Yesterday, Fortnite duo Damion “XXiF” Cook and Ronald “Ronaldo” Mach qualified for the World Cup by placing third with 91 points in the eighth week of North America East duo competition. On May 3, both players were temporarily banned from Fortnite and were dropped by their esports team, Rise Nation, for alleged cheating in previous competition. The duo’s qualifying match yesterday could be a redemption story, but some competitors, commentators, and fans don’t see it that way.
On April 29, another pro Fortnite player accused XXiF of teaming with other players in Solo qualifiers. Player HighSky shared clips that showed other players appearing to purposefully let XXiF kill them so he could earn points, which is against the World Cup rules. According to Dexerto, Ronaldo had also been accused of teaming with a player involved in XXiF’s suspicious kills.
On May 3, Epic Games wrote a statement that did not include any players’ names: “Based on an internal investigation, we have concluded that a group of players attempted to undermine the Week 3 Fortnite World Cup Online Open competition on April 28 by colluding across several matches. All players involved will receive a 14 day competitive ban and will be ineligible for any Week 3 prizes.” After that, both XXiF and Ronaldo were dropped by their esports team due to “recent allegations being confirmed by Epic Games.” XXiF denied any wrongdoing, but Epic issued him a 14-day ban and gave his qualifying spot to the next highest-placing player, Clix. Ronaldo confirmed to Kotaku that he was also temporarily banned. After the bans wore off, both players competed in subsequent qualifiers, eventually earning a spot in this week’s Duos competition to compete in the game’s New York World Cup in July.
Yesterday, new accusations of cheating surfaced against XXiF, with a clip posted to Twitter depicting another player appearing to land near XXiF and let themselves be killed. XXiF did not respond directly to the accusation and instead tweeted: “Yall are reaching. See ya in NYC.” XXiF has not yet responded to request for comment, nor did Epic Games yet respond about whether it will look into these latest allegations.
Ronaldo told Kotaku in a Twitter direct message: “XXiF and I felt it was unfair the first time we were banned, we served the sentence and came back to qualify. Everyone still wants to see us fall which is fine because in NYC we’re going to win the final event and prove them all wrong.”
Some professional Fortnite players have responded to the duo qualifying. Team Liquid player Vivid tweeted, “Fair play to XXiF and Ronaldo, I think they deserve a spot in WC [World Cup] regardless of what they did before. Congrats!!! NOT! You just let [a] cheater into your biggest tournament. Can’t wait for you to explain their story line to a young audience. Should BE REAL INTERESTING.” Player Tfue said sarcastically in a stream, “I don’t think they’ve ever cheated, but I know where I’m landing the last week of duos.”
Caster and player DrLupo tweeted, “A cheater qualifying for a $30,000,000 tournament is a kick in the junk to the integrity of the Fortnite competitive community. Love or hate the game, this should be unanimously agreed upon… I feel for everyone who grinds their butts off to work on their gameplay, only to get pushed out of qualification for NYC by that duo.”
DrLupo also made a video reacting to the duo’s qualification in which he appears to be upset. He reviewed yesterday’s clip depicting alleged cheating and said he doesn’t think it’s cheating, opening his video by saying “I don’t think they’re stupid enough to have cheated again.” DrLupo acknowledged the players’ skill, saying, “I’ve not a single time said that they’re not good players,” but, he continued, “If they’re allowed to go to New York, I’ll be forced to commentate their gameplay, and I will do so appropriately, but it’s one of those things that I’m not going to be happy about.”
The official Fortnite casters also seem torn. At the end of the finals cast, caster Sundown said, “In terms of XXiF and Ronaldo, it’s very easy to pile on and be negative. There’s a lot of opportunity for a lot of you to go out and be a lighthouse, and what you decide to do is in your own hands, but let’s not take away the accomplishment and gameplay they showed today.” (Sundown’s comments are on Twitch at about 9:48:40). Caster Ballas, meanwhile, gave a pointed look to the camera when XXiF and Ronaldo’s qualification was announced.
On the Fortnite competitive subreddit, fans also expressed frustration with these two players being allowed to play again and to qualify, with some saying they felt the decision shows that there’s little consequence to cheating. “Cheating will set the standard for competitive Fortnite and cheating will not matter,” wrote one. Many fans placed the blame on Epic for lax rules. One fan wrote, “Don’t hate on Ronaldo and XxiF. They are skilled players, who are still 100% scumbags, and did serve their punishment. Whether that punishment was fair or not is a whole different story. If there is anyone to get mad at in this situation it’s Epic.” Another wrote, “Forreal [sic] they served their punishment quietly and came back and qualified. This is all on Epic for not banning them from the tournament in the first place.”
There’s no denying XXiF and Ronaldo are good players, albeit also players who appeared to have made a bad decision early on in the World Cup qualifiers. They aren’t breaking any official rule by continuing to play and qualify. Whether or not XXiF cheated in this latest qualifier is up to Epic to decide, as is how the developer responds. The Fortnite World Cup lives and dies on its narrative that anyone can win big. XXiF and Ronaldo’s story isn’t as feel-good as some come-from-nowhere player rising to be a star, but it’s still bittersweet proof that anyone can qualify.