The success of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is unprecedented, especially for a game that has yet to be completed. Over the past several months, the game has quickly risen to popularity and found its place among various top titles as an esport. Despite its rampant success and quick rise, the question remains whether or not it will face the same problem Overwatch did in it’s own early days; will people want to watch it?
Although the solution for Blizzard was to implement an impressive new spectator toolkit, the problem with PUBG does not lie in how spectators can view it, but whether there is enough action to keep viewers constantly entertained. Opposite of the constant fast-paced action of Overwatch, the current competitive meta is one of calculated risk-taking that often results in a distinct lack of action for the majority of the game. Due to points being awarded based on standing outweighing the points awarded for eliminations, teams and solo players are much more likely to skirt around the edge of the circle at all times, avoiding action to secure a coveted top 10 finish in each of their matches.
Though this is one of the most heavily criticized pieces about the game as an esport, it makes perfect sense. Why would a player want to risk their chance at advancing to the finals by going for a risky firefight. Although it would satisfy the audience, there simply isn’t a valuable incentive to play in an aggressive manner. This is why we continue to see very slow play from many teams until the final minutes of games when players are finally forced to engage each other due to the circle limiting their hiding places.
Though it may be only speculation, several additions to PUBG could alleviate the current “camping” problem the game currently exhibits in a competitive setting.
First, the RNG aspect of air drops could use an overhaul or an entirely new system to keep players interested in doing something other than finding a nice hiding spot and hoping the circle ends near them. As it currently stands, there is an extremely slim chance of a player taking the risk to obtain a lootbox, largely because of the chance of getting either a subpar weapon, or getting an something a player already has or doesn’t need. When there’s a decent chance you’ll either receive an attachment you already have, or a gun that isn’t as good as your current setup, why would you leave your hiding spot in the first place?
As it stands, the only way that moving for an air-drop would become viable is if the game has either slight tweaks made to the system, or a complete overhaul of the way Top-tier loot is obtained. The first could be a simple frequency adjustment; either increasing the chance of receiving a worthwhile item, or increasing the frequency of airdrops themselves. With such a small number currently, it’s likely the drops are never considered or even seen by many teams. Should the drops be more frequent, there is the potential that instead of being forced to go halfway across the map with a vehicle, teams could simply travel on foot, increasing both their likelihood to go for the crate, and the chance for another team to do the same.
Keeping the current system but tweaking numbers may be a potential way to increase action and spur viewership, but an even more drastic overhaul of the RNG system could further interest in the title as an esport. Say the game didn’t have loot drops, but instead rotating events that occurred at specific locations or times throughout each map. What if every team that made its way to a particular town after 5-minutes received a fully geared gun? Perhaps if you made your way to several pre-determined locations, upon reaching a final spot there was an AWM waiting. Although I don’t claim to be an expert, nor have a certain vision of how this would shape the meta, by creating specific objectives similar to League of Legends in the sense that they were at consistent locations and worth fighting for, there would be a drastic increase in action based on the appropriate risk:reward.
Although these elements of RNG make up the basis of Battlegrounds, small tweaks have the potential to change the game to make an already nail-biting viewing experience even more enjoyable. With the titles swift rise to fame and presence at multiple premier events this year, the future of the game is sure to remain bright and it will be interesting to track the changes the developers make to keep it fresh for both competitors and viewers alike.
Keep across the action at IEM Oakland on http://twitch.tv/esl_pubg, starting 1pm PST Saturday, and let us know what you think.