The H1Z1 Pro League is the ambitious first attempt at a structured, competitive league for a Battle Royale title. Kicking off on April 21st and exclusively streamed on Facebook, there’s plenty for those behind the league, the teams competing in it, and those watching it, to discover.
15 teams are taking part in the first of two 10-week splits at Caesars Entertainment Studios. In an attempt to understand the approach towards the H1Z1 Pro League and how it’ll differ from leagues in other titles, we spoke to its Chairman, Jace Hall.
Esports Insider: The H1Z1 Pro League will be fully supported by Daybreak, do you think this should be a prerequisite when it comes to a game becoming an esports title? How much importance was placed on getting the developer’s backing?
Jace Hall: For an esport to have any real longevity, it is critically important that the game creator/publisher supports the competitive community/league and actively works to avoid game design decisions or changes that undermine both player and fan investment. This means that a publisher must consider the idea that players are more than just customers and may be as important, or even more important, than the game itself. This ultimately is a control issue, and it’s not easy relinquishing control of – at least in part – of your creation, so there has been a lot of responsibility on our part to make sure we’re sensitive to Daybreak’s concerns. It has been very important for us to work closely with them, in partnership, as that is the only real way to do something this ambitious properly.
ESI: What exactly separates the League from the others that are out there for different titles?
Jace: There are a number of items. An easy one to point to is our league’s governance committee which contains all seats that have equal voting power. Players and teams have the same % of the vote as the publisher as well as Twin Galaxies itself. The equal distribution of power in the league is incredibly unique when compared to different titles. When you add a strong effort toward transparency in all decision making, something special really starts taking place.
“The primary thing we were looking for was passion and an appetite to try something different”
In esports 1.0 the game itself is always the main point of interest, and league broadcasts are completely oriented toward the player base of the game only, with an underlying intention of trying to sell more game product/add-ons. However, in what we’re calling esports 2.0, we put the emphasis on the players being the main point of interest, and the overall entertainment experience oriented toward wider-audience understandability and appeal. Esports 2.0 ultimately works to create an entire league structure and intention that can be replicated across different competitive games that not only enriches players and our partners but also gives a wider mainstream audience a much easier understood high quality esports viewing experience.
ESI: How exactly does Twin Galaxies fit into the puzzle that is the H1Z1 Pro League? Does it go beyond providing leaderboards for budding competitors?
Jace: Twin Galaxies is the entity that runs the H1PL and eventually other leagues. Basically, we facilitate a competitive community and provide official structure and parameters to competitive play across all platforms. You will see it expand step-by-step to include amateur competition, joe-to-pro pathways and support player drafting through combine result authentication and statistical analysis.
ESI: What were the conversations like with organisations that hoped to be a part of the League? Was there a strict set of requirements that needed to be met, or was it a case-by-case decision?
Jace: The primary thing we were looking for was passion and an appetite to try something different. Certainly, we wanted to make sure that all participating teams were stable organizations that were professionally run, but the key element was to understand what each team organization wanted to really achieve and determine with them whether or not the H1PL was a good fit for their goals. In the H1PL, all the teams are in the same pool together, benefitting equally in the success of the league – essentially all partners. It is important that partners are aligned in goals and vision.
ESI: Other leagues – not naming any names – have had their fair share of controversy including players. What will the H1Z1 Pro League do to minimize, and effectively solve, any incidents that may occur?
Jace: Well, we’ve partnered with an amazing group called the Story Mob, which is comprised of esports veterans from ESL and Riot Games. Their team has worked with countless teams over the years to mould players into bonified sports professionals through media training and team building exercises. And through our pro sports connections, we’ve brought athletes from a variety of sports in to talk to pros about the responsibility that comes with fame.
In the end, nothing is perfect, and as problems come up we will all collectively work to solve them in the fairest way possible. That’s the most important thing, to be fair to everyone involved and to have some patience and understanding.
ESI: The H1Z1 Pro League in its entirety will be streamed on Facebook Live, how do you respond to criticisms of the platform in terms of esports streams?
Jace: I think from an esports 1.0 viewpoint, the criticisms are very fair. In a world where the game is #1 and all you are trying to do is entertain the people who play the game, Facebook might seem like a challenging choice. However, in view of our esports 2.0 goals, where the game itself must take a back seat to the player narrative, and the desired audience is not limited to just the game’s player base, you then can see that choosing Facebook was a very deliberate decision and makes a lot of sense.
“We believe that we can position the H1PL as more of a pure action “sport” version of the genre”
It is certainly a long road to building a wider audience, but we believe that the effort made here to bring esports to these audiences while simultaneously making esports less intimidating for the casual viewer to become involved with is one of the keys to unlocking real opportunity for the industry. We’re attempting to open up esports to anyone who enjoys competition. More people watch football than play it. More people watch “American Ninja Warrior” than try to run obstacle courses. Inherently, H1Z1 is quite understandable to a casual viewer when compared to most other games, so there is some great potential opportunity with it. We believe that Facebook made the most sense because they offer up an audience of potentially billions worldwide with varied tastes – not just gaming.
ESI: Lastly, do you feel any pressure from other Battle Royale titles such as PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, or is H1Z1 solely focusing on developing itself as an esports title on its own terms?
Jace: The Battle Royale Genre is going to continue to grow at a rapid rate. Games like PUBG and Fortnite are great as they continue to expand interest in the genre. That’s good for everyone.
Like movies, there will be many types of games in the genre. Some will be complicated, and some will be simple. We believe that we can position the H1PL as more of a pure action “sport” version of the genre, both in community support and league execution – and additionally make it one of the most entertaining and easiest BR games for the casual viewer to watch, understand, and enjoy. That said, it’s about the bigger picture for us in that we’re creating a new esport league model, and helping to set the stage for the advancement of what “esports” means as we all go forward together.