PUBG is slowly figuring out how to become a successful esport
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite may be popular with players, but game companies aren’t sure they’re “esports ready” yet
Hundreds of fans swarmed into the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin, Germany on Wednesday night, ready to witness some last-man-standing action at the PUBG Global Invitational (PGI) Berlin.
This is PUBG Corp’s first ever official tournament. And for five days, 20 top professional teams from around the world are competing for US$2 million in prizes, as well as the honor of being the ones to win the first official PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds world title.
Gazing around the arena, it looks on par with the major esports tournaments taking place every year. From the cool, circular player platform in the center, to the meticulous analysis and casting by the PGI crew, it’s easy to feel the excitement around the event.
But even while casters shout out play-by-plays, and crowds scream as their favorite teams go down one by one… PlayerUnknown himself says his game isn’t quite ready for esports yet.
You’re probably thinking: Hang on, what? PUBG esports teams have been competing in tournaments around the world for the past year, and it’s playing out in the arena in front of our very eyes right now. How is the game not esports ready?
But esports tournaments are about more than just getting a few people together to play games. Here’s some of the things game makers have to consider when trying to launch esports.
Consistent rules and structure
Right now, all the different unofficial PUBG tournaments have slightly different setups and different rules, which affects how the games are played.
It seems logical enough, but it’s true: Players need to know what the rules are, so they can test the boundaries. No matter whether it’s a game or a sport, players need to know the rules of the game… so that they can test the limits of those rules.
It’s the same for esports. Players can’t gain a deep understanding of how a game works and develop strategies if the rules keep changing.
Changham Kim, the CEO of PUBG Corp, explained that 2018 is the year for the company to figure out how to set up a solid structure for the game’s esports scene.
One of the first steps is setting up official regional leagues for 2019. The first four PUBG Pro Leagues will be in North America, Europe, China and Korea. To go with that, PUBG Corp wants to make sure players have universal rules and format for any worldwide competition.
Consider the audience
Developers also have to work out the viewer format and layout of the game. Player UIs have to be tweaked to show the audience information the player doesn’t have.
And with players spread out across the map for early parts of battle royale games, developers will also have to work out how to give equal view time to different competitors.
Making a game “esports ready” also has to take into consideration the game’s future development. Does the game keep “easier mechanics” to appeal to the causal audience and potential new players, or does it evolve according to the demands of the profitable competitive scene?
Any changes to the game items or characters has significant impact on the strategic gameplay of high level players -- and athletes who depend on the game for their living.
It’s not about being popular, it’s about being organized
The other big battle royale contender is also testing the waters of esports. And it’s already running into problems.
But just having a lot of players doesn’t ensure success, as Epic Games can attest. Its attempt at an official tournament wasn’t… successful. The first day of its US$8 million prize pool Summer Skirmish was called off early because of server issues.
The official competition also recently butted heads with the popular Friday Fortnite tournament, which was hosted by YouTuber KEEMSTAR. Considering Friday Fortnite had been the go to place for high-level pro-plays among the community, that was a disappointing moment for fans.
Epic Games did comment on the early failure in the tournament, saying they’re learning how to make sure gameplay and the infrastructure can improve in future events.
Think about esports early, not later
Fortnite and PUBG’s esports scenes sprung up after the games were released, and the official tournaments are just starting now.
But another battle royale game took a different approach.
Video game developer Hi-Rez Studios is promoting third-party tournaments of Realm Royale while the game is still in alpha. That means it’s not even a full game yet.
Hi-Rez, who also developed SMITE, is no stranger to esports. Their approach appears to be aimed at drumming up hype for Realm Royale esports development early on. This could mean by the time the full game is out, fans and new players will already have a competitive scene ready for them to enjoy.
It’s clearly different to how the other companies have operated. One of the people Hi-Rez is partnering with is YouTuber KEEMSTAR… y’know, the same person whose Friday Fortnite sessions clashed with Epic’s official tournament.