Mobile eSports has grown to such an extent in China that it has become its own segment, separate from PC-based eSports. The Chinese government was quick to recognize the growing Mobile eSports market and the Ministry of Culture created the Mobile eSports Game Association in early 2016. The first Chinese Mobile eSports Games (CMEG) conference took place in Beijing during March 2016. The conference was dedicated to working on new laws and policies that would enable growth of the industry. The fast growth of mobile gamers in China has led to mobile devices being used for both eSports viewership and participation, something that hasn’t yet happened in the West.
Tencent were early to identify the rising demand for mobile eSports and adapted their hit mobile title, King of Glory, into an eSports title in 2016. Tencent fully committed to eSports in 2016 by introducing it as the fifth major business segment after Games, Literature, Animation and movies. Almost overnight the company had over 110 million fans and 2,000 professional players competing across its eSports titles on mobile and PC. Tencent’s eSports division covers all types of eSports competitions from the League of Legends Pro League (LPL)to the King Pro League (KPL)
Mobile eSports is evolving in two directions right now with core titles, such as massive online battle arena and first person shooters as well as casual titles like puzzle and strategy games . Tencent’s King of Glory is a core mobile eSports title in the MOBA category. The game plays very similar to League of Legends and is one of the most popular mobile games in China with over 50 million daily active users. The King Pro League for King of Glory, which is an eSports tournament, helped bring new players onboard to both participate in the game and watch the professional matches. The live-streamed eSports tournament, which involved 12 professional teams and 90 players, had 350 million views in 2016 with daily peak viewers hitting 8 million users. Tencent is planning to invest RMB 200 million in their eSports ecosystem this year.
Tencent has also aimed to build out casual mobile eSports with its QQ Games competition in November 2016. The competition had professionals compete across 12 casual mobile games from the QQ Games app. The company also launched QQ Games 2.0 that same month which included a new eSports section where many casual mobile eSports titles were available to play. Around 20 eSports competitions are hosted through the app each day encouraging gamers to play and compete with others.
Despite Tencent’s efforts, the biggest success story in the casual mobile eSports sector is Giant Interactive’s ‘Battle of Balls’. The title has 250 million downloads, 100 million monthly active users and 25 million daily active users. The title, which is similar to Slither.io and takes place in an arena, is a competitive multiplayer game where the goal is to eat as many balls as possible to grow larger whilst also trying to eat enemy players who are attempting to do the same. Giant Interactive co-operated with Ali Sports in 2016 to develop a full eSports platform and tournament for the title and the Battle of Balls Global Championship began in January 2017. Giant Interactive have set a goal for Battle of Balls to be the first mobile eSports title to reach an audience of 100 million.
To be a great mobile eSports title a game must do several things:
- Engage users with its gameplay and be adapted for mobile devices and gamers.
Whilst King of Glory is seen as being similar to League of Legends, the title has made some notable changes to be better suited for mobile devices. Shorter session times, simpler controls and an auto battle system are just some of the changes made to make the game more mobile friendly.
- Have a strong user base
One thing that all successful Mobile eSports games have in common is that they had a large and engaged user base before becoming known as an eSports titles. Other MOBA titles have tried to go up against King of Glory from the day they are released but have struggled to do so due to a lack of players.
- Aim to invoke the spirit of teamwork among players
Battle of Balls has become so successful, when compared to similar games like Slither.io, because it added team gameplay elements. One user cannot control the entire arena and must rely on each member of his team for success. This
- Implement social network elements to help keep player’s active
Titles that can keep their current user base engaged as well as grow the overall user base are more successful in the eSports world. Enabling social functions both in the game and outside the game can do this.
Mobile eSports viewership and participation is set to grow in 2017 and we’ll have more insights to offer in our 2017 China eSports report.