An esport is defined as a multiplayer video game that is played competitively for spectators. Video game players, of which there are several different levels (e.g amateur players who play the game part-time or professional players who have forged entire eSports careers), can compete in tournaments, leagues, and other events in order to prove themselves as the best at that particular game or game mode.
The concept of esports has been around since the 1970s – in 1972, Stanford University held a tournament for the 1962 space combat video game Spacewar and it offered a subscription to Rolling Stone as the prize for the winner. But a lot has changed since then.
Since the 70s, we have seen increasing adoption of esports as millions upon millions of players now tune in to watch their favourite players compete on a massive stage, for prizes far more substantial than a magazine subscription. And esports competitions are no longer hosted on bulky, primitive technology like back in the Spacewar days; we are now seeing people play on hugely powerful PCs, readily available consoles and, more recently, we are also seeing esports adoption on mobile phones as well.
Esports PC and Consoles Versus Mobile
Because esports got its start on computers, consoles, and arcade machines, this is where the industry is the strongest today. The majority of major esports tournaments are still held on PCs and consoles and this is particularly where mainstream support for competitive gaming is growing (it’s also where most of the money is).
You need only look at a few statistics to realize just how popular esports is on PC and consoles. Just look at the 2017 International Dota 2 Championship, which saw winning team Team Liquid take home $10.8 million for their skill at the game. The overall prize pot was $24 million, which had been paid into by fans, including the 4.7 million viewers who tuned into the 2017 International Grand Final. Dota 2 isn’t the only game offering high-stakes tournaments, with Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, World of Tanks and Call of Duty becoming popular esports games around the world. These games each have tournaments with potentially huge winnings, which is why esports viewers have sought out another way to be part of the action. Esports betting is one such way that viewers are able to engage by placing predictions on just which teams are going to walk away with a huge prize. It’s proof of just how many people are tuning into these games and tournaments; an entirely new industry has been created just because of esports’ popularity.
And speaking of esports’ popularity, we are also seeing impressive viewership figures for many of these games. The League of Legends World Championship 2017 world final reached 60 million unique viewers, so says Tencent, the Chinese company that owns (League of Legends developer) Riot Games. This is approximately double the number of unique viewers who tuned into the tournament the previous year, highlighting the industry’s growth even further. Meanwhile, new esports initiative the Overwatch League drew in 10 million viewers during its first week, with an average of 280,000 viewers tuning in per minute. That’s not bad for an esports league that only began a few months ago and it’s perhaps why sponsors such as (car manufacturer) Toyota and (fragrance brand) Old Spice have signed up to support the league. Their sponsorship is another show of mainstream adoption.
While these games are played on PC and consoles, the esports industry for mobile games isn’t quite there yet. Some of the most popular mobile games with an esports following include Vainglory, Clash Royale, Mobile Legends, and Strike of Kings. Clash Royale’s Kings Cup tournament offers a prize pot of just over $200,000, which is quite a bit away from Dota 2’s $24 million. Its sponsors include smartphone brand OnePlus and YouTube Gaming, which holds the exclusive streaming rights to the tournament. It also averaged around 38,000 concurrent viewers when it was streamed in October 2017, which isn’t bad, but it isn’t going to bother the traditional broadcast networks either.
How Mobile Games Can Grow Their Esports Presence
Mobile game revenue is worth 37% of games industry revenue overall and over one and a half billion people around the world play mobile games. It’s clear that there is a huge interest in mobile gaming in general but how can mobile gaming increase its esports presence?
There are plenty of up and coming mobile games that look promising in terms of esports. For example, Epic Games recently announced a mobile version of Fortnite Battle Royale, the hit multiplayer game mode that has over 40 million players on PC and consoles. Despite being invite-only on iOS (a release on Android is planned), the game has already made over $1 million by selling cosmetics, showing that there is real interest in the mobile version of the game too.
Likewise, the mobile version of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has just been released around the world, with the original game first being available on PC and Xbox One. While exact user numbers have not been made available just yet, there is a significant amount of buzz around the game, suggesting that it could be a massive mobile hit as well (it already has 30 million players).
Both of these games have a growing esports presence across their respective platforms and it is reasonable to think that, if the developers behind these games incorporate mobile into their esports strategies, that they could take off as a mobile esport as much as esports scenes on PC and consoles are taking off as well. The brand power of these two games – and any other PC and console games that decide to pursue mobile ports – could finally pull mobile esports into the mainstream.
Given the number of people who play mobile games, there is a large potential audience there that could be converted into esports viewers. Developers just need to tap into this, making as much effort on the mobile side as they do with PC and consoles.