The competitive shooter Paladins has enjoyed tremendous success since it released on Steam Early Access last fall, and it continues to grow despite how it’s still in Early Access. The game was featured at the Hi-Rez Expo in January alongside Smite, Hi-Rez Studios’ flagship esports game, where eight teams from around the world competed for a $150,000 prize.
In August, Hi-Rez Studios took its esports plans for Paladins even further with the Paladins Premier League (PPL), a top-tier competitive platform that was announced as the game hit 15 million players. Paladins has the honor of being the second game after Counter-Strike to have a league sanctioned by the World Esports Association (WESA) despite how it’s technically still in development.
“Our league structure supports minimum salaries for players and also shares league revenues with participating team organizations,” Hi-Rez Studios COO and co-founder Todd Harris told AListDaily. “After announcing the league, we were thrilled to see participation announcements by 10 of the strongest endemic organizations in esports: EnVyUS, Fnatic, G2 Esports, mousesports, Natus Vincere, Ninjas in Pyjamas, Renegades, SK Gaming, Splyce and Virtus.pro.”
Endemic partners aren’t the only ones to take an interest in the new league. Facebook announced that it would become the exclusive livestream partner for the PPL. That means that the Paladins community will receive live coverage and community-based features on Facebook Live that encourage interaction and will ultimately bring players closer together. Plans include a weekly Paladins Esports Show on Watch, Facebook’s newly launched platform for shows, which will present news, insights and analysis of the competitive scene.
“As a community-driven developer, we try to meet our players where they are,” said Harris, explaining how the partnership with Facebook came together. “We saw many of our players organically coming together via Facebook groups, and they were talking with each other mainly about champion strategies, how to form teams and where to find tournaments. So, there was clearly an appetite to play competitively and we thought we could really amplify this activity with a bit of structure and support.
“So, we created our own Facebook Group called the ‘Paladins Global Series’ for people who wanted to enter grassroots open tournaments that would be organized and broadcast by Hi-Rez. Within one month, that group grew from zero to over 30,000 people, and we had hundreds of teams forming. There is now this very large group of Paladins competitors on Facebook, which can feed into the highest tier of competition being the Paladins Premier League. That made the Facebook platform partnership a natural fit.”
The partnership runs deep, as Facebook integration is already built into the game. Harris said that Hi-Rez plans to make further use of integration by enabling one-button livestreaming and ways to discover and view Paladins livestreamed content.
When it comes to bringing esports fans to Facebook compared to Twitch or YouTube, Harris said that highly engaged esports viewers are on multiple platforms, but what makes the partnership with Facebook unique is that the vision is not only around viewership, but participation.
“We provide a comprehensive path for a player to go from casual, to competitive amateur, and all the way to professional if they have the talent,” said Harris. “A player’s passion for Paladins might start with a conversation with a friend or joining a Facebook Group, and we can present them an opportunity to join a team and compete against the very best in their region or potentially the world.”
Facebook will help bring together amateur players and give them a path to complete at a professional level through Facebook Groups. Harris said that Premier League content will be promoted across various social channels in addition to how Facebook users can discover videos from the Watch tab—an alternative to the news feed notification.
Harris said that Paladins made for a better choice for this partnership than Smite because it’s a newer game that is growing faster than any of Hi-Rez’s previous games, now having over 17 million registered accounts. But that’s not to say that Smite’s thriving esports scene is slowing down, as its players earned about $3 million last year from competitions.
Even though Paladins is still in Early Access we wanted to serve the competitive community with a robust league and strong partners, and we feel great about the inaugural PPL season starting this fall,” said Harris.