PUBG Mobile: Report from PUBG Club Open Finals in Berlin

Following on from the PMSC tournament back in December, I was invited to the next major tournament in the far closer location of Berlin. I thought it was a good chance to see how competitive gaming tournaments play out in mainland Europe before I’m no longer allowed in, so I went along to the PUBG Club Open Finals, and this is what I saw.

I still kind of felt like a tourist. At this level of play, it doesn’t feel like these kinds of events are for a general gaming audience, but rather for a specific niche within a specific niche of a specific niche. Whilst the tournament took place in Berlin, I got the sense that it was chosen mostly as neutral ground. There weren’t any local teams competing, and most of the audience in attendance were travelling to support there home team. There was particularly strong attendance from Indonesian, Indian and Chinese supporters.

Whilst the stakes were high for all teams (the winning team get to take home a cool $180k grand prize), Team Soul from India had challenges before they even arrived at the tournament. I spoke to their team leader Soul Mortal about their Visa ordeal, during the second day of the tournament after they’d had a bit of a winning streak:


You guys had a great day out there today. How are you feeling?

Soul Mortal: We are feeling amazing. We had this plan to be consistent today, apart from the first game we have been consistent as planned.

Anything you’re going to change tomorrow, or stick to the same strategy?

Soul Mortal: Will depend upon the other teams, we’ll go back and review some of how they played today

One thing you guys have got over the other teams is the fan support. Every time you make a good play, you can hear the crowd cheering, how does that feel?

Soul Mortal: It’s amazing. The Indian support is immense, they’ll support us, no matter what.

How have you built up this fanbase?

Soul Mortal: I began playing games on Youtube even before PUBG, and now the whole team is creating videos on Youtube. I started out playing 2D games like Mini Militia, but it really took off once I started playing PUBG.

I know you had a rough journey getting here, there was a situation where you didn’t know if you’d be given travel visas, or if they’d arrive in time. What’s the story there.

Soul Mortal: Our visas got rejected two times, mostly because of some documentation. Each team was provided with the same documentation, but I guess for India they require more documents. After we got these additional documents, our visas were granted on the third application.

We were treated to a performance by Alan Walker of his new theme tune for the game. A$AP Rocky was supposed to be there too, but he was busy being detained in Sweden at the time (he has since been released)

I didn’t actually recognise the name Alan Walker, it’s been at least five years since my music taste was anything close to current, but yeah I totally do know that song he did that has 2.4 billion plays on youtube. I had a chat with him about his background in music and games, and how they overlap.

Is gaming something you’ve always been interested in, or is it a recent interest, what’s the story there.

Alan Walker: Back in the day, I grew up with gaming. Sooner or later, I started making music at the same time as I was trying to program games like Runescape and other stuff. I was into java, HTML, PHP, different kinds of programming. I think that’s had a big part in my progress to this day. I consider myself a gamer and a musician.

Any particular games that you really loved the music of when you were younger?

Alan Walker: The one that I remember the most is probably Tetris.

Oh sure.

Alan Walker: There’s been a lot of cool gaming soundtracks, Halo, Modern Warfare, a bunch of different ones.

Are you a competitive PUBG player?

Alan Walker: I’m mostly just a casual PUBG player, there was a time in New York that was the first time I got involved with professional play.

One of the great things about music is that it can bring people together, from all sorts of backgrounds. If you look around here, there are teams from all over attending. How do you feel about music and games bringing people together?

Alan Walker: I think it’s amazing. I figured that out back in 2014, when I put out my first song ‘fade’ and it got really big internationally, so people from all over the world were enjoying music together. It’s the same with gaming, where it can reach across borders to connect people.

Highlight of the tournament for me was easily this crafty bit of play by MkKskr from Top eSports, who when outnumbered four to one, was able to take out an entire team. Not just any team either, it was RRQ, widely regarded at the favourite going in.

Perhaps buoyed by that astonishing play, Top eSports continued to rise up the table to eventually secure first place, along with the $180k prize money. I sat down with them for a chat (through a translator) about their success.

You beat many teams, but which teams were the toughest opponent in this tournament?

SQF is our biggest rival. Outside the game, we’re good friends, but they’re a strong competitor in the game.

What’s the first thing you’re going to buy with the prize money?

Three of us will use the money for travel, we’ve been under a lot of pressure for this tournament, so we’re planning to go to Turkey and take a hot air balloon ride. One of us is a big fan of fashion so it’s going to be new clothes and shoes for him.

Did you see any strategies from other teams that will change how you play in future games?

We all concentrated on our own game, but we will recap the matches later with our coach. 

How do your friends and families feel about you being professional gamers?

All of our parents are very supportive of us, even from the very beginning. Every time we have some problems or difficulties, and we want to give up, our families are there for us, helping to focus on our gaming. Our parents were a little bit worried about us taking this long trip, but still very supportive.

There have been times when we’ve been on the edge of emotional collapse, and our coach helps us return to our normal state of mind, and get back into the game.

We’re also very thankful for the constant support from our fans, both inside and outside of China.

And that wrapped up the tournament. I’m still left somewhat puzzled by the economics of it all. We know the game is generating huge sums of money from players spending money on cosmetics and unlocks, but I’m not totally sure I can fully see what hosting probably rather expensive tournaments in Berlin achieves, when it seems like the audience for these tournaments are not predominantly in the Berlin area.

Perhaps the international setting is more about seeking to sustain the competitive scene in the regions where it’s already flourishing, to add a bit of prestige to proceedings, and give teams trying to ascend to tournament level something to aspire to. There were thankfully no power cuts this time around, and the whole event went without any technical problems.

I still feel like somewhat of an outsider to this competitive scene, but there’s certainly a lot of passion and excitement coming from the players and supporters.

Disclosure: Travel, accommodation and meals were provided by Tencent.

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