Epic have disciplined a number of Fortnite Battle Royal players found to be cheating, with one having done so during a Fortnite World Cup Qualification. Many professional players are reacting now to what they consider too lenient a punishment.
On May 3, Epic stated that certain players had intentionally worked against the spirit of the game during Week 3 of the Fortnite World Cup Online Open competition on April 28. Those who were caught cheating were given a 14-day competitive ban from the game, and stripped of any prizes from Week 3.
Afterwards, a number of professional players began to chime in with opinions as to the problem with such a short ban. LG SypherPK posted a rather unfortunate possible outcome in his tweet. FaZe Clan's Nate Hill has a unique perspective on the situation as well, as he was banned in 2018 by Epic for cheating during the Fortnite Fall Skirmish, and he was far more vocal in pushing for punishments to be more in line with the severity what could be gained as a result.
Reactions calling for harsher punishments continue to come in from streamers and casual players alike. And with so much push back against lenient actions taken by Epic, we should consider what is at stake here. Players who qualify for the top 100 Solo championship and the 50 Duos teams will win, at least, $50,000 each, with the single winner taking home the grand prize of $3,000,000. These are not small prizes being fought over, and so the incentive to cheat can certainly be seen from a monetary perspective. Even worse, if cheaters see that Epic is weak in their approach to punishment, there is little reason not to try again.
The problem extends further if we consider the essence of the act. Ultimately, these were not players who accidentally found an exploit and were then punished. These are individuals who actively work to break the spirit of competition for their own gain. To allow these individuals back to compete in the same calendar year seems farcical. Other cheaters do not see an appropriate punishment being handed down here, but rather an invitation to try their own luck. The message that Epic inadvertently sends with such leniency is "Shame on you for cheating. Try harder next time to not be caught, say, in a few weeks."
Cheating at the competitive level can always be problematic from a public relations perspective. Blizzard recently had a similar issue with Hearthstone, where well-known player Luo "Roger" Shengyuan won the Winter HCT event amid controversy that he had been win-trading with another player. Blizzard initially handed down what was also considered a weak punishment for deliberately undermining the spirit of competition, but then later surprised the community by retroactively banning him from the newly-created Grandmaster league this year.
There is nothing to do but wait and see if Epic reconsiders its position, or changes its future treatment of cheaters in qualifiers for its largest competitive tournament of the year. For the health of the game and the integrity of competition, there needs to be confidence in the minds of players that Epic will make the right decisions.