Has PUBG Corp. already mishandled the National PUBG League?

Battle Royale titles have been the talk of the town in the games industry for the last year or so now, but the genre is yet to truly solidify itself in the world of esports. PUBG Corp., the developer behind popular game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) is hoping to change that, though. Launching six regional professional leagues and three further professional circuits, the developer’s first official competitive season is about to commence.

A user on Reddit, who has since removed their original comment, took to the news aggregation platform to criticism the qualifying process and overall preparation for the National PUBG League – the North American professional league that launched on February 1st. 

Without listing the plethora of negative feedback and anecdotal criticisms said user hurled at PUBG Corp., we thought we’d take a look at the crux of their argument and see if all is as bad as it may appear.

National PUBG League
National PUBG League Preseason event at OGN Studios

Qualifying for the National PUBG League

“Celebrating the success of qualifying for Pro League we get further information from OGN regarding accommodation and the format of the league. We had gotten home on the 14th or 15th (depending on location) we were then told to compete in the league we will need to show proof of a valid visa,” the Reddit user claimed. “I understand the need for a visa to compete and the legalities, but to apply for a P1 visa it takes 15 days and costs $1500.”

The user goes on to say that explain that OGN would not advise on the situation, nor delay the start of the season despite multiple requests. Esports Insider spoke to Matt “Matrym” Oates, one of the most respected on-air talent in PUBG – who worked at the National PUBG League Preseason event – about the Reddit post to receive another perspective on the alleged mishandling of the players and the event at large.

“The NPL is unfranchised. This means a group of players can just make a team and, if they play well enough, get to the NPL,” explained Matrym. “The downside of this is if that team does not get signed all duties fall to the players that an esports org would provide. Things like Visa assistance, jerseys, sponsors, etc.”

“It’s cool that a group of players can still just make a team and push their way to a pro league, I can’t think of too many esports that this is possible in. This does mean the National PUBG League functions differently than say LCS or OWL regarding players. Keep in mind housing, flights, computers, and so on are all provided by the league for signed or unsigned teams regardless,” he continued.

It appears as if the Reddit user simply expected too much and, perhaps, wasn’t prepared for an outcome that saw their team qualify for the league. PUBG Corp. had already made it clear what it would, and wouldn’t, aid players and teams with.

Valliate WTF National PUBG League
Why Tempt Fate? compete at the National PUBG League Preseason event

Stipends and accommodation

The user on Reddit continued on their rant, moving on to discuss the stipend provided by PUBG Corp. for the teams that will compete in the National PUBG League: “When it comes to provided accommodation or the stipend for housing it’s a shambles. The provided housing situation is that 2 players share a suite and the coach get’s their own suite but must have all 5 practice PCs in their suite.”

“This means that if the coach wants to sleep earlier or have some privacy they have to remove all players from their room and at the mercy of 4 other people schedules. Also having 2 adults share a bedroom for 8 weeks is unhealthy,” the post read before it was removed. “Taking the $20,000 per phase stipend is an option, but finding a 5 bedroom (4 players + coach) house for 8 weeks in LA can easily run over that budget, and if you do chose to take the stipend you forfeit your claim to the practice PCs so will need to also budget that into the $20,000.”

“Other pro leagues provide a stipend that is over triple this amount, with Smite providing $25,000 per player. There is no minimum salary dictated by PUBG Corp or OGN, and if you are not signed you will not get any additional money to help cover the costs of food or living,” the user explained.

The stipend that is available for teams was made known before the qualifiers began so it’s peculiar for the user to realise that their team couldn’t afford to live in Los Angeles after making it to the league.

“Some players did expect full franchised benefits similar to Overwatch League but that was never offered or hinted to. It is no secret PUBG esports wants larger viewership. Sometimes players do not understand the business side and how esports grow,” Matrym told Esports Insider. “They look to CS:GO or other established esports stability and forget the path each one of those games took to get to said stability. It’s always a growth path, not instant.”

The piece is littered with other gripes that the player has with PUBG Corp.’s league, but ultimately it mostly reeks of expectancy not being met despite financial (and other) aid being detailed prior to the final qualifying tournament.

National PUBG League Mic
National PUBG League Preseason event

Has the National PUBG League, so far, been subject to too many lofty expectations – whether that’s due to other leagues such as the LCS, LEC, and Overwatch League or not? Matrym believes that the league has had “a few small hiccups but mostly everything has been as expected.” It’s naive to expect the level of support that Riot Games and Blizzard has provided to their own respective leagues considering the upfront, honest details being dished out to players telling them otherwise in the first place.

Said hiccups should be somewhat expected considering this is the developer’s first time hosting a competitive league and it’s attempting to do as such in six different regions – with the help of third-party organisers, of course. “It is the start of a worldwide unfranchised league, which is insanely complex if you contemplate it. The issue really is those players that came in with false expectations that have been vocal with unfounded complaints,” Matrym concluded.

The first stage of the National PUBG League is set to begin on February 1st and it’s fair to say that plenty of eyes will be on the competition, from prospective organisations looking to join the league at a later date, to potential sponsors and partners, to organisations that have departed the game wanting to see if they made the right choice. While the aforementioned Reddit post made it seem like PUBG Corp. had entirely mismanaged the preseason, it’s hard to agree that that’s actually the case.