K-JI: Welcome to the beginning of what will be a historic and exciting competition, live from the Nagoya Dome. I`m your master of ceremonies, K-JI alongside the man with the plan, Saikou Hakkin. The PSU 2013 Marathon Trophy Tournament is an hour away from starting and we`re here to bring you the most comprehensive, in-depth analysis of the competition. Are you as excited as the fans are, Saikou?
Saikou: I`m more excited than the fans. We`re here where we belong, bringing the network the gaming action news it deserves.
K-JI: You participated in one of these events in the past, can you explain how the event works for those who are unaware.
Saikou: Gladly, K-JI. This is a marathon event. The participants are competing both as individuals and as teams. Each individual will have a trophy score of 50,000 points to reach. Bronze trophies are worth 15 points, silvers are 30, golds 90, and the most sought after platinums are worth 180. The first person to reach 50,000 is the winner in their bracket, followed by second and third place.
K-JI: How will this affect the teams?
Saikou: The teams have to reach the combined point total of all their members. For example, Eurocorp has five members so they must reach 250,000 trophy points as a team. The distinction is very important. Only the team must reach the goal. One person could get every point and the team would win.
K-JI: This cutthroat format will keep things interesting from week to week, won`t it? Members on the same team will be their own greatest enemy.
Saikou: Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, but what happens when they are the same? The new format was introduced because last year’s marathon had problems with competitors giving up once they realized they could never hope to reach the leaders of their brackets. Now even if they are being outplayed as an individual they can still be motivated to win the team competition as your team is your bracket.
K-JI: Thanks for the breakdown. This year we have a record number of participants ready to put their mettle to the most mentally grueling test there is in e-sports. If the last event is an indicator, this will not be over before the new year, proving even the losers of the event have more spine than the average gamer.
Saikou: Last year was full of compelling, interesting storylines that had the fans on their seats. The epic duel between Jenkem and Frost lasted for two months before Jenkem was able to put the final nail in the coffin, and eventually win the entire event. Lasombra and Badwolf were neck and neck for the longest time in their bracket before Lasombra was able to come back from behind and leave everyone in the dust. Let us not also forget the showdown between DJKeyser and Diddle who dazzled everyone with their high level skill, resorting to only being able to platinum high level games as their supply of Hannah Montanas were dried up.
K-JI: Some of last year`s participants are returning while others are completely new. Let us breakdown the teams and their members, as each team has been created randomly. These are not prebuilt teams of gamers who knew they would be teaming up together before the event started.
Saikou: First we have the Eurocorp, Captained by Lasombra who finished in 6th place in last year’s event. He`ll be leading a team that on paper has a lot of potential to make an impact but thanks to the luck of the draw two of their members will have to deal with internal discord as Tim slightly edged Kyle in last month’s June Cup event. Will the bad blood keep them from working effectively as a unit? Only time will tell.
K-JI: Individually the team is balanced. Reading over their stats, in addition to the 6th place and cup win you already mentioned, Fenix has a couple Grand Prix wins and Ghost has an all-star selection from 2010.
Saikou: The team is balanced and has the depth but Ghost will be the lynch pin of the team. His heyday was in 2010 and his form has been slipping since then. Individually the bookies have him as a long-shot at best to win the individual title in his bracket but if he can regain a little of his old form then it takes the pressure off the team.
K-JI: New Epoch is looking to make a name for themselves and is one of two rookie teams in the event. This one is brimming with more potential, especially being led by team captain Mondofish who has a few semi-final finishes this year already.
Saikou: This is the most interesting team, because there is always going to be that one rookie who puts on a performance as a statement to be the next one. With Mondofish already poised at the door, he could be the one to be this year’s breakout star. But don`t count out Chille and WilltoGame. Both are fierce competitors and both will be driving their team to win. Their unknown teammates, making their debut in today`s event will be their X-factor. Are Lee and Gaglaush legitimate contenders? No one knows since there is no film of them.
K-JI: The Outsiders are primed as the favourites to win the team title due to some lucky draws by the organizers. Of the four competitors from last year’s event to partake this year, three of them are in the same team.
Saikou: This will be the bracket and team to watch. Brenden and Ace were 7th and 8th respectively last year, and Jakintosh came in 14th. All three know and experienced the mental grind, the trials and tribulations, and will now feel the agony of expectation. They have the experience and now it is about putting it to work for them with a few inexperienced but highly competitive teammates.
K-JI: Looking over some of the members of The Establishment, there is not a lot separating them from The Outsiders on paper. Lethal and Beast hold numerous championships each, and actually more than their counterparts Ace and Brenden. What made the bookies choose The Outsiders to win over The Establishment?
Saikou: While it is true Lethal and Beast have more titles they are all singles titles,. Ace and Brenden have the marathon experience and also team experience, especially Ace winning the 2012 May Cup. Put them against each other in a singles knockout event and the edge easily goes to Lethal and Beast but that is not the kind of event we are in.
K-JI: What do Lethal and Beast need to do for their team in order to win?
Saikou: Individually they are going to be at the top of the charts and that will greatly help their team. What they need to worry about is stamina. Burnout will be an inevitable factor. If you will remember from last year the hard fall from grace of Frost that completely shocked the format, when he couldn`t even get a Hannah Montana trophy run going. They need to be wary of it happening to them and ration some easy trophies for that inevitable burnout not to be as devastating to them individually and team-wise
K-JI: Finally we have the Neo-Collective. Supragaz is looking to avenge a finals defeat against Lethal in the March Cup. Individually he is one of the favourites, but does he have the team to get him the trophy? He has only one established pro in MedicDog while his four teammates have been posted to this event by their pro teams as a proving ground.
Saikou: Sometimes, pro teams want to weed out the weak members by blooding them in a marathon. Even though they are not expected to win, for the manager it is about evaluating talent and determination. To quote Max, it is all about a steel will. Supra needs a steel will and a strong spine to carry his team. If he slips up, then the pressure is on MedicDog, an individual who has to use this event to prove his two straight finals choke jobs in the January and February Grand Prixs are now an afterthought.
K-JI: We’ve only focused on the team format so let us change the pace and look at competitors from an individual standpoint. As discussed each person’s team is also their bracket but there is also an overall points champion. What is this third trophy about?
Saikou: Due to the nature of the event not everyone is going to finish at the same time. The competition does not finish until each bracket is won and there is a team winner. If there is a slow bracket then there has to be an incentive for those who have finished theirs to keep going. Whoever has the most points at the end of the competition, regardless of who won the team or individual bracket, is crowned the overall points champion. Think of it as the Art Ross trophy in hockey or the Golden Boot in the World Cup. We could see three separate competitors win three different titles, or one person winning all three. That is the beauty and intrigue of the format.
K-JI: Give us your top five gamers to watch during the first round from an individual standpoint; one from each team.
Saikou: Beast from The Collective has a chip on his shoulder. Being overlooked as captain had him go off to our backstage reporter in German. We could only assume it was to get around the censors but what it tells me is he is motivated. Expect him to post a huge first round score to send a message to Lethal that he is here to win.
14th place has been irking Jakintosh for the past year. He is a proud individual and admitted in an interview he lost focus after a disappointing finish. The question for him is can he put his money where his mouth is. Saying he is going to get motivated is one thing but actually doing it is another. The first couple rounds will tell us if he is really motivated or if it is time for him to finally retire.
The rookie team, aka New Epoch, is full of rookies but Chille needs to have some ice water in his veins to compete with the big boys. He has been making a name for himself in the smaller leagues and the Grand Prix circuit, but this is a proving ground. The managers of the big teams have scouts here. A good few rounds could land him a nice developmental contract with an established pro team.
Eurocorp is so balanced that the obvious person to highlight is Lasombra from being the veteran of the group for this format. He was 6th place last year but if you analysis the film he is a bursty player. He either throws up a big week or does nothing. There is no middle ground for him. The shock and awe of a huge week can give him a psychological advantage, but if he does not prove quickly he has more lasting power from his hyperdrive bursts, then his bracket can simply outlast him like Ali letting Foreman tire himself out.
MedicDog is the man to watch from the Neo-Collective. He has the most to prove in his bracket. Supra is an established ace while the others like Forrma are unproven rookies. MedicDog is an ace on the decline that has to show he is worth a roster slot on a team, rather than being replaced by an unproven rookie with potential. Hunger is the name of his game.
K-JI: We are only minutes away from the first round of the PSU 2013 Marathon Trophy Competition from beginning. Join us every two weeks for the results of each round and our in-depth analysis. For Saikou Hakkin, I’m K-JI saying aim for the stands and always dream of platinums.
Dane Smith is the Japan editor for PlayStation Universe. When not out on the streets of Nagoya wondering why no one is looking for a Yakuza-style showdown, he can be found cracking open the newest RPG to hit the shelves. You can follow him on Twitter or read some of his past musings.