The PUBG MOBILE Pro League (PMPL) Americas will move online for its first season, running from June 6 – 28. The league was originally scheduled to begin in May as an in-person competition, but was delayed and moved online due to concerns regarding the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
While many esports leagues have moved their competitions online due to the pandemic, the PMPL Americas is unique in that it features teams from both North and South America, which are typically considered separate regions for most esports ecosystems. This is largely due to competitive integrity issues with playing pro-level matches online across long distances. To combat this, PUBG MOBILE Head of Esports James Yang told The Esports Observer that two dedicated servers have been set up between the two continents.
Additionally, prior to the start of the season, teams will broadcast practice matches, or “scrims,” with each other beginning May 7. Team practices are rarely recorded in esports in order to allow teams to develop strategies more privately, but Yang explained that these public scrims have a dual purpose. The company began broadcasting scrims of its South Asia PMPL earlier this year and saw a strong response from fans, which Yang expects to continue with the Americas league. Additionally, the scrims will allow the company to test its dedicated servers in a competition setting to ensure they are ready for official matches.
Scrim competitions will be broadcast four days a week until May 31, and PUBG MOBILE will offer a daily prize pool to participating teams.
Yang said that his team is taking competitive integrity seriously with the shift to online competition. A common practice across many leagues including PMPL South Asia has been to send administrators or cameras to team facilities in order to prevent outside interference during matches. PUBG MOBILE also requires players to run programs which check that players are using approved devices and utilize the front-facing camera in the player’s phone to make sure that no teams are using a ringer – bringing in someone to play under another player’s name.
PUBG MOBILE announced a significant restructuring of its ecosystem this year, increasing its annual prize pool from $2.5M USD to $5M. Yang said that this prize pool increase was a reflection of the bigger shift for 2020 – introducing the pro leagues. According to Yang, PUBG MOBILE’s new structure creates a clearer hierarchy for its global esports programs, outlining a path for players to move from amateur competitions, to semi-pro events such as the PUBG Mobile Club Open, and eventually to the regional PMPLs.
The bulk of that $5M prize pool will be distributed to top PMPL teams at the World Championship in December.
In March, PUBG MOBILE publisher Tencent announced ESL as the game’s commercial partner, supporting its new esports structure in various ways including the construction of a dedicated studio in Katowice, Poland, which was to serve as the home for live matches going forward. Yang expressed regret that the pandemic had delayed the debut of the new studio.
“The overall design and concept is very impressive,” he said. “So far, we just shared a sneak peak with the pro teams, and the pro teams were really impressed. So it’s a big pity we couldn’t share this.”
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