PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has a problem, especially when it comes to its esports ambitions: The game is too big. Too many players, too wide a map, too many split focuses, and arguably too long a period of tension building and maneuvering before the action starts in earnest. The game’s first two maps, Erangel and Miramar, are 8 km by 8 km, which helps support these long games of maneuvering, exploring and constantly moving. The game’s third map bucks that trend, and measures a humble 4 km by 4 km.
With a new map comes the intrigue of knowing we’ll be getting fun new toys and backdrops for our struggles to earn that chicken dinner — Erangel and Miramar both boast their own selection of cars, for instance, and Miramar’s dense urban centers contrast with Erangel’s clusters of apartments and smaller buildings. What’s most intriguing is the fact that every player on this new map is going to be much closer to each other. Add in the inevitable hot zones that are stuffed with loot, like the military base or police station, and it’s easy to imagine the chaos that will result.
This new map may be just what the PUBG esports scene needs. The pace of a game might mirror the television-ready brawls of the Hunger Games novels: initial bursts of satisfying violence, followed by a much smaller group of survivors navigating and planning to take the others out. Right now, tournaments struggle with tracking each player and each brawl. While it’s likely impossible for one stream to catch everything, even important fights and deaths can be easily missed.
In an increasingly competitive esports-focused shooter market, PUBG Corp. will have to continue to experiment and iterate to find the right formula for PUBG esports. Fortnite continually remains poised to eat PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds lunch, and titles like Rainbow Six Siege offer similar tactics, action and excitement in much shorter windows of time.
After seemingly conquering the world, PUBG Corp. finds itself playing catch up with Epic Games in the battle royale genre. Fortnite has taken the top spot for battle royale games on Twitch, but PUBG’s esports scene still has a ton of potential. It’ll take innovation, iteration, and imagination to secure PUBG’s esports legacy, but a radical new map format is a great start.