Ubisoft wants to take Penny Arcade’s Omegathon concept on tour with Next Level
Ubisoft is launching a new initiative called The Next Level, a tournament series which will pit average gamers against each other in events designed to offer eSports-style competition without all of the hardcore inaccessibilty that often typifies traditional eSports like StarCraft and League of Legends.
Rather than hardcore fans obsessing over the top .01% of players in one specific game, The Next Level is designed to randomly select gamers for competition in a wide variety of modern games.
If you're thinking this sounds an awful lot like the Omegathon then you're absolutely right, as Ubisoft lists Penny Arcade's Omegathon as one of their chief inspirations. The idea is to offer spectator gaming that you can enjoy without all the prior knowledge needed to watch eSports.
“There are some parts of eSports that make it hard to bring in people I know who are gamers,” he said. “It's not always accessible for everyone. So when we talk about StarCraft matches and League of Legends matches, it takes a fair amount of explanation and understanding to appreciate the fine moments of combat that you're talking about.”
“For us, the focus is hot games, ones that are unreleased,” said Josh Milligan, Ubisoft's senior director of player engagement. “It's really about bringing together a mixture of different genres, different platforms, different audiences. So where eSports has maximized what you can do for PC hardcore gaming around a few titles, our [outlook] is how do we reach all of the other platforms, the audience, and focusing on new, cool content.”
The bit about the games being new and unreleased is important for a number of reasons. For starters, a big part of the idea behind The Next Level is that players won't be able to come into the game highly trained. It's not about players maximizing their skills through hours of training.
It's about being a well-rounded gamer and enjoying a wide variety. And of course, it's also a marketing opportunity as these games will be live streamed to viewers around the world on both the Twitch.tv homepage and the Penny Arcade PAX stream.
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“Our idea was, how do we create something that works for a lot of the rest of the people that aren't going to really engage in that [hardcore PC] area,” Milligan said.
The solution was to use a smattering of games across all genres. This works for two reasons. Not only does it allow them to keep competition light and fun, but it's also about working with other companies.
It's almost odd to see publishers willing to work with their competitors, but Milligan said that Ubisoft would be entirely OK with a Next Level event that only featured games from other companies.
Milligan said that it doesn't make sense to continuously compete with other companies in genres that Ubisoft isn't involved in at the time.
For example, if Ubisoft doesn't have a current shooter on the market then it makes sense for them to work with another company with The Next Level. That way, Ubisoft shares the fans of the other games with the company that brings a shooter to the event, and the fans of that shooter are exposed to Ubisoft's games and genres. He said they see it as a win-win for the entire industry.
“The thing is, right now, no publisher has every genre at any given time,” he said.
Gamers aren't generally dedicated to just one genre so Milligan said they essentially have nothing to lose by bringing in another company's game in a genre they aren't competing in. They're simply cross polinating their users with their competitors.
“Ultimately, I think the industry wins when people are interacting and having fun in our types of games in general,” he said.
Not every game featured will necessarily be built from the ground up for competition though. For some games, Ubisoft will have to get a little creative about how the games will work. In one example, Rayman Legends could be about seeing who could collect the most lums (which are like coins in Super Mario Bros) in two minutes. Another example involved letting players race to find a flag in Far Cry 3.
The competition will premier this week at PAX, but Ubisoft has plans to take this concept far beyond. They're already plotting appearances at New York Comic Con, MAG Fest, as well as PAX East, and with hopes for online-style events and local events as well in between.
At PAX the event will begin on Day 1 with registration for the raffle that will select competitors at the Ubisoft booth. The show will begin at 11am. More information can be found at the official site.