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It's not about mobile game eSports. It's about is this a good mobile game for eSports?

It's not about mobile game eSports. It's about is this a good mobile game for eSports?

2016 is supposed to be the year where a great many new things happen in mobile games. 

While some would argue this is the year of VR, or others that it's the year of rewarded video advertising, still others have been claiming 2016 as the year of mobile eSports.

But now, halfway through the year, it's hard to see any signs this is yet the case.

High hopes

At the start of 2016, all signs were pointing to solid growth.

Newzoo was predicting a 43% growth in eSports, valuing the market at $463 million.

And Clash Royale, poised to be one of the biggest mobile games ever released, was getting people excited for the potential of a major franchise drawing in the eSports community.

Jump ahead to June 2016, and the game has had one massively successful tournament, and Supercell is now hiring someone to grow the eSports side of the game.

We're not seeing mobile eSports taking off in the same way the PC eSports scene has.

But even so, we're still not seeing mobile eSports taking off in the same way that the PC eSports scene has in the last couple of years.

Twitchy

Take Vainglory, for example.

It's by far and away the most eSports-y game on mobile at present, and developer Super Evil Megacorp is working hard to grow it.

It's seen major eSports teams, like Team SoloMid, Team Secret, Mousesports, and more, buying young independent teams and turning them into professional players.

And it's getting heavily involved with Twitch, signing a three-year deal to grow the game as an eSport with the streaming service.

It's a deal that will work wonders – Twitch has been instrumental in the rise of eSports as a whole, opening up gaming to people who can't play the games, or just want to watch games played well.

And the partnership is already helping Super Evil Megacorp, who managed to run the Spring Season Championship Finals with just Twitch as a main sponsor.

One of the crowd

But the game has still yet to reach the same heights as established eSports games – it's nowhere near DOTA 2 or League of Legends levels, for example.

However, from speaking to Super Evil's Chief Product Officer, Q Wang, at the recent Spring Season 2016 European Championship Finals, he's not too worried.

"For me, it's not really about 'Is mobile eSports a thing?', it's about 'Is the product viable for eSports?'," he says.

In this context, then, success isn't about mobile eSports. It's about successful mobile eSports games. 

Of course, it's in best interests of Super Evil to take this stance – there's still a strong prejudice against mobile games from the PC gaming crowd.

And with that same crowd making up most of the eSports world, it might simply be easier to try and slide the odd game or two into that scene instead of building a separate one for mobile.

It's not really about 'Is mobile eSports a thing', it's about 'Is the product viable for eSports'
Q Wang

A mewling babe

It's also the case that mobile eSports is still very, very young, especially compared to the bigger scene.

While eSports has become far more visible in the last couple of years, thanks to headline-worthy prize money being offered to winners and the rise of streaming, competitive gaming has been around a lot longer.

And it's worth remembering that some of the games being played have been around for several years already – League of Legends is seven years old, for example.

That makes Vainglory, just under two years old, and Clash Royale, released about three months ago, mere children in the world of eSports.

On the topic of Clash Royale's potential as an eSport, Wang pointed out that "It's too early to say they can't be one."

"It's still early for them. It's early for us."

Building a future

So while 2016 won't be the year that mobile eSports takes off, it seems to be the year where the foundations for some games are laid.

The sector is unlikely to have the meteoric rise that some people are hoping for. It could be another five years before we see $1 million prizes at a single tournament.

But it's clear that thanks to developers such as Super Evil and deals like its Twitch sponsorship - and indeed the continued rise of mobile game livestreaming - that slowly but surely mobile gaming is changing and mobile games designed for eSports are a part of that.


Former Editor

Ric was formerly the Editor of Pocket Gamer and the Deputy Editor of PocketGamer.biz. He still pops up time to time to review games.

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Greg Quinn CEO/Lead Developer at Meltdown Interactive Media
As long as most game publishers are focusing on the meta-game and putting up paywalls for in-app purchases, we're going to see very few mobile games that will even be considered legible for eSports.

We need more mobile games focusing on core gameplay and building loyal audiences if we are to see a rise in mobile eSports.

Funnily enough, the top trending game at the moment, slither.io is in fact a very viable eSports game.