Cover and thumbnail via @PUBG Mobile Esports
PUBG Mobile is one of the hottest esport titles in the market with a growing player base and audience. With a thriving community of content creators, talent, tournament organizers and teams, the groundwork to build a successful esport title has been laid and we must focus on growing correctly in the future. With Tencent having announced a 5 million USD purse for 2020, there has been growing interest in the title and tier 1 organizations have begun to pick up rosters and enter the scene. However, while the stakeholders have gotten many things right with the game, the current esports format and the way the season is structured seems to be a source of constant gripe. We take a look at what makes a good format, why the current format isn’t ideal and what could be done to fix some of the issues.
[Also read: PUBG Mobile Esports Plans for 2020 Revealed]
The Current Format
The esports scene in 2020 is divided into two seasons - Spring and Fall. The landmark event of each season is the PUBG Mobile World Championship or PMWC. This is preceded by the PUBG Mobile World League East and West Divisions. To make it to PMWL, teams have to qualify either through Regional PMCOs (PUBG Mobile Club Opens) or PMPL (PUBG Mobile Pro Leagues) or in some cases, both.This entire cycle of events takes place twice ie once in Spring and once again in Fall. Of course, there are a lot of nuances and small details that vary from region to region, but they aren’t as important for this argument.
The PMPL Format Needs a Serious Rework
One serious blunder when deciding the format of these tournaments was the structuring of PMPL. In SEA, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia + Singapore have their own PMPL or Pro League. Depending on the region, the duration varies from 3-6 weeks with games taking place 3-5 days a week. However, when we delve deeper, the format is problematic. As it turns out, the entire league stage of these PMPLs have very little value attached to them. They are largely to filter out 16 teams from 24. These 16 teams now have to play in the PMPL Finals, which is a 3 day event which determines which teams will advance to the next stages.
After performing consistently for 6 weeks, both Faze and RRQ underperformed in the finals of PMPL Thailand. While RRQ still advance to the SEA Finals as the defending champions, Faze were eliminated | Image via @Faze Clan Thailand
Imagine a scenario where a team performs consistently over 6 weeks, places top in the league stage, only to have 2 bad days in the final stage and is eliminated from the competition. That is exactly what happened to Faze Clan in PMPL Thailand, as the team placed second in the league stage, playing it across 6 weeks, only to be eliminated in the Finals. On the other hand, Golden Cat, who were the 16th seed in the league stage, were able to qualify after placing second in the finals.
[Also read: Faze Falter in PMPL Thailand Finals]
Scenarios like these are bizarre and absurd. Essentially the 6 week league stage had no real value other than a very minimal amount of prize money per week (roughly 20-30% of the entire prize pool was allocated to the entire league stage). Teams who did well in the league stage get no advantage in the finals and simply put there is no motivation to do well in the league. As long as teams place in the top 16, they get to start off in the final stage with a clean slate. Somehow it seems that doing well consistently across 6 weekends has less value than doing well across 3 days. With very low stakes to play for and nearly no value in winning the league, why should a team even consider putting in their 100%? If everything is going to be decided largely via the finals, then shouldn’t teams be focusing on conserving their energy and saving strats till when it matters?
For South Asia and Americas, the format is so much better. The teams who place top 3 in the league qualify for the next stage, while the teams who place in the top 2 in the finals also qualify for the next stage. While the league has more slots to move ahead in the competition, the final stage has the major share of the prize pool. This increases the stakes of the competition so much more and makes each match more meaningful for both viewers and players . Unlike the PMPLs in SEA both the league and the finals have their own values and merits and reward teams fairly for performing in each.
In Indonesia, world champions, Bigetron Esports smashed their competition winning the league stage of PMPL Indonesia. The team won each individual gameweek and finished with a whopping 445 point lead, a performance that shows how far ahead of the competition they are. However, this doesn’t guarantee them a spot in the next stage of the competition in any way. The team still has to play in the Indonesia finals, and then depending on how they perform, will either qualify for the PMWL East, SEA Finals or be eliminated. In terms of numbers, the league stage of PMPL Indonesia saw each team play 72 maps. It took 72 maps per team to determine the top 16 teams out of 24 who will play in the finals. However only 15 maps will decide the top 3 from the 16 in the finals.
[Also read: Bigetron Win PMPL Indonesia League Stage]
There is nothing wrong with a league format per say, however the stakes have to be increased for the competition. There is no point playing 4-6 weeks continuously, just to eliminate the bottom 8 teams. Having 5 or even 4 days of play in a single week is unnecessary and long-drawn. A 3 day game week on Friday, Saturday and Sunday is ideal and with 3 groups, each pair can play on one of the days to complete the cycle. Having too many games, especially ones which do not affect the final result as much takes away the excitement from a game and lowers the viewer’s interest.
In PMPL Indonesia, each team played a total of 72 maps spread across 4 weeks. That's 18 official matches per week | Image via @PUBG Mobile Indonesia
Additionally, the league has to be more than a competition to filter out the bottom 8. Almost no top team or fan favorite will be eliminated in this stage and have little to play for other than pride. The league stage should definitely award the top 2 or 3 teams. One solution is to have the winners of the League stage directly qualify for the World League, while the teams who do well in the Finals go to the SEA Finals.
PUBG Mobile is a relatively new esport and while it has the attention of many, the challenge is to sustain and grow. Having unreasonable formats isn’t great for the future of the game and comes at the cost of lowering average viewership. Putting more emphasis on building a stable and sustainable format is key rather than just increasing the length of a tournament without adding any real value. Earlier this month, PUBG Mobile announced a partnership with leading tournament organizers, ESL. One can surely hope that ESL’s 20 years worth of experience and expertise in organizing competitions across multiple countries, multiple titles and multiple genres will be something PUBG Mobile can tap into and help improve their systems and formats.
[Also read: PUBG Mobile partners With ESL]