For years, Panda Global’s comprehensive ranking system, the PGRU, has established itself as the go-to ranking for the top 50 Super Smash Bros players in the world. Partnered with Red Bull, the rankings always make huge waves in the Smash community as we argue about who deserves which place on the list. However, the stats team behind the PGRU is about to make a big change to how they approach the rankings, including a move from algorithmic ranking to a panel.
The Panda Global PGRU stats team announced the change to their system of ranking on January 23, 2020 in an extensive article on the Panda Global website, as well as in a video on the Panda Global YouTube further explaining the broad strokes and reasons for the changes, which can be seen below.
Why is the PGRU changing from algorithms to panel ranking?
So let’s get into why the PGRU is changing their system after several years of ranking algorithmically. According to the article on Panda Global’s website, the decision comes largely out of a desire to more comprehensively and accurately blend the criteria by which the top Smash Ultimate players are decided.
“One of the limitations of pre-existing algorithms is that some are completely win-based, and others are completely placement-based, but none take both into account,” wrote PG Statician Andrew “PracticalTAS” Nestico. “From others' research and my own testing, I came to the conclusion that we must take both into account if we want to rank players accurately, as neither half of the data gives a complete picture of the season on its own.”
The effort to combine the data accurately into one, more comprehensive listing is an admirable one, but it’s not the only reason for the change. According to PG Stats director Luis "suar" Suarez, it also comes from the fact that PG Stats wants to ensure that the reveal of their hotly anticipated list can’t be ruined by would-be leakers that can decipher the PGRU algorithm and ruin the surprise.
“We’ve maintained that [the algorithm’s privacy] in the past with Red Bull and the publishing rights we have are something very special for the project,” suar explained. “Because otherwise if anybody had the algorithm, then anybody can make the list, and all of the sudden these 50 players that we highlight over 5 days lose that spotlight and it’s just spoiled for people inside the community and outside the community.”
Suar goes on to explain that another limitation of the algorithm is the lack of data points in six months, and especially interactions between players of the international scene, which has kept PG Stats from pursuing a top 100 list as opposed to their usual 50. Suar and his staff believe that switching to a panel deciding who belongs in the list will help diversify and better address the concern of privacy in the list. It will also allow the PG Stats team to extend the PGRU into a top 100 list, which suar says will be effective immediately in the upcoming rankings.
There’s a lot of questions to be answered by a panel-decided PGRU. Undoubtedly, the algorithm was limited, but surely there will be some growing pains for the new panel system as well. Either way, it will be interesting to see what PG Stats does with the new ranking system in a fresh year of Smash competition compared to the recent algorithm-based PGRU listings in Fall 2019, especially with major tournaments like GENESIS 7 and EVO Japan 2020 right around the corner.