Is Sanhok competitive? PUBG Esports will add the map ahead of Phase 3

Courtesy of PUBG Corp.
Courtesy of PUBG Corp. /

Sanhok, a map blanketed by dense tropical foliage and known for its fast-paced gameplay, will make its competitive debut in Phase 3 of PUBG Esports.

Released in late June of last year, Sanhok provided players with a fast-paced map, a quarter of the size of the current competitive maps, Erangel and Miramar. Stated in the announcement, Sankhok was the most played map in the last year. However, for each reason PUBG provided to add Sanhok into the competitive map queue, the community seemed to have another two reasons why it shouldn’t be.

The PUBG Esports team appears to have focused on some very important questions when approaching this decision.

"Will players be rewarded of good skill level?Is the RNG element of the map too strong?How will the meta change with the addition of Sanhok?Will the meta change based on the skill level of the players?How long will it take for the players to adapt to the new map?"

They hope this focus, paired with their adjustments, will result in the following:

"Map diversityEsports have been run on two maps (Erangel and Miramar) for more than a year. Our aim is to diversify league structure and team strategies by adding a new map.New gameplayErangel and Miramar use the same Blue Zone settings, which resulted in similar match pattern on both maps. However, Sanhok uses different Blue Zone settings, making the gameplay noticeably different. We believe that adding Sanhok will bring interesting gameplay into the competitive ecosystem.Faster game paceSanhok is a relatively small map (4×4 size), and teams do not need to make long rotations for early game looting. You can reach most of your destinations from jumping out of the airplane, which means that initial battles take place that much earlier. Average match time in Sanhok is 23 minutes, about seven minutes shorter than the average match time in Erangel or Miramar. Players will need to stay fully focused on Sanhok with this faster game pace.More team fightsDue to the characteristics of Sanhok map, it is difficult to take out an opponent from distance and there are many ways for players to cover themselves. This makes it less likely for teams to lose members in rotation. We expect more intense team fights between full squads."

It’s also mentioned that the team worked with “top-level players” and took into consideration their feedback on this idea and the adjustments being made to settings. Adding a new map is no small task, and based on the reactions from players throughout the competitive scene, this comes across as a blindsiding move, just prior to Phase 3 of the season.

The reaction from players across every region was strong, but typically a change isn’t nearly as bad as it’s perceived to be immediately. With that being said, this is what some of the pro players are saying:

Currently, the initial tweet that broke this news from Jake Sin, Director of Esports at PUBG, has more replies than it does likes. Those in the minority believe that the map provides the league and the current meta with more diversity.

The team believes that some calculated adjustments to the map’s settings will make it a viable option in the competitive landscape. While it will undoubtedly require some time to get used to, through scrimmages and the opening weeks of the next phase, I’m not as quick to write off Sanhok competitively. Selfishly, the thought of the world’s very best PUBG players dropping into a map loaded with interesting scenes for chaotic fights is fairly appealing from a viewer perspective.

I understand and believe PUBG does as well, that the integrity of a competitive map should be at the forefront. That said, the core issue players appear to have with this announcement is its implementation. It’s unfair to the players, teams, and coaches to have something like this revealed just weeks before the start of Phase 3, not to mention that the map can’t be individually queued for in public matches thanks to a recent tweak in Patch 4.1.

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Despite being played less often than Erangel and Miramar, Sanhok will clearly play a role in the success and failure of teams in a critical Phase 3 campaign. Who will adapt and manage this new meta? And which teams will be stumped by the map and suffer as a result?