Is PUBG esports ready? It’s a question which has been doing the rounds for over a year now. If there’s one person who would know, it’s Michael Grzesiek, better known as Shroud.
Not only is he one of the most popular PUBG streamers on Twitch, he’s also a former professional Counter-Strike: Global Offensive player. The man knows his esports.
I asked Shroud about his visit to Berlin for the PUBG Global Invitational and whether it’s a step forward for the game as an esports. I even squeezed in some questions about Fortnite and his favourite stream snipers.
Shroud is a former professional CS:GO player, and is now a full time streamer of mainly PUBG
‘PGI was cool,’ he said. ‘The way they setup the arena was pretty good. It was almost like a circular dome that went up three levels so it could fit the entire audience. We also played on the LAN client which was a first for me. The game actually felt a lot better; there was no desync or anything like that. Also, the production was absurd – it was one of the best I’ve ever seen. They had so many people working, it was great.’
So, it was a great event, but is the game actually ready for esports? Shroud isn’t quite so sure about that.
‘I don’t believe PUBG is esports ready yet, and I’m not sure that it ever will be. It’s no secret that the game has a lot of bugs, and on top of that, having like 64 or 100 players in a LAN environment is very difficult – it’s a logistical nightmare. That’s probably the biggest issue just in general, battle royale as an esport. Basically, it’s got a long way to go.’
However, Shroud also finds it tough to come up with ways to improve PUBG as an esport. He says it’s a problem inherent to the genre.
‘You could cut the number of players by, say, 30, but then by that point it’s no longer a real battle royale.’
He goes on to say that if the player count is kept up, then tournaments should shy away from squad modes, and go more towards solo and duo games: ‘It then becomes much more skill-based. If you’re constantly playing squads, you’re forever getting flanked. There’s nowhere to move or anything. The second you’re in a fight, you get flanked immediately. There’s nothing you can do.’
Shroud doesn’t think PUBG is esports ready because it’s a hard genre to get completely right
So what games does he think are killing it from an esports perspective right now?
‘I still think Counter Strike is definitely up there. I feel like the leagues had a negative effect on Counter Strike as an esport. They started to branch away from Twitch, which in turn lost viewers, which then lead to more people left the game because of that – it was a ripple effect.
‘Despite that, I feel like it’s still up at the top. I’m not too familiar with League of Legends, so I can’t really comment there. I’m more of an FPS kind of guy. I actually watch the Overwatch League even though I don’t play it. It seems to be really, really different. I don’t how it’s going to play out yet, but its had a great first season. We’ll see what happens in the future.’
Shroud doesn’t have any direct connections with anyone on the PUBG dev team, but his suggestions for improvements do sometimes filter through to them from conversations he has with those at the company in public relations.
‘Honestly I’d like to see PUBG Corp engage with the community more. It doesn’t have to be talking to streamers or holding formal discussions. It can just be simple Reddit AMAs in which they talk about future updates, get feedback from the PUBG community, and just interact on a general level. There have been times in the past where an update has been introduced and it’s been widely disliked by the community.
‘A good example is the ping system. When it was introduced into the game, there was an immediate backlash from the community. If they had just talked to the Internet beforehand, they could have found that balance and had a better gauge on whether the community would like the update or not. They just need to talk more; it doesn’t matter where or on what channel.’
Shroud is critical of the game and the developers, but that’s only because he wants to see the game do well. As someone who streams it every day to tens of thousands of viewers, he clearly loves it, despite its problems. PUBG Corp clearly don’t mind his criticisms either, and are keen to promote him.
Along with Guy Beahm, aka Dr DisRespect, Shroud was one of the first to get his own custom weapon skins in the game. They were sold on the in-game store, alongside the standard loot crates and other available cosmetics.
‘The skin sales were really surprising, in a good way. The fact that I even got the opportunity to get involved was great. They also sold really well, specifically on the Steam market. Once the market opened up to Asia towards the end it went crazy. Sales were fantastic and I’m incredibly grateful to be given the opportunity – hopefully I can do more.’
Along with revenue from streaming on Twitch and making money from those skin sales, he has other sponsors too. He recently set up a full sponsorship with HyperX, and uses the company’s peripherals on stream. He said: ‘Even before I had a full sponsorship with HyperX, all of the peripherals I was using – be it keyboard, mouse, or headset – were HyperX anyway, so it kinda made sense.’
Shroud is one of the most popular streamers on Twitch, and even has his own weapon skins
A lot of people try to make a living streaming on Twitch, but not many succeed. Shroud says it’s not enough to just be entertaining anymore. He puts the switch in the wants of the viewers down to the rise of the battle royale genre.
‘I feel like Twitch is changing with regards to what people want from streams. Before they used to want a balance of high-tier gameplay in conjunction with the stream being entertaining.
‘However, now I feel like viewers are straying away from entertainment and there’s more of a focus put on, “wow, this guy’s really good at battle royale; I’m going to watch him”. I think that the battle royale format as a whole has had that effect.
‘Look at Fortnite. If someone is really, really good at Fortnite they’re going to get a lot of viewers. Similarly, if someone is really, really good at Battle Royale, they’re also going to get a lot of viewers. Ultimately, I think that the emergence of battle royale into the mainstream has significantly changed the Twitch landscape and what viewers want from the streams they watch.’
Speaking of Fortnite, which Shroud has dabbled in at times, he says that Epic Games knows its players very well, and knows the direction the game is going in. Meanwhile, ‘PUBG is still trying to find its own niche, but it’ll get there.’
He also points to the game’s accessibility and how it is free to play as the reasons behind its rise to the top of gaming. It has certainly helped out Tyler ‘Ninja’ Blevins, who is one of those extremely skilled streamers that Shroud talks about.
Of course, there’s still a market out there for the ‘entertaining streamer.’ The ones who make their living off of over the top reactions and larger than life personalities.
‘They’re great! You need every sort of streamer nowadays to accommodate every viewers’ demands and tastes – everyone’s different,’ said Shroud. ‘Twitch has so much varied content, and that’s part of what makes it so popular. At the end of the day, not everyone likes competitive gaming. Twitch needs that.
‘I mean, I personally love it. When I’m winding down from my own stream, I don’t really care to watch the best player or anything, I’m more interested in the streams that are really funny and geared towards pure entertainment.’
A regular sight in Shroud’s PUBG games: Dozens of stream snipers hoping for some air time
Shroud certainly knows his PUBG, although it’s not quite the same PUBG as the rest of us are used to. Since his games go out live, the majority of his games are filled with stream snipers – people who queue up at the same time and find him in the game just to get noticed. I asked him if they ever get annoying.
‘It depends on what level the stream-snipers go to a lot of the time. Sometimes stream-snipers add a lot of content, like Wadu or Banana Man. But honestly, most of the time they’re kind of annoying. They just make the game that much harder unnecessarily. Especially when you’re just trying to have fun with your friends and play the game normally.
‘I can never play the game normally, ever. In fact, I don’t even know what it’s even like to play the game normally, I have no idea, I’ve been streaming it for so long. For the most part, they’re more annoying, but they definitely do add some content, so I can’t complain or hate on it too much.’
I asked, and no, Wadu Hek has never said more than those two words to Shroud.
The texts, information and opinions published in the space are the sole responsibility of the author. Therefore, they do not necessarily correspond to the E-Sports Plus’ point of view.
Os textos, informações e opiniões publicados neste espaço são de total responsabilidade do(a) autor(a). Logo, não correspondem, necessariamente, ao ponto de vista do E-Sports Plus.