Comment & Opinion

Why Clash Royale will ignite the mobile eSports market

If Supercell wants it enough

Why Clash Royale will ignite the mobile eSports market

It's been argued that Clash Royale, Supercell's latest and the next in line for the mobile gaming throne, won't have the impact on mobile eSports that some are predicting.

And it's a position seemingly based on sound logic, the crux of the idea being that upgradeable units are to the detriment of balanced competition.

In short, the article suggests, it's pay-to-win.

Sound logic, that is, if you assume that successful mobile eSports will be based on the same fundamental values as their PC counterparts.

But I would argue, based on the evidence we have so far, that they will not be.

Changing the game

For starters, I feel we should reject the idea that mobile eSports is totally uncharted territory.

While true that they're overshadowed by the likes of League of Legends on PC, tournaments for mobile games featuring international competitors and thousands of spectators have been going on for a while now.

Tellingly, it's Clash Royale developer Supercell who's found itself at the forefront of this, with Clash of Clans inspiring an unprecedented level of traction as an eSport all around the world.

Clash of Clans tournaments at present tend to be contested for kudos rather than the enormous prize pools in PC eSports, but attendees of 2015's Korean Clash event filled the Yongsan eSports Stadium - a venue usually reserved for competitive Starcraft - to watch teams from South Korea, China, and Sweden compete.

As a fully-fledged eSport, it's in the Philippines that Clash of Clans has proven most successful.

Streamed around the world via Twitch and the official Clash of Clans YouTube channel, the 6-hour event was a polished, slick, and professionally-hosted affair.

But as a fully-fledged eSport, it's in the Philippines that it's proven most successful.

Here, major tournaments are supported by the Philippine eSports Organization with cash prizes for the victors reaching approximately $50,000 - not on a level with the multimillion extravagance of more established of PC titles, but significant nonetheless.

Square peg

However, from simply playing Clash of Clans, you'd never guess it would be capable of even approaching eSport status.

Subject to all the same issues with hard currency-enhanced upgrades and player imbalance as Clash Royale, but with none of the eSport-friendly real-time PvP or TV Royale features, it simply shouldn't work.

Special rules are needed to make Clash of Clans competitive

But, juggernaut that it is, people are willing to bend the rules and move the goalposts to make it work.

The special rules for Korean Clash included fixed building and army levels, instant training with no cost, and heroes that are always ready.

Where there is imbalance, there will be balance.

Similar tournament-specific tweaks can, and will, overcome the issue of Clash Royale's slow-to-open chests. Where there is imbalance, there will be balance.

Throwing out the rulebook

This could mean that an arena is the only environment in which Clash Royale can be experienced as a true eSport, and I understand why that may cause concerns.

Football, Basketball, and Tennis remain essentially the same whether played in a playground or on the world stage; the fundamental rules don't change.

So perhaps we need a different name for these kinds of experiences, or at least to challenge the existing definition of what an eSport can be.

But based simply on the fact that Supercell has, with force of will alone, propelled the (on paper) utterly unsuitable Clash of Clans to eSport status, it seems sensible to assume the far better positioned Clash Royale can surpass it.

If nothing else, Clash Royale comes with an inbuilt TV Royale channel where you can watch the top players battling it out.

Simply put, if Supercell wants to ignite the mobile eSports market, it will.

Features Editor

Matt is really bad at playing games, but hopefully a little better at writing about them. He's Features Editor for, and has also written for lesser publications such as IGN, VICE, and Paste Magazine.


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Erik Knepfler
I posted part of this in the "why CR won't ignite" article and thought it good to share here too:

I think the bigger factor of whether mobile eSports can match PC eSports is not the games themselves. There is a much bigger problem - the presentation. If you watched the Helsinki tournament, it was cringeworthy watching the moderator trying to get them to talk like pro wrestlers, when they are far more reserved (some might say socially awkward.) Someone needs to re-work these tournaments to cater to the reserved, intellectual "friendly competition" mindset that these types of players are, and stop trying to turn everything into a trash-talking MMA weigh-in. They should be modeled on the great chess matches of the 60s and 70s, not a cage fight. The players would speak better when interviewed if they didn't feel this constant pressure to act like a trash talking pro boxer, which causes them to shut down and not say anything, creating that moderator awkwardness I talked about. This is the fundamental problem with not only mobile eSports but eSports in general, in my opinion. The first tournament organizer to get this right stands to really make an impact.
Bruno Sousa Lead Monetization & Payment manager at Goodgame Studios
Supercell cannot have both. A high revenue game and a eSports hit regardless of how they balance it.
Clash Royale is pay-to-win, so if they create a competitive section which is not, most users will only play that. Keep in mind that users want PvP and PvP features increase revenues up to 500%.
Supercell is highly profitable it may still be highly profitable in the eSports world but they would have to sacrifice revenue in what they do best: Monetization.
Great points! Supercell already implemented "tournament rules" for friendly battles with level caps for towers and cards. What do you think of those rules in terms of esports competitions?

We've interviewed some top players, Derek from HK Esports and Azure from H.2.0, and they think Clash Royale is a really fun game but are skeptical about it becoming a major esports. When asked about the differences between Hearthstone and Clash Royale, Derek mentioned the difficulty in upgrading cards and the lack of card variety in Clash Royale.
jon jordan
I agree. I think getting an eSport hit requires a lot of flexibility from the developer to moderate and meet player demand, while also having a strong vision for its game. That's hard to do. Equally, Supercell is going to make so much direct cash from Clash Royale, my gut feeling is that will limit this flexibility, unless it creates a standalone Clash Royale eSports version.