ESL FACEIT Group, formed last year by the merger of ESL and FACEIT are one of the world’s leading companies in the global competitive gaming market. They’re responsible for the Dreamhack and ESL series of events, as well as collaborating with Qualcomm to organise the Snapdragon Pro Series of mobile esports events.
ESL FACEIT Group’s SVP of Game Ecosystems, Kevin Rosenblatt offers us his thoughts on the mobile esports market with his five predictions for mobile esports in 2023.
Mobile gamers comprise a huge segment of the overall gaming audience, with 2.6 billion of the world’s 3.24 billion gamers playing on mobile devices, according to Newzoo’s Global Games Market Report for 2022. As mobile gaming popularity continues to rapidly increase, the number of mobile esports viewers is expected to grow alongside it to over 548 million worldwide by 2025.
Despite economic uncertainty, mobile leagues have an opportunity to continue to expand thanks to a surge in popularity.
Here are five bold predictions for mobile esports in 2023:
1. Mobile games are the gateway to diversity and inclusivity in esports.
Mobile gaming has one of the most diverse demographics and engages underrepresented groups. Women in the top-10 gaming markets are more likely than men to engage with mobile games five days a week or more, according to Newzoo; the platform resonates more with those identifying as women.
However, women are still less likely to feel well-represented and a sense of belonging within the gaming community. This is particularly noticeable at the top-tier of competitive play, where women are often relegated to leagues that are exclusive to those who identify as women.
Mobile presents an opportunity to decrease the disparity between women’s participation in casual competition and amateur or pro competitions. There are already high-level co-ed competitors in the scene, specifically in the Asia-Pacific region, and seeing that incremental growth play out in the U.S. or Europe would push the industry as a whole moving forward.
2. Mobile esports viewership will surpass PC and console.
Mobile games continue to gross more average and peak viewership than almost every other title in the world, according to Esports Charts and other analytics platforms, and six of the 20 most-watched esports of 2022 are mobile titles. Handheld competition also holds six of the top-20 spots in all-time viewership, and the platform is poised to establish an even bigger footprint in those lists next year. Mobile titles lead some game genres entirely, too: PUBG Mobile is the most-watched battle royale title in the world and dwarfs Apex Legends, Fortnite, among others.
The Mobile Legends: Bang Bang world championship at the start of January set records with 4.2 million peak viewers and 80 million hours watched. Meanwhile, the PUBG Mobile Championship drew more than 850,000 peak viewers. Those milestones, though impressive, are just a taste of what’s to come from a passionate mobile esports audience.
Leagues also stand to reap the benefits of ongoing adoption of mobile gaming. ESL FACEIT Group and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Pro Series powered by Samsung Galaxy, for example, saw a 60% increase in participation in games on its platform across PUBG Mobile, Brawl Stars, and Clash of Clans.
3. More developers will invest in mobile.
The acceleration of high-speed 5G network access, the increasing power of mobile devices, and growing access to smartphones globally have given rise to games like PUBG and Call of Duty Mobile, and adaptations of legacy titles like Riot Games’ Wild Rift. In 2023, we expect developers to join Nintendo (Pokémon UNITE) and other publishers in releasing titles with handheld counterparts in mind from the get-go. Riot’s first-person shooter, VALORANT, might also see the beta version of its mobile game make its way out of China-only testing and be available in other regions, which could spark even more growth in the mobile esports scene.
The trend of producing mobile-friendly companions to multiplayer titles should present new opportunities for leagues to provide both casual and ranked play, as well as formal tournaments or Twitch Rivals-style events that loop in those games’ competitive formats.
4. More regions will look for opportunities in mobile esports.
In Western nations, adoption of mobile esports noticeably lags behind Asia-Pacific and other regions, though Newzoo reported mobile game adoption growth in Western Europe and other countries throughout the year. With the ongoing theme of a potential truncation of the esports market and an “esports winter” with little investment in competitive games in 2023, mobile presents a cost-effective way to diversify their revenue streams in a rough financial year.
We also expect to see further expansion of mobile competition in new regions as well, particularly in Latin America, the second-fastest growing mobile gaming market after Southeast Asia. That trend should continue in 2023 and give organizations elsewhere more reason to explore opportunities in the space.
5. There will be more offline mobile esports competitions than ever before.
Alongside impressive viewership statistics, the audience for offline mobile events is expected to continue to grow in 2023, with LAN events being used as a foundation for building connections with fans.
Events in mobile esports’ biggest regions, including the first-ever Snapdragon Pro Series Mobile Masters at DreamHack Japan in May 2023, will give core fans more opportunities than ever to see mobile competitions live. Recent government decisions in other countries also open up additional opportunities. Pokémon UNITE being approved for licensing in China by the country’s government, India’s official addition of esports to its pro sports governance, and the ongoing growth of leagues and teams built around mobile competition lay groundwork for a record year of offline competitions.
With more top-tier organizations to build around and more options for competition venues and ways to capture audiences, tournament organizers will seize opportunities to grow, even in a bear market. When it comes to LAN events in particular, mobile esports might be an exception to concerns about constriction of investment.
A game-changing opportunity
Thanks to one of the fastest-growing audiences in esports, mobile competitions and leagues are best-positioned to weather the “esports winter.” A strong 2022, complete with records in viewership, tournaments, teams, and prizing, should give stakeholders more incentive than ever to enter a low-risk, high-reward sector of esports. Growth in partnerships and the interconnected nature of esports and technology brands like Samsung, Qualcomm, and others will also help the mobile esports industry not just stabilize but grow in a difficult economic climate.
With limited but growing adoption in the U.S. and Western Europe, this is one of the few developed competitive gaming markets where organizations can still be first adopters regionally. Those that take that opportunity will find that there are fans and sponsors around the world watching.
Edited by Iwan Morris