5 reasons Strike of Kings is perfectly designed to be the next big mobile eSport

A look at Tencent's mobile MOBA and how it all comes together

5 reasons Strike of Kings is perfectly designed to be the next big mobile eSport

Honor of Kings is one of the top mobile games in China at the moment – it's got over 50 million daily active users, most of which are based in its home country, and regularly tops the grossing charts there too.

It's also pushing out beyond its roots under a wealth of different names, including Penta Storm in South Korea, Realm of Valor in Thailand and now Strike of Kings in Europe.

While it's definitely proven itself as a competitive game with an engaged audience, its real potential lies in it being the next "big" mobile eSport.

The next big thing

Mobile eSports are yet to take off to the extent that PC eSports has, but not for lack of trying – just look at the effort Super Evil Megacorp has put into growing Vainglory, or Supercell's attempts with Clash Royale.

But one thing everyone can agree on is that if a game is going to take off, it needs to be properly designed for the task.

To determine whether Strike of Kings was up to snuff, we decided to take a deep look into the game and how it plays, and found five reasons why its design means it could be the next big mobile eSport.

Click here to view the list »
  • It has 5v5 as the norm

    When you think MOBA, you think League of Legends – it's one of the biggest games in the world, and it just so happens to have set the standards for what a MOBA is (forgetting Defence of the Ancients for a second).

    One of the most recognisable aspects of LoL is that it has two teams of five people battling it out on three lanes. It's become such a staple for the genre that to see anything else feels off somehow.

    Stick to the script

    So rather than messing with the formula, Strike of Kings just accepts it, and puts players into 5v5 matches as standard – though 3v3 and 1v1 variations are available.

    An aerial view of Strike of Kings' 5v5 map

    Lanes run across the top, through the middle, and at the bottom of the battlefield, with a "jungle" in the middle filled with monsters that can give players an XP boost if they dare venture in. It also allows for sneak attacks from all sides if a teamfight happens to go down.

    From a viewing perspective, 5v5 makes the most sense. Fights can break out on opposing sides of the map, forcing players to completely change their plans, and providing plenty of opportunities for exciting action to take place.

    And for the players, it's more fun too. There's more scope to go off and do your own thing without worrying about your team suddenly losing by a landslide, and it keeps you even more focused as you have to assess the situation across a wide area and act accordingly.

    Fun for all

    So taking the norm as standard here is a smart move – the core players who will turn the game into a successful eSport are going to be more interested in joining something they're already familiar with, rather than having to learn a whole new game.

    And viewers are going to find themselves enjoying familiarity too, as they understand the rules in place and can more easily follow along with the action.

    Other modes are available, but 5v5 is the first one you see

  • It keeps things (relatively) simple

    As much as it sticks to some standard aspects of the MOBA, Strike of Kings does at least make some attempt at simplifying the experience for mobile.

    For starters, because you're using a virtual joystick to move, the game handles targeting enemies for you – just hammer the attack button and you'll automatically start attacking an enemy within your attack radius.

    This changes the focus from twitch gameplay to more team-focused tactics, as players have to worry less about their attacks landing and more about their own placement and overall strategy.

    Abilities are just as simple too – you've only got three to use, and these follow the same targeting rules as your standard attack, though you do have the option to aim them if you want full control.

    These auto-targeting features can also be heavily altered in the game's settings - should players want to gain more control over their targeting, or change which type of enemy the targeting prioritises, they can.

    The wealth of options available to players for targeting

    Shop 'til you drop

    Most impressive is the upgrade system, which allows you to access the shop from wherever you are on the map to quickly buy items you need to level up your hero.

    But you can also set an upgrade path before you enter a battle, which will then allow you to quick-buy the items as you play with a quick tap of an icon that shows up once you have enough gold.

    Match times are also kept relatively short – usually no more than about 15 minutes at worst – and the map is a little smaller than your usual MOBA.

    That may seem a tad long for a mobile game, but here it works well - there's plenty of time for different tactics to unfurl as the match goes on, while still being less of a time investment compared to PC MOBAs.

    Put all that together and you get a well-paced experience that's relatively simple to get into, but offers enough depth that seasoned veterans will no doubt find exciting ways to use its systems.

    The UI is kept relatively clean too - there's not a whole lot to see and do

  • It has voice and text chat in matches

    It's unlikely to get much use in casual matches, but the ability to chat during a game is definitely an advantage for Strike of Kings if it's going to be taken seriously as an eSport.

    The ability to chat with your team and work out strategies – as well as shout at them when you're in danger – is invaluable in the heat of battle.

    And while it may not be as useful when there's an intense battle going on, the fact that you can send a quick message via text will undoubtedly prove useful when other means of communication aren't working.

    Communication breakdown

    That said, these systems aren't without their issues. For one, absolutely nobody uses voice chat at the moment, even in ranked matches, so its usefulness is yet to be truly determined.

    Text chat is also largely useless on European servers too, thanks to the wide of spread of languages on show and a lack of translation within the service.

    And it can be a bit fiddly to use - while there's preset barks you can deploy if needed, typing a long message brings up your device's keyboard, which takes you out of the game and causes a brief freeze as it loads.

    But in a competitive context, either within guilds or during a live tournament, the voice chat will prove very useful indeed, and text chat might even find a home with some improvements.

    Tooltips remind you that voice chat is an option at the start of every match

  • There's already a huge cast of characters

    As in most games, offering the player as much choice as possible is going to keep them happy, but in MOBAs, having an enormous cast of playable character is essential.

    League of Legends, for example, currently has 134 champions to choose from. Dota 2, another hugely popular PC MOBA, has 112.

    The range of characters allows for interesting match-ups in competitive games, which makes for exciting viewing of the matches – particularly when a player uses a hero that nobody expects.

    Building the roster

    Strike of Kings hasn't been around as long as its PC counterparts, but it's already making headway on its hero count, with 36 characters currently playable and more already on the way.

    This means that even now you'll see a range of different characters in battle, particularly as players work out the best match-ups and strategies possible.

    And there's also plenty of scope for Tencent to make some money early on – new champions don't go cheap, and highly engaged players will want to buy them right away.

    There's plenty of characters to buy, and they don't come cheap

  • It's enjoyable to play even when you're a newbie

    Let's face it – the biggest eSports at this moment in time are now so full of highly-skilled players that it's quite a daunting task to jump in and start playing.

    And if an eSport is going to survive, it needs people who find the game engaging enough to play even when they have no idea what they're doing, so that they too can develop their skills and become a pro.

    Thankfully, Strike of Kings immediately throws new players into a short but very helpful tutorial, and it isn't long before you're in real matches against fellow new players.

    Having a ball

    And even if you're not really a fan of MOBAs, the simplictity of the controls and the gameplay overall is such that you'll find yourself having fun even if you're truly dreadful and just end up dying every two minutes.

    Even losing is fun - there's no real penalty for being bad, so long as you see the game through to the end, and you learn a bit more about how to play the game and deploy new tactics after watching yourself get steamrolled for the third time in a row.

    And you are going to lose. Play enough ranked matches and you'll eventually face off against players who take the game very seriously, and use tactics you never would have dreamed of, allowing you to learn from them and improve.

    Given the tactical options available, just watching other matches in future could act as a way for players to educate themselves on new strategies, as well as offering an entertaining spectacle for more casual viewers.

    If it takes off as an eSport, viewers who have never played the game before will be quick to give it a try themselves, and if even a small number of these players stick at it long enough to become professional, it'll create its own self-sustaining livestock of pro teams.


Ric is the Editor of PocketGamer.biz, having started out as a Staff Writer on the site back in 2015. He received an honourable mention in both the MCV and Develop 30 Under 30 lists in 2016 and refuses to let anyone forget about it.