Ubisoft announced today that it will launch The Next Level — a new series of competitive gaming tournaments — at PAX Prime this week.
The competitive gaming tournament aims to fill the gap between non-competitive gaming and professional eSports, giving players the opportunity to compete against each other across a range of games for the chance to win prizes. The tournaments will be held at conventions like PAX, Comic-Con, Magfest and E3, and regular tournaments will also be held online in select physical locations.
Speaking to Polygon, Ubisoft's senior director of player engagement, Josh Milligan said The Next Level offers players something less traditional in terms of competition.
"The analogy I draw is eSports is like the post-graduate program for gamers, and there's nothing before it."
"The analogy I draw is eSports is like the post-graduate program for gamers, and there's nothing before it," he said. "It's the most advanced thing. There are a certain number of people who can really understand the details of the most intense, amazing StarCraft match, and there are a lot of other people who play games on a regular basis who don't necessarily get into that."
The Next Level aims to offer a level playing field so that people who are competitive but aren't necessarily good at or interested in traditional eSports games can take part in tournaments. At PAX, competitors will be able to play titles like Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag, Just Dance 2014, The Crew, Rayman Legends and The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot against each other.
Milligan told Polygon that the tournaments will use games from a variety of genres, including titles that would not normally be used in conventional tournaments. So for a game like Rayman Legends, players might race to see who can collect the most items in a set number of minutes or, in a more complex game, players might be asked to focus on one element of the game.
"Let's take Far Cry as an example," he said. "It's a complex game with all kinds of elements — you have shooting and all different things. But we could take something where it's just you at the top of a hill, you have a jeep, and whoever gets to the bottom and finds the flag first wins.
"I always come back to the arcade experience — the camaraderie of playing with other people in some kind of environment ..."
"Another one we were talking about the other day was everybody plays a game for 20 minutes and we don't tell you what the goal is. At the end of 20 minutes, we do trivia."
Milligan said The Next Level will mostly feature new games, so "to some extent people are going to laugh and have fun with it." The tournament isn't designed to be high pressure with high stakes. The prizes will range from gaming gear like headsets and video game paraphernalia to scholarships and travel to other tournaments.
The tournament will initially feature titles by Ubisoft, but Milligan said it has reached out to third-party publishers and is currently in talks about featuring non-Ubisoft titles at future events.
"At the very basis of it, I would love for there to be physical events every two weeks, all year long around the world, plus online tournaments," he said. "I always come back to the arcade experience — the camaraderie of playing with other people in some kind of environment where you're having fun and there's a real community around it. That's what we're aiming for."