JoelSophie: This is my best PUBG experience yet

We are continuing posting the interviews from Starseries I-league PUBG lan. The next one on the line is the Korean commentator JoelSophie.

Seungmin “JoelSophie” Lee is a Korean commentator and interpreter at OGN. After the announcement that StarLadder and ImbaTV will be making a tournament in PLAYERUNKNOWN'S BATTLEGROUNDS, he decided to join the English broadcast team. We talked with Joel about the PUBG-scene and his debut at an international tournament StarSeries i-League PUBG.

This is your first ever international event. How does it feel to be here?

This is my first time to ever cast outside OGN. Even in Korea, I haven’t really casted with any other broadcasting companies. Therefore, it feels weird that I am casting, speaking, and essentially in front of a camera that is not in OGN. It’s absolutely unique. Right after StarLadder made their announcement for this event, I contacted them, asking whether I could work with them. I expressed my confidence to StarLadder that I had what it takes to increase the quality of the broadcast even more. I then received a reply that we would be working together. Getting that reply hit me emotionally. It suddenly came to me that this would be my first ever travel to do an esports event. It was incredibly flattering as well as humbling.

StarLadder brought in a group of talents who were generally new to the casting scene. The current maturity state of many popular esports titles means that young, talented casters have very little opportunities to show themselves on the big stage. It’s great to have these talented colleagues who now can have a genuine opportunity to prove themselves to a larger audience, and I hope that many of these guys can transition casting into greater roles with a successful performance at StarLadder.

I also really enjoyed Ukraine and Kiev as a whole. The people here are some of the kindest I have ever met. Coming from the very urbanized Seoul, Korea, the incredible hospitality I felt here almost makes me want to provide the same towards others.

Coming here to do an international event and to make that debut at StarLadder is an absolute dream that came true for me.

This is also a debut for StarLadder when it comes to PUBG. How do you think of us so far?

I am blessed to have really good teammates here at StarLadder. The guys at the team are very talented, and their will to help one another look better is absolutely incredible. My co-caster is Moses, and having such a knowledgeable commentator like him makes my job a lot easier. I can dive into very deep questions, and he would provide answers with incredible depth of knowledge. Being a part of such a talented team makes me feel like my international debut is indeed a successful one, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The production is also a very important topic of discussion. StarLadder has been in this scene for a very long time, and so has my home company, OGN, back in Korea. Everyone at OGN are very familiar with StarLadder, especially because the two companies have worked together on many projects in the past. With OGN also providing coverage for this PUBG event, it’s really nice to have this relationship between these two wonderful companies.

I have heard of StarLadder in the past. Knowing they have such a deep history, I knew that production standards would be very high, but I had to witness it myself. As soon as I arrived and got ready for the broadcast, every moment thereafter was a pleasant surprise, one after the other. The biggest thing that I felt working with StarLadder was that this company wasn’t all about commercializing.

The people who work here, the ones behind the broadcast, and just everything about this place allowed me to realize that these people aren’t in it for the money. It wasn’t about meeting industrial or commercial goals nor was it about meeting the standards of their sponsors. Every people here, every single one, were working solely through their own individual passion.

The initial plans I had for coming into this tournament for how I was going to approach myself were all thrown out the window once I had realized what these people here at StarLadder were going to make with their PUBG broadcast. Now, I’m just busy trying to perform to my very best every day just so I don’t put a stain on the polished work that StarLadder had worked so hard to create. I am working incredibly hard to try and get as close to matching the level of passion that all these people have shown me and impressed me so much with.

I believe that is what separates StarLadder from any other broadcast companies that have produced PUBG in the past. I can say that this was my best PUBG experience yet. With PUBG esports still at its primitive stage, I see a huge potential with what StarLadder can do with PUBG in the future. I just want to tell all the producers to always maintain that passion. I can’t wait to see what they produce in the future.

Before coming to Ukraine, I wanted to help make the broadcast better, but now I’m just humbly wanting to try and match the incredibly high standards they have set for themselves through all their hard work.

In Europe, PUBG is seeing constant growth. Although the game itself is popular, it doesn’t get as many views as previous titans, such as Dota 2 or CS:GO. What’s the situation like in Korea?

Well, the viewership of Korean PUBG right now isn’t anywhere near comparable to the likes of League of Legends nor even Overwatch in terms of esports. The game itself is extremely popular for the actual player base, but as it stands at the moment, not many people of that larger player base are even aware that competitive PUBG is in full swing with the three giants (OGN, SPOTV & AfreecaTV) running full PUBG Leagues as their main title. I believe that letting people know that the broadcast is there and giving them the option to either watch them or not would be our first objective. Online promotions of broadcasts aren’t highly active when it comes to reaching out to the general public, and I would like to see more resources being put into that. Also, having Korean teams participate in many international tournaments like OGN Entus is doing with this StarLadder tournament and having them perform well should also create excitement for the viewers to want to watch the domestic leagues held in Korea even more.

Before arriving, I made predictions as to what the viewership would be like for this event. For Korea, even having big teams bring their fanbase to the stream, the general peak was around 3,000, so I was initially expecting around 5,000 for StarLadder PUBG. When I shared my thoughts with the crew, they very much looked at me with an expression as if they expected much more.

Especially without big promotions nor significant tweets online for fans to take notice, I had never thought that I would see the 27k peak for the English stream straight from Day 1 and more than 8.5 million for the Chinese viewers. Although speculations are that the number doesn’t truly reflect the actual human count, even having it increase to 11 million on Day 2 was a continuous surprise.

I am now expecting that viewer count would exceed 30k once we get to the Finals. This makes me excited: to cast on the final day in front of so many viewers really boosts my adrenaline. There’s no pressure, just excitement!

I want to thank all the people who helped me grow in the esports industry. Previously, I was just a regular lad with a regular job, and it was through key individuals that allowed me to explore this industry. In addition, so many people helped me to develop as a talent that I am today. I’ve been in this industry for little less than two years, and I’ve seen such a rapid progress. It happened all too quickly, and I want to thank all the people who helped make it happen.