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Why Clash Royale won't ignite the mobile eSports market

Not enough competitive spirit
Why Clash Royale won't ignite the mobile eSports market

If there's one area of mobile gaming that everyone's enjoying banging on about in 2016, it's the predicted meteoric rise of mobile eSports.

Sure, there's plenty to talk about elsewhere, from VR, to user acquisition, to big console names entering the mobile space.

But mobile eSports, with its tantalising prospects of a potentially billion dollar market for marketers, advertisers, and developers to get their hands on, is the area that has the most people rubbing their hands with glee.

Show me the money

The trouble is, mobile eSports is still a fledging concept, and is potentially years from being considered an equal among its PC equivalent.

That's not to say it won't reach such lofty heights, and who knows, perhaps mobile eSports will eclipse its PC brethren as developers start to turn to the wider mobile market and attempt to engage the much larger audience available within.

Mobile eSports is still a fledging concept.

However, what it does mean is that we are currently in a state where any time a game has some kind of synchronous competitive multiplayer element, it's almost immediately touted as the next big thing in eSports.

The next big thing?

Such is the case with the recently released Clash Royale, which, probably because of its MOBA-esque design, has many claiming it will bring mobile eSports to the forefront of everyone's mind.

But, based on my own experiences, I am somewhat hesitant to allow such statements go uncontested.

Clash Royale takes its influences quite clearly from two genres - the CCG, especially Hearthstone, which it almost completely rips-off, and the MOBA, as previously mentioned.

<em>Hearthstone</em> - the lodestone of card-based mobile eSports
Hearthstone - the lodestone of card-based mobile eSports

Hearthstone has found its way into the eSport community thanks to its reliance on careful strategy, built entirely around the deck that a player uses, and how effectively they play their cards.

Clash Royale has a somewhat similar system, albeit with a real-time twist as opposed to Hearthstone's turn-based approach.

A new approach

But what Clash Royale does that completely severs it from the cloth which Hearthstone was cut from is the ability to upgrade your units.

And, to a similar degree, the fact that your towers upgrade their health and attack power each time the player levels up.

eSports, to my mind, should be about two players or teams with an equal stake battling to show who has the most skill.

It's fairly obvious why Supercell decided to do this. Upgrading cards is a lengthy process, one that can be shortened greatly by using gems, the game's hard currency.

And it would be idiotic to claim that Supercell doesn't know what it's doing when it comes to monetisation, so it's a strategy that will most likely work for the company.

But this also causes is a fairly major imbalance for players, particularly for those who won't, or can't, spend the money to remain competitive.

A game of two halves

eSports, to my mind, should be about two players or teams with an equal stake battling to show who has the most skill.

It should not be about who has been able to upgrade their units fastest and can now dominate the game.

It's not a problem that is found in Hearthstone because cards are not intrinsically better than other cards – and neither are the player's stats.

A true test of skill?

Any time you load up a game of Clash Royale, you run the risk of having to face off against someone who has an intrinsic edge over you, either because of higher level cards or better towers.

It's not even a matter of skill – all it needs is for the player to have bought cards and upgraded them.

The game's matchmaking goes some way to alleviating this problem, but it is still entirely possible to match up against someone with that advantage over you from the word go.

A long wait

Aside from the imbalance of power, there's also the case of having to literal hours for chests to open.

In Hearthstone, you buy a card pack and it opens straight away. You can adjust your deck and jump back into battles.

In Clash Royale, you can either spend gems to unlock a chest early, or just put the game down and do something else for several hours.

Does <em>Clash Royale's</em> monetisation methods mean it won't appeal to eSports players?
Does Clash Royale's monetisation methods mean it won't appeal to eSports players?

It pushes away people with a competitive spirit who don't want to pay upfront – and when only 3% of your players are going to spend, that drives away a huge chunk of potential competitive players.

Instead, to make it more eSport friendly, it would make sense for Supercell to drop the chest award system altogether, award gold for wins, and almost entirely emulate Hearthstone's system.

Anyone's guess

Of course, all of this is purely based on impressions from the first couple of days since the game has been out.

It's entirely possible that the big eSports teams will throw money at the game, or those who see a chance to get in on the ground floor will start investing all their time and money to get a head start on the competition.

There's no way of predicting whether or not an eSports community will arise around Clash Royale, particularly with the game still in its infancy.

But unless Supercell can rebalance the game with a more competitive spirit in mind - maybe there's an opportunity for an eSports version or an eSports mode in the game that relies almost entirely on player skill and not player wealth - then it doesn't seem likely that a community will be growing any time soon.