If you’d told gamers three years ago that one of the biggest games to ever hit the Western market would have cartoon characters, RNG elements, and involved gathering resources to build your own structures, you’d be dragged off to the lunatic asylum.
Instead, in 2017, Fortnite proved to be a phenomenon unlike any game that came before it. Fortnite’s growth wasn’t because of its esports presence. Instead, it had a social side that spanned the entire range of pleb to celeb.
While it’s hard to directly compare Teamfight Tactics with Fortnite, the viewership has quickly grown to a point where it regularly sits in the top three most watched games on Twitch. At times it even hits the number one slot, but only in the absence of esports tournaments and massive influencers like Ninja streaming.
This is reminiscent of Fortnite in 2017, which was competing with PUBG as the battle between influencers grew. In this case, despite the success of Underlords, TFT doesn’t have much competition on Twitch, though this could change if Underlords’ esports campaign is successful.
Can TFT Have a Second Boom
Epic achieved success with Fortnite by created an environment focused on maximising influencer participation, as well as tying in-game rewards to the viewing experience on Twitch. Linking Twitch Prime to Fortnite in exchange for ‘free loot’ spurred more and more people to flock to streamers like Ninja. One of the biggest gaming stories in 2018, was Ninja’s Fortnite collaboration with super-celebrity Drake, breaking all individual viewership records by a mile.
But can Riot attract a mainstream audience to TFT and continue the word of mouth virality brought by massive influencers. While a game can build a popular endemic audience, it’s usually special circumstances that trigger the “Second Boom” where it hits the mainstream.
The delay in releasing a mobile version is certainly not helping. Teamfight Tactics is designed to be enjoyable as portable game, but you’re not going to be able to carry it around with you just yet. Riot are missing out on discoverability through friends, particularly when school or university students can’t play on mobile devices. Fortnite benefited from being the it thing in these places, and without a mobile version, TFT will suffer.
But can a chess-themed game really become a social phenomenon like Fortnite? Well...
Teamfight Tactics shouldn’t be treated like Chess
If Riot wants to make TFT go viral like Fortnite they need to ditch the Autochess association, a hang-up from the original mod created in DOTA 2. Teamfight Tactics would do better if it were classed as a card game. It has the same dynamics of turn-based combat, numerous characters and strategies, with the added flair of high quality animations. Riot has created a beautiful game with the benefit of an existing world of lore. TFT can’t be treated like a minigame for League of Legends. It has to be pitched as a card game with collection elements, combined with competitive gameplay and a high skill-ceiling.
The groundwork in building a TFT community has already been started by League of Legends, and the gaming community is already enchanted by this beautiful game (on Reddit for example). Unlike League of Legends where balancing champions has been infamously hard, TFT’s design means it should be much easier to achieve.
Riot has wanted a trading card game for a very long time. This complements their strategy as a company and TFT is the gem they’ve stumbled upon. Until now they’ve only had a single diamond on their belt. To be a successful publisher in the long term, Riot needed to achieve success again, and it seems that TFT has been served up to them on a silver platter.
Teamfight Tactics has the potential to explode in popularity much like Fortnite, but Riot need to get away from labelling it as “Autochess”. It may not match the behemoth of Battle Royale, but a new position for the king of casuals on Twitch could very well be carved out. It all depends on Riot’s future decisions.
New to Teamfight Tactics?
How to download TFT
To get TFT, you will have to create a League of Legends account and download League of Legends completely. Once dowloaded and installed, click 'Teamfight Tactics' on the top navigation bar right hand side of your League of Legends welcome page to start playing.