The PES League provided football fans with a thrilling competition, as venues like Liverpool FC's Anfield, Barcelona's Nou Camp, and Arsenal's Emirates Stadium hosted parts of the action, and we talked with Konami's Lennart Bobzien about the upcoming year for the league, and what's in store.
You just announced the new PES League World Tour as the official UEFA Champions League video game competition. You've been the official football game for some time now, but what does this expanded collaboration mean for PES and your League? How is UEFA getting involved in the competition?
We are delighted to work with such a football organisation on our esports competition. This includes their support throughout the whole season digitally but also physical. We are always aiming to expand the audience for PES League and the PES brand and without a doubt UEFA's followership is a huge opportunity for us to reach out to.
How are new partner clubs (such as Valencia or the Milan teams) collaborating? How are you approaching established esports teams (football-rooted or not) which have PES players or teams?
It is great to work with football clubs hand in hand! Right now, PES League World Tour is a competition which is tailored to our PES players. However, if there are clubs that are interested in exploring esports we are their first contact to support and consult them in their endeavour.
We now have one single season (instead of two like last year) and three regional rounds (Asia, Americas, Europe) seemingly allowing people from all around the world to qualify for any of those continents. Is it actually open to everyone? What's the reasoning behind this new approach? How do you think it'll improve the competition?
We actually have three seasons this year and each of them will have their global offline final taking place in Tokyo (Round 1), Americas (Round 2) and Europe (Round 3). The qualification is open to everyone who plays PES 2018 on PlayStation consoles or on PC. Last year we saw a huge success in hosting offline events at amazing venues. This was highly appreciated by our PES League players who stated this was a once in a lifetime experience. For this year, we've included one more offline event to give more players the opportunity, to travel to new exciting places to have the chance to play their favourite football game against the best players around the world.
The prize pool still seems very juicy and better spread, but also the big main prize doesn't sound as astonishing as last year's $200,000. How do you think this new share will capture players' interest?
We are always looking into ways to improve PES League year on year. Last year the prize money was huge for one single player. This year we want to reward every player who attends one of our global offline events. Therefore we had to adapt the prize money slightly. Moreover, with the upcoming co-op competitions, we will add additional prize to those teams as well.
The new co-op mode has been proved popular online already, and it'll have a significant protagonism within this year's League. Are teams limited to three players or are you allowing couples as well? How do you think this will impact the whole team culture within the PES League, including signings, sponsors, coverage and other aspects typical from other team-based esports?
The new Co-op mode is a huge opportunity for us and the players to build real teams. Whereas at the 1v1 competition one player is fighting his way to the top on his own, a real team is working hand in hand to become the best team in the world. Similar to real sports, the teamwork aspect will be more important than ever. We will see a lot of emotions from winning teams, but also teams that just missed the next round.
Last year we had Camp Nou, Anfield, and finally London and Cardiff. What can we expect this time in terms of in-person events at regional venues? Are you considering America as well?
Americas will host the PES League World Tour event for Round 2. Rest assured we are working on some exciting venues. More will be announced soon.
Speaking about America, there's a huge PES community in Latin America, and it seems they appreciate this year's effort with the game (besides, last year's winner, Guifera, was a Brazilian young guy). How do you see the competition growing in America?
We've always noticed the high competitiveness and skill level in the South American region. Guifera, our current PES World Champion, actually just signed a contract with the Brazilian football club Santos FC. With the current champion being from Brazil, I imagine more and more players from South American countries want to follow Guifera's path and to become the best players in the world. But you should never underestimate our Asian and European players who proofed to be on equal level with our players from South America.
You're also introducing a MyClub category. How will that work?
The myClub mode is the most popular mode in the PES series. Therefore we want to offer our players the opportunity to compete against each other with their own teams. Right now we are running trials and depending on the players' result he will participate in a higher or lower division to fight for the crown of the myClub PES League champion.
The feedback for Random Selection matches seems pretty positive so far. When PES 2018 was unveiled at E3, we understood there would be a Random Selection category as well for the League, but that seems gone now. Was it dropped? Do you see it potentially changing the competition in the future? Do you think it's more fair or exciting?
Random Selection is a great mode which is huge fun when playing with your friends at home. We are still looking into options how we can include this mode into esports competitions and will keep you posted. As soon as it comes to winning prize money, we want to keep the competition as balanced as possible. Therefore we've introduced the balanced stats this year, which means whichever team you choose to play with, will have equal stats than the opposition.
Finally, in terms of gameplay, considering the new dribbling options, the added physicality to the 1v1 encounters, or the slightly tweaked ball physics, what's the feedback so far on PES 2018 from the pro players? Do you think we'll watch even more spectacular matches? And speaking of spectacle, are we finally getting a spectator mode to enhance broadcasting and livestreams?
Some of the PES League players attended our press tour before the launch of the game to get a first hands on. The response was hugely positive. I'm confident we will see lots of exciting and breathtaking PES League matches during our offline events which will show the beauty of PES and real football.