get a win…it’s a lot different because in stream you still have the people watching you but to actually hear them at LAN and have them actually in front of you was incredible.”
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Despite the pressure of hundreds of fans and his opponents around him, Jesse found that the real stress of the event came a day earlier in qualifying for the main tournament.
“It sunk in during the third game a little, I was shaking the whole time during that game. I would say I was more nervous for the qualifiers than the finals because there was only two games to qualify, whereas there were six games for the finals. I was getting into it a lot more during the finals.”
Fortnite’s rise in esports shows no sign of slowing following Epic Games’ $100 million investment into a year’s worth of esport events, with Sunday’s Summer Smash the first of its kind in the Oceanic region for Fortnite - beating out the prestigious IEM Sydney for offered prize pool.
For Jesse, there’s still more to do for Epic to perfect Fortnite esports for viewers & players alike, but he says he trusts the process.
“I would say it still has a way to go but I have trust in Epic. They’ve been doing really well – they’ve been adding all this stuff every couple of weeks to change the competitive meta a lot, to get people to play a little more aggressive…hopefully they can work out server problems and the spectator side of the game and it should be really good.”
While brand new content has impacted a Fortnite competitive event in the past, Jesse recognises its importance in changing the metagame to avoid the game becoming stale for the more casual audience. At the same time though, less “randomness” and a more stable base meta would go a long way in cementing Fortnite as a more serious and more successful esport.
“I think it would be really, really fun to bring it back to simple building; no planes, nothing ramming into each other, all that stuff to counter builds. You might get more people turtling but in the end I think you’d see more skilled builds and you’d see people actually fighting and outplaying each other rather than they have ‘this’ item, so they’re able to kill you.”
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With the Renegades based in North America and with a slow first quarter in the Oceanic Fortnite event calendar, Jesse thinks the next six months will be crucial in how he and the team progress in the esport throughout 2019.
“In the next 6 months, depending on what Epic are doing…we might not be staying here [in Australia]. Hopefully maybe we score some invites to tournaments in Europe & America, fly out and compete over there in events like Secret Skirmish and IEM Katowice.
“I’m just looking to play competitively, play the best I can, play in as many tournaments as I can and just practice.”
If it’s anything like last weekend, then the sky's the limit.
Written by Nicholas “Taffy” Taifalos
@TaffyAU on Twitter