2018 will go down in history as a cornerstone year for eSport. This was the year it firmly became established as something more than just a way for serious fans of League of Legends and Dota 2 to compete with one another.
Last year saw eSport firmly establish itself as a mainstream form of entertainment. Revenue skyrocketed by 38 percent on 2017’s numbers to $908 million, thanks largely to large cash injections from big name sponsors. At the same time, the popularity of games like NBA2K, along with Sky’s decision to broadcast the ePL, show the scope of eSport to go far beyond the MOBA genre.
The rise of mobile
Yet while it is a brave new world for eSport, we are being told at the same time that the consoles on which the most popular games are played will soon be obsolete. As smartphones become smarter, so mobile games are getting increasingly advanced, to the extent that they will soon be on a par with those played on Xbox or PS4.
The mobile gaming market is already huge, worth well over $50 billion per year. It is a natural home for simple games such as the slots or card games that dominate the casino sector as you can see here for example. But could professionals in the eSport arena really be on the cusp of a move to mobile?
Keeping up with the smartphone generation
To veteran gamers it might sound preposterous, but the market is moving at a rapid rate. The newest generation of gamers has grown up around smartphones, and is more at ease with a touchscreen than with a game controller, or indeed a keyboard. This is what is making mobile eSport games like Vainglory so attractive to a subset of gamers that is growing with every passing month.
There is also the question of ubiquity. Kristian Segerstrale is the CEO of Super Evil Megacorp, the company behind Vainglory. He describes the democratising effect of mobile gaming, bringing it to literally billions of people through a device they already own, where in conventional eSport there is the need to invest four figure sums in console equipment.
A growing choice of games
Vainglory is the game that really made people sit up and take notice of mobile eSport and all its possibilities. However, it is certainly not the only mobile eSport out there. The game has been around for around five years now, and newer mobile eSport options are starting to attract a following. The Clash Royale eSport league, for example, has attracted 44 of the top eSport organizations, including Team SoloMid and Team Liquid. Honor of Kings boasts 200 million active users and an eSport scene that saw blue chip sponsorship and a $1.2 million transfer deal last year.
Is mobile eSport the future?
There is no doubt that mobile eSport is here to stay. However, the notion of it completely replacing conventional eSport any time soon would seem improbable. Commentators have been predicting the death of console gaming for years, but sales of Xbox and PS4 continue undaunted.
Ultimately, the rising popularity of eSport means that there is more than enough room for both – and as more people discover eSport, both as participants and spectators, that can be no bad thing.