Are Mobile Games the Future of Esports?


The esports boom is unlike anything the competitive gaming scene has ever witnessed. While esports has been steadily growing for a while – particularly over the 2010s, nothing could have prepared the community for the spike in interest that welcomed the sector over the past two years.

In recent years, esports has found itself uniquely robust due to its largely remote nature. This led to huge numbers of sports fans flooding into the space seeking competitive thrills.

In what amounted to a perfect storm, this influx came right around the time that the esports sector had developed from a relatively humble market into a burgeoning media power-house. Several factors point to this trend, from Amazon’s $1 billion acquisition of Twitch in 2014, to the increased affordability of powerful gaming laptops from 2010 onwards.

Major Interest From Brands and Public Alike

It’s now seeming as if we will look upon the 2020s as the decade where esports definitively went mainstream, with esports athletes like Ninja becoming household names and major European football clubs like Paris Saint-Germain now sponsoring their own League of Legends teams.

Elsewhere, even the bookies have come to consider esports a viable concern, with odds now regularly available on popular tournaments through OddsChecker and other leading comparison providers across the iGaming sector.

With all that intrigue now surrounding the scene, many have begun to question where exactly the “boom” will go next.

Among the likeliest scenarios posited by analysts is that the mobile esports sector will grow in prominence and eventually supplant its console and PC-based equivalents.

This scenario is not without sound reasoning. While it’s true that gaming laptops have come down in price, they still represent a niche and luxury consumer-electronics category, whereas smartphones enjoy market penetration of 83% and growing among the global population.

Smartphone Gaming Is the Future

In more ways than one, the future of computing in general is thought to be mobile. As esports grows more popular, it’s more likely that new players will seek popular mobile esports titles rather than investing in expensive and specialist hardware.

This move away from “dedicated” games consoles and PCs is already well-underway in many parts of the world, with DFC Intelligence highlighting that gamers from regions including Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and South East Asia are one and a half times more likely to use their smartphone as their primary, or sole gaming platform when compared with western markets.

This makes the esports games actively positioning themselves as “mobile-first” titles uniquely well situated to benefit from the growing smartphone markets in these areas over the next five years.

Rising Stars in the Scene

Of those titles, several are making waves already among the wider esports community. Perhaps the best known of these is Arena of Valor, which is also known as Honor of Kings in the Chinese market.

A MOBA cut from the same cloth as League of Legends and DOTA, it brings all the depth and strategy of this genre to mobile gamers. Increasingly, Arena of Valor has distinguished itself as a major future contender in the esports community, as evidenced by the game’s 2022 World Cup commanding a prize pool of $10 million, which is currently the highest ever awarded for a mobile esport.

Another new name gunning for greater acceptance by the esports old-guard is 2019’s Garena Free Fire. It serves up a battle royale experience that would prove familiar to players of PUBG and Fortnite, and is reckoned to be among the fastest growing esports across any platform today.

The Garena Free Fire 2021 World Series finals match, broadcast out of Singapore, recorded a peak spectator number of 5.4 million people. This is the most of any export to date, including the finals of DOTA 2’s The International or League of Legends’ World Championship.

The Future is Bright for Esports

Over the last decade, we’ve gone from witnessing doubt over whether electronic competition could ever even be considered sport, to seeing teams pack out stadiums in international competition.

The future is looking bright for Esports, especially as it continues its interaction with mobile gaming – an industry that developers will be keen to support and expand on. Expect to see more growth in the years to come.

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