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Mobile Esports: Soon to Steal the Industry Spotlight?

A couple of years ago, everyone was saying that the future of gaming is mobile. Now we’re in 2021, that’s no longer true, and we can confidently say the future is already here. From an industry-wide perspective, mobile gaming is now bigger in terms of both participation and revenue than PC and console gaming combined.

Intuitively, that makes sense. These days, almost nine out of 10 American adults own a smartphone, and the statistic is roughly the same across the developed world. That’s far more units in daily use than game consoles, or even PCs, and even those people who would not consider themselves gamers in the traditional sense are still likely to have at least a couple of game apps installed on their handsets.

Esports – the last bastion?

It could be argued that PC or console gaming is reverting to the status it had decades ago as a pastime favored more by the serious gamers. You can’t get much more serious than the pro gaming world of esports, so perhaps this explains why this particular niche is one that has yet to make the move to mobile gaming. However, change is in the air, and the age of mobile esports is approaching.

Mobile technology has reached a point at which even a mid-range handset can deliver as complex a gaming experience as a larger device, with no compromises necessary. There are already a dozen or more mobile esports games with strong followings, and we will look at some of the most popular ones in just a moment. In other words, neither technological constraints nor player habits are holding back mobile esports.

The only thing that keeps the more traditional esportss and platforms ahead of the pack right now is inertia. Games like Dota 2, CS:GO and League of Legends have mature and established leagues, tournaments and “ways of doing things” that are all tied in with media and sponsorship deals. However, the tide is turning and within a year or two, this is liable to be seen as a retro form of the game, with the main focus switching to mobile.

The rise of esports betting

It’s not just the games and the gamers that drive change. esports has seen massive growth and has started to hit the mainstream over the past 12 months. It’s become an almighty money-spinner for sportsbooks focusing on the US, where legislative reform is opening up new markets and opportunities with every passing month.

Events over the past 12 months saw sportsbooks leap on esports to the extent that it looked less like a bandwagon and more akin to a lifeboat. Now that things are returning to some form or normality and they can take stock, it becomes clear that the possibilities presented by mobile esports could dwarf esports gambling scene as it currently stands. Mobile means agility, with a steady influx of new titles capturing the public attention, more gamers getting involved at a serious level, higher profile and improved engagement. All that adds up to a mobile esports betting world that could be on a similar level to real sports by the end of the decade.

The future is here

League of Legends and the other games we mentioned earlier remain the most popular esports games at present, and are the focus of the big money tournaments. But these are games that have been around for around a decade on average, and in some cases longer. Their supremacy is on the wane, and it is mobile esports games that are on the rise. The change will come quickly, as the money attached to sponsorship, promotion, media coverage and betting will inevitably follow whatever is trending. Here are three mobile esports games that are mounting a challenge to the status quo:

  • Hearthstone – this was the mobile esportsthat proved it could be done and caused the industry to sit up and take notice. In the long term, it will probably be the mobile esports equivalent of MySpace, the pioneer that paved the way for the real game-changer, but nevertheless, the game has great support and a large base of players.
  • Clash Royale – this is essentially a competitive card game in the tower defense mold. Strong support from the developers has kept the game relevant and there’s an established Clash Royale league in place. Last year’s World Finalssaw $380,000 paid out in prize money.
  • Garena Free Fire – if you’ve not heard of this mobile battle royale game yet, you soon will. It took South East Asia by storm over the course of 2018 and 2019, and is now seeing similar popularity spikes in Latin America. In the first quarter of 2021, it truly broke into the US market, overtaking PUBG Mobile by generating $100 million. The first Garena esportsWorld Series will take place this year, with a prize pot of $2 million.

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