BATTLEGROUNDS will be the #1 watched eSport in 3 years.
Why I wholeheartedly believe in the eSports potential within PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS
“Dude, you play BATTLEGROUNDS so much..”
“Yeah, it’s a super fun game. I’m gonna go pro. This game has so much potential for eSports, it’s crazy.”
“What? No way. You’re crazy.”
“Dead serious, and here’s why…”
PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS launched with a relatively little fanfare backing it until Twitch streamers and YouTubers got their hands on the closed beta, but the game itself is so solid it sold 11 million dollars worth of copies in its first three days, and topped off earlier this morning at almost 90 thousand concurrent players worldwide. However, its long-term viable success, specifically in the eSports scene, where it is hard to bring a new offering to the table, is dotted with skepticism, and for good reason. We’ve had one other mainstream title that attempted the Battle Royale format (that being H1Z1: King of the Kill), as well as a mod for ARMA 3 named Battle Royale. Both of these experiences tried to break into the eSports scene, and both failed for various reasons that we’ll discuss. Within this article, we’ll assess the title statement — that being that Battlegrounds will be the #1 watched eSport within 3 years — and I’ll detail some of the improvements I’d like to see in order to make that title statement a reality.
Spectators will easily understand the game
Name one popular eSport that you can explain in five words.
Counter-Strike — “Yeah, it’s Counter-Terrorists versus Terrorists, and the terrorists have to get to one of two bombsites to plant the bomb, and then if they do that, the Counter-Terrorists have to defuse the bomb…
League of Legends — “So yeah, there are these fantasy creatures that you can choose from, and they all have different abilities and stuff, and teams fight against each other to destroy a base…”
DOTA — “It’s kinda like LoL except you’ve gotta destroy a thing inside the base rather than the base itself. There’s different heroes you can pick like LoL as well…”
Hearthstone — “You draw cards to kill the other player, and all of the cards do different things, and you combine them to make a deck, and the decks can be themed and…”
All of the above games require at least twenty to thirty seconds worth of explanation in order to even lay a foundation of understanding for spectators. Problem is, most potential mainstream spectators will have already lost interest and have switched TV channels within half of that time. If we want the approval of the mainstream audience, and if we want them to watch what we as eSports fans watch and enjoy, it would be a lot easier to get them on board if the game mechanics themselves are not moderately abstract.
Now, here’s the explanation for PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS.
“Survive longer than everyone else.”
Easy to understand, and it automatically lays a foundation for the rest of the game’s unique qualities, features, and gameplay to be picked up without any need for third-party explanation.
When you take a look at a game of DOTA 2, you usually see something like this:
Try explaining what’s going on there to someone who’s never played DOTA 2, much less video games in general. Contrast that with:
The above five-word explanation along with this video reel should explain the game quite well.
What’s more is that that this game’s concept is not new to the mainstream audience. We’ve had movies, books, and history lessons dating back to Ancient Rome, all depicting the general concept of a fight to the death. Take movies such as Battle Royale (2001) and the Hunger Games series of books and movies, for example.
As previously mentioned, we’ve been exposed as a civilization to Battlegrounds-style content since the BC area, where gladiators in Ancient Rome fought in brutal combat to the last man standing within a spectator filled arena.
To top it all off, mainstream media isn’t the only place we’ve seen Battlegrounds-style content. Some gamers have already been exposed to very similar gameplay in a competitive setting, via the Survivor GameZ for DayZ, an annual Hunger Games-esque event, and the H1Z1 Invitational, the game’s Battle Royale mode on LAN at TwitchCon.
It would be an easier translation from content like the above, to a game like BATTLEGROUNDS.
There is a high skill ceiling
Most all popular eSports have fundamental differences in how they are played and the meta behind them. However, there is one common similarity throughout all of them — there are many different skill levels one can play at, and the highest, obviously, is the pro level. Most of these games have a large ranking ladder and some sort of system that decides one’s skill level based on a variety of factors.
You can see examples of this in games like Counter-Strike, with their ladder that goes from Silver 1, signifying the bottom-tier of skill level, all the way to Global Elite, where most of the pros find themselves at. Most players in CS find themselves somewhere within the other 16 ranks between the two above. You will find many similar ranking systems across many competitive/eSport titles. The reason these complex ranking systems exist is to ensure there is enough room to match players with others of similar skill level, because there are many a wide range of concepts to be good fair, or bad at within many of these games that a wide array of skill levels in themselves begin to form.
The same wide range of skill levels is beginning to exist in BATTLEGROUNDS, represented by the world ranked leaderboard that exists within the game; players of the game will experience this first-hand, due to the current lack of a skill-based matchmaking system in the game currently. For an average player, most early-game fights might feel almost too easy, because of clear skill gaps that exist between the majority of lower skilled players, versus, say, those who regularly find themselves within the final ten. More on how Bluehole and PLAYERUNKNOWN can capitalize on that in another article.
Like previously mentioned, the reason such a wide range of skill levels exist for many of these eSports titles is because there are plenty of concepts to grasp, much like there are in many professional sports, like football or basketball. In Counter-Strike, pros have to have at least a cursory knowledge of the maps in rotation, the smokes and flashes used, the spray patterns of the weapons within the game, the defuse timer on bombs, knowing how to rotate effectively, finding which angles are good to hold on Counter-Terrorist versus which angles are susceptible to peeker’s advantage on the Terrorist side — and they have to excel in at least of a few of these areas in order to keep themselves at the highest level of skill.
You can see the same areas of expertise beginning to form within PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS, due to the wide expanse of the game and the amount of different strategies players can employ in order to make it to the end — map knowledge, where the best gear will spawn, the likelihood of airdrops being populated based on where they drop at in relation to the diameter of the circle, which vehicles are the best for x situation, where to parachute in at to get the best loot without getting into an early-game firefight based on the trajectory of the plane, how to aim effectively, what loadout of weapons are the best for the individual playstyle of one player, how many bullets to fire off before the spray pattern becomes too messy, how many bandages to take, which loot lines are the best — there are an endless amount of concepts that players at the highest skill level will end up learning, concepts that most players would not have even thought to research.
Another huge element of many competitive titles, and games in general is the element of choice. Many spectators might not see it off the bat, but games like DOTA 2, Hearthstone, Counter-Strike, and namely, BATTLEGROUNDS, are filled with choice. In a game like Hearthstone, building your deck and playing against your opponent is all about choice. “Do I take this card or this one in order to best counter what I think my opponent will play?” “I have fifteen more cards in my deck, and one more Legendary to grant me lethal — do I attack now or focus on surviving until I draw that card?”
Counter-Strike is also filled with these minute choices that end up deciding wins and losses. “It’s a 5 versus 3 retake for them, the bomb was just planted — should we go for it or save our weapons for the next round?” “Should I rotate the safe but longer route or the more risky but shorter route?” “Their entry fragger didn’t spot me in this corner — should I take him out now and get the guaranteed trade, or risk letting the others walk by and spotting me in order to get an easy 3 kills?”
PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS also is present with choices that can greatly effect the end-game scenario, and even decide the victors. “Should I drop at the military base to get early Level 3 loot, but risk firefights and death, or go to the less populated areas to stay safer during early-game, but get lower-level gear?” “Do I ride the edge of the circle to avoid firefights or head towards the center of the circle to get the best positioning?” “There’s a team of four ahead of us, and they’re going towards that airdrop that we want. Should I take the shot or let them have the high-tier loot?” “My friend is down in that house, and there are two people outside of it. Should I fight to save my friend or leave to get a spot in the final ten?” All of the above choices are variables that can have very large effects on who gets to the final few players within a game of BATTLEGROUNDS, and spectators will be able to see all of these choices unfold with the help of the explanations and commentating of casters, which leads me to my next point.
The game is fun to watch — for everyone
All eSports titles and sports in general have at least one thing in common — they are fun to watch for at least some sort of demographic. Some people like watching action from beginning to end — games like basketball or Counter-Strike might be fun to watch for those spectators. Some like spurts of intense action with some setup/less intense, more fundamental parts in between — games such as DOTA/League or Football may be for those people. Some people love watching the suspense of whether or not a play or a move will work based on the hand that was dealt, and seeing the precision carried out by pros to make it happen — Hearthstone or Golf might fit the bill for those.
The reason why I think that BATTLEGROUNDS has incredible eSports potential is because BATTLEGROUNDS has all of those different levels of excitement. The very beginning of the game is a mix of luck of the draw (the plane’s trajectory), and seeing where players decide to go based on how much loot they are willing to sacrifice to avoid a firefight. The early game is filled with a rush to gear and quick and messy firefights with lower-tier weapons — some brawls are even carried out during these early moments. However, the early game is also dotted with players and teams that wish to avoid all of the early game, more luck-based combat spreading out, heading way from populated early-game areas and hitting their favorite loot spots in order to prepare for mid-game and end-game combat. The mid-game features a rush to the circle for those caught outside of it, interspersed with many close, mid, and long-range firefights and game strategy implemented within this time, based on the skill level and playstyle of the players/teams. The end-game is by far the most exciting and suspenseful (at least for me), seeing the positioning of other players and hoping that the players caught out (the underdogs) can come back from their situation (or hoping the exact opposite). Where most other eSports succeed by exceling in one or two of the areas of entertainment, I believe that BATTLEGROUNDS has the potential to be great in most all of the areas of entertainment and excitement that eSports has to offer.
I’ve gone over the reasons why I have huge faith in the massive eSport potential that BATTLEGROUNDS carries. In the next article concerning this topic, I’ll go over what I think needs to be added or improved in the game to set the stage for a successful eSports scene within BATTLEGROUNDS.