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With PUBG firmly in the spotlight and to mark the start of the Auzom Premier League season we picked the brains of Auzom GM, Andrew ‘Panda’ Kean, on just why PUBG has become such a worldwide phenomenon.

“I think it’s pretty difficult to bring it down to just one thing,” he said. “But in my mind it largely lies with it being something quite refreshing within the games industry. Of course, we have H1Z1 but it never seemed to take off in quite the same way as PUBG did.

“Are there reasons for that? Maybe, maybe not. The other thing to keep in mind is that Battle Royale has been around for quite a long time and the ArmA mods were always popular but, as with H1Z1, they never seemed to quite make it.

“That said, I think PUBG largely has content creators & streamers to thank for its success. The game became an instant sensation on Twitch with various streamers pulling thousands upon thousands of viewers at any given time, and all of that helps to build hype around the game.

“That, combined with the fact that it is a genre that many people may not have put much time into in the past, meant that PUBG was able to absolutely snowball and become the scale it is today.”

The path to a major title

In such a crowded and competitive space PUBG faces a difficult task to become a major esports title. Yes, it’s riding a wave of popularity at the moment but what are the challenges it faces in becoming a permanent member of the elite esports scene? Panda says the platform does face some hurdles, “I think an important factor is the casual vs competitive divide,” he said.

“It’s a major hurdle in games that aren’t specifically pushed or developed for esports and it’s a gap that has to be bridged to some extent if PUBG is to truly reach its potential as an esports title.

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“There are millions of people that play and enjoy the game, but the difficulty lies in converting those people into avid viewers of the esports scene.

“Of course, it would be naïve to sweep the current problems with the game itself under the rug. There are a whole host of issues that really need to be resolved in relation to server stability, observing, anti-cheat and pretty much everything under the sun.

“But to give credit where credit is due, Bluehole/PUBG Corp are working hard on all of these things and more in order to push the game to where both it deserves to be, and the players deserve it to be. That’s going to take time though, and a lot of it.”

More players more headaches

Something a number of people have flagged up is the apparent unsuitability of PUBG for LAN events. Is this something which could hold it back? Panda doesn’t think so. “I don’t think it is going to cause a major problem for PUBG esports.

“We’ve already had quite a few large offline events in the game and I think that they will certainly continue.

“Sure, it’s harder and more expensive to coordinate 80 or so players and PCs and it’s harder to get the space to accommodate that. But it certainly isn’t a dealbreaker.”

Viewing PUBG as an esport

More and more players are turning to PUBG. But what’s the driver to get so many gamers playing and viewing this esport? In Panda’s opinion it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. “It’s largely down to the popularity of the game,” he said.

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“Many people play this game just for fun but within that there’s always a group that want something a bit more, that want competition. It’s those competitively minded people that will slowly be drawn in to PUBG esports as both players and viewers.

“As people put more time into the game and get better and better, more of them will be interested in the next level and that’s where the viewership for the scene will grow.”

Single game mode?

How the PUBG scene will evolve is an interesting question. Especially with Asia using 3rd person and European gamers focusing on first. So, what is the future for PUBG? Does there need to be a single global game mode for professional gamers? Panda thinks so. “Eventually the global scene will need to narrow it down to one mode to play,” he said.

“The westernised scene has already pretty much nailed it down to first person squads and I feel like this is unlikely to change. However, 3rd person is still the preferred mode in Asia.”

So where does that leave us? “I don’t really know if I’m honest. We’ll see how attitudes change as we have more and more tournaments involving all corners of the globe. But for now it’s difficult to say whether we’ll have a single competitive format or if we’ll have a mix of things.”

We are Premier League

With some great players on show in the Auzom Premier League and the popularity of PUBG continuing to snowball more teams will be looking to be involved. But what makes a great PUBG team? “This is potentially where I’m a little bit out of my depth, as I don’t spend anywhere near the amount of time playing the game as the pros,” said Kean.

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“My gut feeling is that it’s crucial to really understand your teammates and how they play so that you can form a coherent unit out of your squad.

“That said, it’s also important to have a great IGL to make the right call at the right time and put your team in as good a position as possible. But that can be difficult due to the RNG elements of the game and a lack of knowledge of what you might be heading towards.”

Top of the league

So, it isn’t easy but which is the best PUBG team in the world at the moment? “It’s really difficult to say,” said Panda.

“There’s lots of teams that are performing consistently across the board but if I had to narrow it down to just one I would have to say Team Vitality.

“They’ve been consistently at the top for a long time now and show no signs of slowing down, although we did see the former FaZe/GCore lineup showing a similar spell of dominance.

“But since Team Vitality won at IEM Oakland and have already been showing they’re still pushing harder in Season two of our Auzom Premier League, I’ll have to go with them!”

That’s Auzom!

Auzom are of course the premier event host in PUBG. But, in Panda’s opinion, what is it that makes the platform so popular with gamers? “We’ve shown multiple times that we listen to the community and always act with its best interests at heart,” he said.

“Do we get decisions wrong from time to time? Sure, but everyone does.

“What’s important is that we work hard to bring a solution to the table as soon as possible and we’ll continue to do so.

“We can’t please everyone but we try to do as much as we physically can to provide a great playing experience and enjoy working with the community to see how it can be improved.”

Looking for your fix of PUBG? Check out the Auzom Premier League. “We’ve got a lot of great teams this season and there’s some seriously high quality PUBG on show,” said Panda.

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