Mobile esports. Forget elephants, this is the cash-cow in the room

Image: Gilles Lambert - Unsplash
Alex Stockwell

Monetizing mobile esports is set to open up up a whole new avenue of profitability for the smartest guys in the room

Esports has become a lucrative market, attracting broadcasters and sponsorship to the world of competitive PC and console gaming, but there could be a new form of esports on the horizon because of the rising number of casual mobile gamers; mobile esports.

When considering modern esports, you’re likely to conjure images of bright stadiums filled with shrieking fans that have come to idolize their favorite teams. But these paid professionals are often competing on top-of-the-range super-powerful PC rigs that most people simply can’t afford.

However, investors and developers in the mobile gaming space, (who according to gaming market analysts Newzoo, made up a colossal 41% of the 116 billion dollar gaming market in 2017), are now looking to create a new form of esports by tapping in to the vast potential market of casual mobile gamers.

Mobile gaming wants to cast a wider net

Despite this segment enjoying a huge share of the overall gaming market, there is next to nothing – in the west at least – to be seen in the realm of watching others play mobile games. This is true for both huge live events or even via popular gaming live streaming services such as Twitch.

For some, this should come as no surprise as mobile games are often seen as little more than cynically created distractions, offering the sort of Pavlovian reward system that exploits our primitive addiction to bright colors, instant gratification and little tinkling bell sounds.

It’s no wonder then that mobile games generate the kind of revenue they do. Consider hugely popular games such as Clash of Clans and Candy Crush that have a wide demographic.

The freemium model guaranteed that, often, games like these are free to play, but earn stacks of dollars selling advertising space and in-game micro-transactions.

Nevertheless, in conversation with Bloomberg, Andrew Paradise, co-founder and chief executive of Skillz, the global leader of mobile esports, says that, despite the initial negative response that mobile gaming esports had from the wider gaming community, “The industry is shifting.”

Let the great mobile esports experiment begin

To give an indication of how seriously mobile esports is becoming, we needn’t look further than the fact that the aforementioned Skillz have doubled their revenue in just ten months. But, as impressive as this is, it’s got little to do with steering the industry towards the kind of major live esport competitions popularized today.

According to The Esport Observer, key industry figures such as Jason Lake, founder and CEO of the esports organization compLexity Gaming and Tim Ebner, head of esports for mobile gaming giants Superceell, are both adamant about the future of the mobile platform in esports.

Both are betting that titles such as Clash Royale, Arena of Valor and Battle of Balls, are the kinds of peer-to-peer competitive titles that will challenge traditional spectator esports.

What else gives weight to the concept of a mobile gaming esport competition is that mobile games are becoming more complex with each new iteration of a handheld or tablet.

As these devices feature more computing power, it allows for more immersive and enjoyable games.

Titles featuring the Unreal Engine, such as Fortnite and Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, which have been hugely successful on PC and consoles, are now storming the charts on mobile. Fortnite sales have even surpassed titles such as Pokemon Go! and Clash of Clans, earning a huge $15 million in just a couple of weeks following release.

At this stage, the future of mobile gaming esports is unclear. The telling financial success that mobile gaming has could very well be accredited to the existence of the sheer number of semi-exploitative distraction games out there, and it’s fair to say that more hardcore gamers are likely to want to continue gaming competitively on established platforms such as PC.

Some are even arguing that, as Facebook and Instagram seem to have plateaued, whatever social-media platform that fills the void left by them will be so all-encompassing and multi-purpose that casual mobile gaming will unavoidably be swallowed up.

And finally, with emerging VR and AR tech turning up the heat, it’s could be all too early to say just how widespread competitive gaming will shape up.

Let’s just hope that inclusive and compelling gameplay outweighs ringing bells for more candy!

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