2017 was a big year in video games, with PlayerUnknown’s BattleGrounds standing out as the fastest growing game. Last year, PUBG became one of the most viewed games on Twitch. To say it became an overnight success is an understatement, as it was because of this game we have seen a new wave of Battle Royale styled games, from last year to this year, get announced. It’s exciting to watch as you have 100 players thrown into the world and hunt each other down. Will players will get shot down early or make it all the way to get that chicken dinner?
With the thrills that PUBG brings, one question passes people’s minds. Can it work in a competitive standpoint? Not to say no one wants to watch it since Twitch can confirm that people love watching the struggles. The idea is how tournaments run the game and if it would be as workable as other eSports out there. Overwatch has shown that you can have an eSports league and make it work while League of Legends remains strong after eight years. Can PlayerUnknown’s BattleGrounds rise to be the next big competitive game out there?
Survival of the Fittest Surviving Longer Than The Other Guys
When you have competitive sports, the end goal would either be last team standing or last player standing. With other games that have a high number of participants, it isn’t trying to make it to the end; it is more of “make it halfway there before you lose to win.” The best example of this would be with another popular high risk, high reward game: Texas Hold ’em. Some want to take first place, while other players want to make it to at least the top 10%-15% so they can get the payout. When it comes to Poker, you get no second chances if you lose all your money. PUBG on the other hands offers plenty of chances.
With Battle Royale games, it is unfair to do one match. The problem, however, is that you have players getting those higher payouts not because they are the best, but rather because they outlasted other teams. Here’s the biggest problem with trying to turn PUBG into something competitive: How does one “score” PUBG? Do the people who stayed out of harm’s way and did nothing deserve more money than the players who got the kills and put in more effort? Do those who never won one chicken dinner deserve a higher payout than those who got multiple chicken dinners? The nature of Battle Royale games differs vastly from other eSports because it isn’t about “being the better player” as much as it is “being the smarter player.” This can be hard to show casual viewers during a game.
Choosing Flight Over Fight
Another issue with PUBG tournaments is that the rule structure is unorthodox and unbalanced. Most tournaments run with a simple premise in mind: the longer you survive, the more points you get at the end of each round. That’s all good, but some tournaments also reward additional points for each kill you get. How much should kills count? And why should you kill, anyway? Some tournaments try to either reward five points per kill or 100 points to the player with the most kills at the end. Whereas if you survive to the end, you get 500 points. Why do players need to earn those “bonus points,” and engage when the winning move is to do nothing and live? Players even took to the water as swimming helped to stop themselves from getting shot, thus making it a near-ideal plan for survival.
It is almost like those who performed well get overshadowed by those that don’t put in the same amount of work. Is that a bad thing? Depends on how you look at it. If you engage players, you risk exposing yourself and thus someone who is hiding can pick you off. Rather than run out into the open, perhaps you need to remain hidden and out of sight. Why play aggressively if tournament after tournament shows that passiveness is the way to go? For some people, this is why they love PUBG for the thrill of “Will he make it?” For others watch, it feels like those who aren’t active are the ones who come out on top.
Is PUBG too random to be competitive?
For as much as we can talk about the rules of PUBG in a tournament setting, another issue the game faces is how the RNG (luck) can affect each game. If you look at any other eSport game out there, you can say things are simple and straight to the point. Whether we are talking about how players can find or collect weapons, armor, health packs, or about using the characters with specific setups and the layouts of the maps, you can say each game has consistency from tournament to tournament. The only variables are the players and what they favor in terms of play-style. Something you can’t say we see in a game like PlayerUnknown’s BattleGrounds and other Battle Royale styled games.
The only thing we can say is consistent in the world of PUBG would be the map you run around. Everything else is luck based on what might happen. If you run around the school five times, a weapon you might try to find may or may not be there every time. The Safe-Zones that pop up may force you to spots that will force you out of hiding while running towards an area where campers will wait for you so you’re one less threat.
Conclusion: Player Unknown’s BattleGrounds doesn’t need to be competitive to be enjoyable, but the eSports approach needs more work.
So is PUBG’s competitive scene salvageable? Again, it is difficult to say. Where things stand Battle Royale games like PlayerUnknown’s BattleGrounds are the game that has people’s attention. It doesn’t need to be competitive for players to have a good time as the game itself provides countless hours of tense and enjoyable fun to see how long you can last against 100 others. The problem though lies regarding how you would make this competitive and make it work. PlayerUnknown himself expressed his thoughts he didn’t want to force PUBG into eSports right away, but rather to have it grow into it. It isn’t like we have an established rule-book of how one does competitive “Battle Royale” games, and PUBG would be the first.
As mentioned earlier, the problem is that when you have some a game where you compete with others, players will form competitions around the game regardless if the developer is ready or not. PUBG has the potential, but if recent tournaments are any benchmarks to look at, it is too soon to say how well it will be. How does one focus on 100 players at the same time? Will viewers pay as much attention to the first half of the match as the second half? And how do you set up the rules so that the players that are not just smarter, but better than others get the recognition they deserve? That’s a story for another time.
So what do you think?
Can PlayerUnknown’s BattleGrounds become the next big eSport? Does it need to prove itself right now? Or do we allow it the time to prove itself over time? Leave your thoughts down below and be sure to follow us here at Culture of Gaming for more competitive editorials.