State of the Ecosystem: PUBG Mobile esports (2023 overview)

26 September 2023


State of the Ecosystem is an article series overviewing the contemporary esports scene across various major esports titles, with an industry focus.

PMCO Star Challenge 2019. Image credit: Tencent
PMCO Star Challenge 2019. Image credit: Tencent

Widely regarded as one the biggest global mobile esports, PUBG Mobile is a battle royale title for Android and iOS, developed and released by Tencent Games back in 2018. The game is a mobile version of the PUBG: Battlegrounds franchise and has since gone on to eclipse its predecessor’s esports popularity.

Back in 2018, mobile esports wasn’t a major player in the scene. So, the idea of creating an esports ecosystem for a Battle Royale title that has 100 players parachute onto a map from a mobile device seemed improbable.

However, Tencent made it clear from the get-go that it was an area it wanted to focus on, creating an invitational world championship in the first year of the game’s release. From there, the company has built up a vibrant and global ecosystem. 

ESI London 2024

While PUBG Mobile is the common name for the game loved by fans worldwide, the Battle Royale title has different identities in some regions. These include India and China where the game was first released as PUBG Mobile, but later changed for multiple reasons.

In China, Tencent took down PUBG Mobile back in May 2019 and replaced it with Peacekeeper Elite, essentially the same game but with less violence in accordance with the countries’ strict gaming laws.

India, on the other hand, banned PUBG Mobile and a number of other Chinese applications for data privacy concerns amidst heightened border tensions between the two countries in 2020. Later, South Korea’s KRAFTON took over the publishing responsibilities of the game, likely in an attempt to distance itself from China, and brought the Battle Royale back as Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI). Given the game’s 2020 ban, comeback, ban again and second comeback, PUBG Mobile has undergone a turbulent period in India, one of its more popular markets.

Tencent is responsible for running the global PUBG Mobile esports ecosystem and works with local partners like ESL and VSPO to execute its tournaments. However, in some regions like South Korea and India, it’s KRAFTON that helms the game’s activities. 

Additionally, sometimes Tencent teams up with third-party tournaments to offer slots for its official tournaments like the PUBG Mobile Club Open (PMCO) or PUBG Mobile National Championship (PMNC). 

PMWI 2022 (Image Credits: Gamers8)

Instead of creating a common global PUBG Mobile esports format, Tencent has implemented different strategies that vary from region to region based on the game’s popularity. 

The most common format, which is followed almost globally, is the PUBG Mobile Pro League (PMPL). This format begins off with the PUBG Mobile National Championships (PMNC). These are, as the name suggests, open-for-all national championships featuring one nation competing for victory.

Besides this, Tencent has another grassroots-level program called the PUBG Mobile Club Open (PMCO). Both the PMNCs and PMCOs encompass nearly every country in the world across Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Europe, parts of Asia, North America, and South America. 

From here, top teams move to the PUBG Mobile Pro Leagues (PMPL). These happen across nine regions of the world and usually include a long league stage followed by a finals. Each PMPL leads to a PMPL Championship, which includes separate competitions for the MEA, South Asia, Americas and Europe regions. 

Starting in 2023, the PMPL SEA Championship has been replaced by a partnered PUBG Mobile Super League (PMSL). This league fixtures 15 partnered teams, that according to Tencent were selected based on past results, financial viability, and contribution to the PUBG Mobile esports ecosystem. Five of the slots are open to teams from the SEA PMPLs. Tencent has said that it could bring similar partnered leagues for other regions soon as well. 

China and India are two regions which have separate ecosystems. Perhaps the biggest esports region for PUBG Mobile / Peacekeeper Elite esports is China. 

PEL 2023 Spring (Image Credits: VSPO)

The Peacekeeper Elite League (PEL) happens across the Spring and Summer seasons every year and features 20 highly valuable franchised slots. The league is undoubtedly the biggest for PUBG Mobile esports with a prize money that exceeds $2.3m (~£1.9m) every season and a completely online format spanning multiple weeks. The league also features a transfer window for teams to swap players with players selling for excess of $500,000 (~£410,000) as well

Currently, Battlegrounds Mobile India Series (BGIS) is the top-level of competitive BGMI in the country. It also features a televised month-long LAN league held every year called the Masters Series (BGMS), which is executed by Nodwin Gaming. 

No matter which structure a region follows, all competitions within the ecosystem culminate at either the mid-season PUBG Mobile World Invitational (PMWI) or the PUBG Mobile Global Championship (PMGC), which happens towards the end of the year as a LAN event with a huge prize pool. 

Notable Leagues and Tournaments

PMGC 2022 (Image Credits: Tencent)
PMGCPeacekeeper Elite League (PEL)
PMWIPMPL Championships
PUBG Mobile Regional Clash (PMRC)PUBG Mobile Super League (PMSL)
Battlegrounds Mobile India Series (BGIS)

Most viewed tournaments

The five most viewed PUBG Mobile esports tournaments, per Esports Charts, are as follows. It’s to be noted that the Peacekeeper Elite League is significantly popular, however, it doesn’t feature in this list due to exact viewership stats for China being unavailable.

  • PMGC Season Zero 2020: 3.8m (peak viewers)
  • PUBG Mobile World League (PMWL) East 2020: 1.15m (peak viewers)
  • PMPL Southeast Asia Season 3 Finals 2021: 1.11m (peak viewers)
  • PMWI 2021: 1m (peak viewers)
  • 31st SEA Games 2022: 903,000 (peak viewers)
PMWI 2023 (Image Credits: Tencent)

Notable organisations

PUBG Mobile esports has evolved into a truly global esport title. As such, it has many notable organisations fielding rosters in the game from around the globe. Here are some of the most popular ones. 

Note this is a non-exhaustive list and exclusion does not signify an organisation is not notable.

Alpha7 EsportsVampire Esports
GodLike EsportsFour Angry Men
Team SoulNova Esports
Bigetron RAS2G Esports
Wasif Ahmed