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Newzoo: Mobile esports seeing windows of opportunity open

Better hardware, Eastern popularity are driving slow but steady growth of large-scale, competitive play

Mobile esports continues to grow as an industry, albeit slowly, but Newzoo and software design company Arm see the rapid spread of high-end hardware as a potential catalyst for it to thrive.

A recent report co-created by the two groups analyzes the growing mobile esports industry and expectations for its near future, noting higher interest in mobile gaming in the East and the increasing prevalence of better hardware globally.

As esports experiences rapid international growth, mobile esports remains but a small portion of it. In 2017, the industry brought in a total of $655 million in revenue from media rights, advertising, sponsorships, merchandise, tickets, and publisher fees, according to the report. Newzoo predicts the global industry will bring in a total of $906 million this year (which would be a 38% YOY increase), and $1.7 billion by 2021.

The success of mobile esports is largely contained (for now) in Asia, especially China, where mobile gaming is booming. Newzoo foresees mobile esports following the same track that PC esports has as more mobile esports leagues and tournaments pop-up, lead by giants such as the King Pro League, Vainglory World Championship, and Battle of Balls. The King Pro League in particular, as Tencent's biggest event for Honor of Kings, is the #1 mobile esports league event in the world and boasted 18,000 attendees at its 2018 Split Finals in Shanghai last month. Competitors played for a total prize pool of $1 million.

In addition, the report notes that mobile esports is represented as a part of the Asian Games as a demonstration sport this year and for possible medal inclusion in 2022. Tencent's Clash Royale and Arena of Valor are both represented.

The report states that mobile esports in the West is growing at a far slower rate as PC remains dominant, though games such as Clash Royale, Vainglory, and Summoners War are helping push the industry forward. One key difference between East and West in approach to mobile esports is that Eastern esports events typically center around a single publisher's games, while Western events (primarily Amazon's Mobile Masters and Champions of Fire events) bring multiple games from different publishers together.

That said, Supercell's Crown Championship (a single-game event) is the biggest Western mobile esports event, and saw 122,000 total Twitch viewing hours for its 2017 World Finals event in December. But its viewship numbers still pale in comparison to those of PC esports.

Overall, Newzoo and Arm see the increasing share of high-end smartphones worldwide as a major positive indicator for the future of mobile gaming and mobile esports specifically. In June, the report says, 31.1% of all active smartphones were classified as "high-end," which is a 76% YOY increase. 44% of all active smartphones had screens that were 5.5" or larger--a feature that improves competitive gaming experience in particular.

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Rebekah Valentine avatar
Rebekah Valentine: Rebekah arrived at GamesIndustry in 2018 after four years of freelance writing and editing across multiple gaming and tech sites. When she's not recreating video game foods in a real life kitchen, she's happily imagining herself as an Animal Crossing character.
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