Updated, 8/15/18, 9:10am PT: Epic Games released Fortnite patch 5.21 with the new Heavy Sniper, a new skin, and several Limited Time Modes (LTMs). The Heavy Sniper does 150 or 157 damage to players based on rarity and up to 1,000 damage to structures. This might be the first time a sniper has ever been praised for their ability to hit the broad side of a barn--especially if their teammates can follow up on the shot.
Original article, 8/13/18, 11:08am PT:
Epic Games is making big changes to which of Fortnite's tools of destruction are the most effective. In recent weeks the company has released a handful of SMGs, introduced a brand new shotgun and brought back the guided missile. The effectiveness of these weapons has varied (the Compact SMG had a much bigger impact on the game than the Double Barrel Shotgun), but all of them have demonstrated Epic's willingness to shake up the meta in the world's most popular battle royale. And now the company is teasing a new sniper rifle on the game's launch screen.
Official details about the new Heavy Sniper are sparse. The message on Fortnite's launch screen merely said that a "new Epic and Legendary sniper rifle capable of dealing high damage to structures" is "coming soon!" Some potential information arrived via the Fortnite: Battle Royale Leaks account on Twitter, however, which claimed the Epic and Legendary versions of the weapon did a respective 150 and 157 damage via body shots. (Headshots are pegged at 342 and "about" 355 damage.) Those numbers are significantly higher than those seen via Fortnite's existing sniper rifles.
Let's put that in context. Fortnite gives each player 100 health at the start of the match. You can also gain up to 100 shield by drinking some combination of a Small Shield Potion, Shield Potion, or Slurp Juice. If someone hits a body shot with the new Legendary Heavy Sniper before you've consumed at least 75 shield worth of these mysterious beverages, you're going to be knocked down or eliminated. (They offer increments of 25 shield each; hitting exactly 157 would require you to pop a potion at just the right time.) If they hit a headshot, well, you're just done for.
The new Heavy Sniper's effectiveness will depend on some other factors, such as its fire and reload rates, but the damage might be too good to pass up if Fortnite: Battle Royale Leaks' information is correct. Yet if Epic has shown anything over the last few weeks it's that it's willing to change its new weapons just as quickly as they're introduced. Just look at SMGs; several tweaks have been made to the existing guns, the new ones have been repeatedly nerfed since their release and Epic reverted a building nerf that made SMGs even more oppressive than expected.
These changes have left Fortnite in a state of flux. One week you're probably going to engage in build fights that revolve around lining up the perfect blast with a shotgun, the next week you can just hold down the fire button to destroy those structures, and the week after you'll find yourself doing some combination of the two. And that all centers around SMGs, shotguns and building. Add changes to restorative items, the rate at which materials are harvested and other tweaks into the mix and it's been a very confusing season for the game's highest levels of play.
This problem isn't new to Fortnite. Regular updates mean people who compete in games like Overwatch and League of Legends rarely play the exact same game for long. Releasing a new patch can have significant implications for the highest level of play, no matter what the game is, and the same holds true of Fortnite now that Epic is working to figure out how to build an esport around the cultural phenomenon. (The company's efforts to spend $100 million in support of Fortnite's esports scene over the course of a single year are well under way.)
Most sports rarely change. The core aspects of something like football remain unchanged even as rules surrounding the game are introduced, removed, or modified. But esports players have to be able to adapt to significant changes to how their game of choice is played. Unless the new Heavy Sniper is a complete flop, chances are good that Fortnite pros will have yet another major update to contend with in the near future.
So the first time you're upset about being one-shot by the Heavy Sniper, just remember that at least your livelihood doesn't hang in the balance.