Why Nerfs, Boosts Can Make Or Break Even The Biggest Esports Titles

Posted on January 9, 2019

There is no doubt Fortnite was one of the biggest successes of 2018. Epic Games‘ title was the biggest game of the year, raking in huge money for the developer and gaining a massive following in the casual player market. As a result, there has been plenty of noise about Fortnite as a top-level esport.

However, the recent news from Epic that a new weapon had been released into Fortnite has been met with a degree of dismay by esports devotees. That weapon (a boost, as it is known when a developer makes an “improvement” to a game aspect or character) is the Boom Box.

What is the Boom Box?

This new weapon allows players to turn up the volume and toss the weapon at an opposing player’s constructions. They will then be torn down by the new weapon, exposing the opponent and allowing the wielder a chance to eliminate them from the Battle Royale game.

One competitive Fortnite player, Dixon, revealed his frustration with the developers making such boosts and nerfs to the game at the last minute. He tweeted the following:

“I don’t think Epic realizes what they’re doing to the comp scene. You’re making everything SUPER unpredictable at this point. This is already an issue due to last minute events/not many going on as it is. Also adding some INSANE item last minute, you’re screwing over the players.”

Indeed, this is an issue that permeates esports writ large. There have been plenty of past instances when a developer has rolled out a patch that has nerfed certain characters or weapons and boosted others, and it’s provoked a tremendous negative response from casual and professional players alike.

Positive Aspects of Nerfing and Boosting

Let’s zoom out for a minute. There’s no doubt that when a company Nerfs or Boosts any aspect of a game it can have very positive effects. These include:

    • Overpowered characters or weapons, which can be used almost as an exploit by players, are necessarily limited;
    • By continually nerfing or boosting weapons and characters, the game takes on a new, fresh dynamic as players develop new tactics;
    • Characters and weapons that are underpowered can be boosted so they become more appealing;
    • New items (especially those with no charge) give players the feeling they are getting good value for their money.

Negative Aspects of Nerfing and Boosting

However, not all attempts to improve a game work. Here are some pitfalls.

  • If a company makes a character, weapon, or item too strong or weak with a boost or nerf, tried and true strategies are rendered moot overnight. That’s frustrating. And when it comes to pros, it can damage their livelihood.
  • Often, there won’t be consensus on the efficacy of nerfs and boosts. Some may like it, others may not, and the seeds of discord are sewn in the gaming community.
  • The addition of extra items into a game, especially for a fee, is a contentious issue. While many players are happy to pay a little extra for a boosted item or character, others feel that it is not in the spirit of the game to reward players who pay extra while effectively penalising those who bought only the original game.

The upshot with esports

With regards to the esports industry, nerfing and boosting is a contentious issue. It can render strategies players or teams have developed over many years ineffective almost overnight. While the top teams and players will develop a number of strategies to mitigate such effects, it can still be hugely problematic. Teams may find themselves adjusting on the fly. After all, they don’t tweak the rules of football the week before games.

Along with upgrades to the software, nerfing and boosting will remain a contentious issue in esports gaming. It is very much a no-win situation often for the developers. Now, such changes are often necessary to preserve the integrity of the game and extend its life span. As the founders of Fortnite have just found out, this does not make these changes any less controversial.

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Ian John

A lifelong poker fan, Ian is also well-versed in the world of sports betting, casino gaming, and has written extensively on the online gambling industry. Based in the UK, Ian brings fresh insight into all facets of gaming.

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