PUBG Mobile: Director of Global Esports speaks on the future of the sport

In March, Tencent Games announced the delay of the PUBG Mobile Pro League (PMPL) for North and South America, along with PUBG Mobile World League (PMWL), as part of their pandemic response measures. Since then, players and fans have been looking forward to what is next for PUBG Mobile. Thankfully, the wait is over.

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      The PUBG Mobile team unveiled a new, online-only tournament format for PMPL Americas Season 1, June 6 – 28, run by Tencent in partnership with Electronic Sports League (ESL). From May 7 through May 31, PMPL will also be running a new PUBG Mobile format called Scrims. In PMPL Americas Scrims, players can win daily prizes in matches and warm up before the PMPL season opens in June. PMPL teams who qualify for the PMWL may earn a chance to compete in the World Championship. During this prestigious event, players will vie for a portion of the $5 million USD prize pool.

      Daily Esports had the opportunity to speak to James Yang, Director of PUBG Mobile Global Esports at Tencent Games, about these new changes and what the future holds for PUBG Mobile as well as the Pro League.

      Daily Esports: What are some of the changes coming to PUBG Mobile players can look forward to?

      James Yang: We tried to do something new in Scrims this season. Teams can select one day to use the “On Fire Card.” They can have either double kill points or 1.5 times more placement points. You can use this card to strategically increase your points. This system is very new and quite exciting for the audience to watch.

      What is the major difference between esports and mobile esports?

      Mobile esports are not even regarded as real esports by some people. They say mobile esports is a category or the game came to PC first, but now I believe that mobile esports are getting stronger and having more of an impact. I believe that, sooner rather than later, mobile esports will be regarded as just esports. I don’t think that there is any clear reason to separate mobile esports and just esports.

      So many people are now quarantined; they need something to watch. Some kind of big esports event. We are still trying to be different, and our advantage is in mobility, accessibility, and lifestyle. If it’s enjoyable, then that’s great. Our audience will decide. If it is not fun, they won’t watch, but if they watch that means we are providing something meaningful. That’s the reason we decided to do the Scrims.

      The Pro League Americas is being run online-only. Is that a direction that PUBG Mobile is looking to go permanently?

      No, I don’t think so (laughs). We are building our own dedicated studio in Katowice, Poland. This venue is very unique because players can casually sit or lay down while playing. Some people worried that if they do this, then maybe they won’t deliver their passion, thankfully we could see their passion in their eyes. They are professional even if their pose was more casual. It’s important that even though you are laying down or sitting on the sofa, it doesn’t mean you don’t focus. You want to win. You spent hundreds of thousands of hours practicing, and that is impressive to us.

      Online we can do more tournaments because of accessibility. Maybe we can mix, we can do an offline league, but while we don’t have a league, we can do casual online Scrims. I don’t think we need to stick to one idea.

      How do you prevent cheating when running these online tournaments?

      We have our own anti-cheating app. Any player who plays in our league needs to install this app to ensure they are playing on the proper device. We also do not allow pads (controllers) in play because you can see a wider area.

      What does the future of mobile esports hold for PUBG Mobile?

      Some people ask me if I believe that mobile esports will be mainstream, and my answer is to look at the market, look at the traffic. Already the mobile market is bigger than the console market. There is money there, and there is an audience there. I really believe that mobile esports will join the mainstream.

      Yang also shared with us a documentary from 2019 called Be The One. This documentary follows three Indian PUBG Mobile pro players, Naman “Mortal” Mathur, Tanmay “Scout” Singh, and Gopal “Carry” Sarda, and their teams, showing how they have grown over the years and they turned a hobby into a profession. The documentary shows how important PUBG Mobile is to players around the world and the power that the game has to change players’ lives.

      Yang ended our conversation with a very moving view of how PUBG Mobile is looking to bring players together by combining North, Central, and Southern America esports teams in one region: “I hope that the audience can feel it is not a country-based competition. Sometimes you can regard the teams as your enemy, but sometimes you will regard them as your representative.”

      This interview has been edited for clarity.

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