Where Mobile Games Fit Into eSportsOctober 8, 2019
By: Mariano Roy, eSports Analyst
The average gamer is 35 years old. This isn’t necessarily what we think of when we consider “gamers,” however, the most accessible video games are on our phone. As phones are becoming more powerful, we’re seeing an increase in the level of activity within mobile gaming. This number will grow, as people are more likely to invest in the versatility of a smartphone than the static use of a home console.
There is a fine dichotomy between a gamer and somebody who likes to game. The comparison would be that of a person who likes to play basketball, and somebody part of a team. Flappy Bird and Angry Birds are popular video games, but the community around it hasn’t pushed development for a competitive experience. Interestingly enough, Tetris’ speedrun community has shaped competition around the 35-year-old game. Even though the game doesn’t require a necessarily complex engine, it has found its niche in a competitive space. From an objective point of view, modern day mobile strategy games are far more complex than tetris.
Competitive gaming is picking up quickly on streaming platforms, and game developers are catching on. Nintendo has picked up on their system’s compatibility with mobile games, and they seem to be taking advantage of the microtransaction benefits of mobile gaming–and less on the competitive aspects. Pokemon Go, Mario Kart, Fire Emblem, and Animal Crossing focus on collecting, which stimulates the impulse to purchase. Other game developers focus on a “pay-to-win” system, that creates a competitive meta, while rewarding those who use real money to progress within the system’s levels. Activision’s Call of Duty Mobile has already accumulated over $2 million within only a few days–while being free to play. Activision recognizes the $62 billion being spent on mobile games and are looking to create a foundation in which to sustain their demand for microtransactions. Competition drives people to make sacrifices, and most people in their 30s are willing to sacrifice their own money to encourage their drive for competition. Others, are willing to sacrifice their parent’s money to encourage that same drive.
On the other side of the same coin, Activision also owns Candy Crush, a strategy game that is free to play, free to win, but creates multiple advantages for paid services. The trend in mobile eSports seems to be a combination of the casual and competitive aspects for mobile games. That is to say: the typical mobile eSport is easy to start for free, difficult to master for free. Games like Clash of Clans, Arena of Valor, and Summoners of War are all examples of mobile esports that are being pushed in the esports realm. Look at it like this: imagine having a checkerboard, but having a 5% chance to turn a checker into a chess piece after a game. Now, imagine being able to pay $4.99 for a 50% chance to get the chess piece you were looking for. With bright, animated colors that rival slot machines, it becomes very easy to be sucked into the microtransaction trap–especially when you see everyone around you with a full chess board.
eSports is still finding its footing within popular culture, but it’s important for us as consumers to dictate the market. We have the power to dictate what is worth our time or not. Whether we want to speedrun 35 year old games like Tetris, or the new Call of Duty Mobile–our attention brings a value that will determine the quality of content that developers want to invest into.