Why Mobile Esports will Displace PC/Console Esports: the Rise of Multiplayer Action Mobile Gaming

TL;DR Summary

Mobile is growing in number of gamers across the gaming spectrum — especially multiplayer action games

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In the past 3 years, more multiplayer action games such as Honor of Kings are breaking into the top 10 revenue charts

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Top Mobile Games by Revenue from 2016, 2017 and up to August 2019. Source: Sensor Tower
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Left: Free Fire and PUBG Mobile were the top 2 most downloaded mobile games of 2019 beating Subway Surfers. Why is this significant? Because hyper-casual Subway Surfers was the most downloaded game of the decade at 2.7 BILLION total downloads. Right: People love to mention Candy Crush when I talk mobile esports, but it was so 2014 when King (makers of Candy Crush) peaked at 550M MAUs — by 2019, they declined to 258M MAUs.

The KPL is the largest mobile esports in the world and Tier 1 in China along with the League of Legends Pro League (LPL)

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Pics from top then left to right: Xi’an KPL Spring 2019, Shanghai Mercedes Benz Arena KPL Spring 2018, Beijing Workers Stadium International Honor of Kings Champion Cup Fall 2018, Shenzhen Sports Bay Stadium KPL Fall 2017
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Hero Jiujing team members celebrate defeating QGhappy 4–2 in the final of the 2019 Honor of Kings Champion Cup on January 13, 2019 at the Oriental Sports Centre in Shanghai. Source: Telegraph UK

The multiplayer action gaming segment in mobile is growing fast thanks to the Battle Royale port from PC to mobile

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Top 6 mobile battle royale action games: Garena Free Fire, PUBG Mobile, Rules of Survival, Knives Out, Fortnite Mobile, Call of Duty Mobile.
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Call of Duty Mobile was the 2nd most successful mobile game launch of all time for its 1st month — 148M downloads with USA leading the way with 24M installs.
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Peacekeeper Elite — a PUBG Mobile clone — hit 50M daily active players in less than two months.

Mobile battle royale seems to have reached one billion players globally — and it will continue to grow.

The esports scenes for these mobile games are thriving

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The April 2019 Free Fire World Cup had over 27 million watching online. That makes it more popular than the Overwatch League Grand Finals. Source: ONE Esports
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Few months later in November 2019, the Free Fire Pro League Season 3 Brazil Finals was one of the largest Brazilian livestream (all content categories) of all time hitting ~1M peak live concurrent viewers for a single channel — this means that the upcoming World Series Finals on November 16 should smash previous records.
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In 2019, mobile esports is bigger in terms of average viewership vs traditional PC esports (excluding China) based comparing one World Championship event to another. Source: EsportsCharts

At Thailand’s Garena World events, mobile esports has displaced PC esports

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Garena World attracts ~300,000 attendees and Arena of Valor — a mobile esports title — is the biggest esports draw. Source: Niko Partners

PUBG Mobile has helped the hardcore mobile gaming market in India to grow exponentially in all 3 metrics — users, usage and monetization.

The market has grown 2–3X after PUBG Mobile, with over an hour of daily usage.

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The Dew Arena is India’s largest game championship event

Mobile gaming/esports dominated live stream viewership November 4–17, 2019— displacing many traditional esports titles

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The huge mobile esports games above are: Garena Free Fire, PUBG Mobile, Arena of Valor, and Mobile Legends

Appealing to ‘gamers’ who don’t initially list gaming as an interest

The gap is significant: 8 in 10 of those who do not list gaming as an interest are still playing games on their smartphone. (per Global Web Index 2019)

Smartphone penetration rates in fast growing markets reveal astronomical upside

When it comes to % internet users, smartphone gaming is the only platform that saw increases in audience uptake

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This is a great report by Global Web Index where they survey 1M+ internet users. I want to emphasize that the casual PC gamer cohort can access those same games more easily on mobile. PC gaming is no longer seen as casual and gotten significantly more hardcore due to the PC casual base shifting to mobile — this shift to mobile is also happening in the midcore to hardcore gaming spectrum.

Surprisingly, fast growing mobile-first markets, not Western markets, are the top markets for PC gaming’s continued popularity

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Source: Global Web Index Q3 2018 survey of 113,932 Internet Users Aged 16–64.

Although mobile gaming is popular in the Philippines, so is PC gaming!

PC gaming in Vietnam tells a similar story

Let’s look at desktop vs mobile web market share in Vietnam

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Mixi Gaming — with 2M+ YouTube subscribers — is the largest game streamer in Vietnam and he plays on PC, not mobile.

In Southeast Asia, internet users used to outnumber smartphone users — especially 2017 and earlier

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In Southeast Asia esports history, it was all about PC. The stats above is from 2017, and if you look further back there were many more internet users than smartphone users and multiplayer action games on mobile were not popular so mobile esports was not obvious given how dominant PC gaming was — this is rapidly changing due to smartphone user adoption growth rates. Source: Sea October 2017 corporate video

Mainstream popularity of gaming is the biggest factor to mobile esports adoption

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Arena of Valor 2019 Vietnam mobile esports professional league. Credit: Fern Y (Garena)

Gaming mainstream appeal and smartphone advancements are the biggest reasons why mobile esports took off:

These quality multiplayer action games are converting many smartphone internet users into gamers — significantly growing gaming mainstream appeal.

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Dr. Disrespect’s tweet is ironic because multiplayer action games are converting some smartphone gamers who don’t consider themselves ‘gamers’ into “real gamers”.

The growth of mobile esports is great for esports consumption

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Esports consumption in China is going very mainstream at 40% internet users vs the worldwide average at 22%. The USA sits at just 6%.

Note that China, Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, and India all surpassed South Korea.

What do they have in common?

Mobile esports has or is going mainstream there.

Which means even just a 1% uptick is undeniably massive。

The Emerging Hardcore Mobile Gamer

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In October 2019, the top 3 games by downloads worldwide, ranked by average time per user are the multiplayer action mobile games I mentioned earlier. Source: App Annie
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Source: Niko Partners — What Western Game Publishers Need To Know About Gamers In Asia
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In SEA, Garena reported in their 3Q2019 earnings growth that quarterly paying user ratio more than doubled from 4.1% to 9.1% — this has mostly to do with one game with 450M players, Garena Free Fire.
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Left: The KPL skin sold 100M RMB (~$14.2M USD) within 2 hours at 168 RMB each (~$24 USD per skin) — which has revenue share with KPL franchise esports teams. Right: The BMW skin made 150M RMB (~$21.4M USD) in 1 day.
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Source: Huya And Douyu Battle For Esports In China: Here’s The Winner — Seeking Alpha

Simply put, in almost every way from esports to streaming platforms, the West is very behind on mobile.

America’s esports industry will not grow as fast as East if we don’t invest in mobile at all levels.

Mobile has a more diverse, higher female playerbase as well as passionate esports fans

Team Illuminate placed 3rd at the Free Fire World Series November 2019 with a talented female pro player on the team.

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MUETOB is the team’s critical scout position player.

Smartphones are democratizing access to multiplayer action games to more variety of gamers — a big deal that is pushing multiplayer action gaming significantly more mainstream.

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Left: Mobile esports Honor of Kings 90% female audience at KPL Chengdu Nov 2019, Right: PC esports DOTA 2 audience 90% male at MDL Chengdu Major Nov 2019. Source: EddieChy陈泓宇. I also shared pictures of 60%+ female audiences in my previous article: Why Mobile is the Future of Esports

Such high % female audience in esports and sports is just unheard of — that’s the diversity and power of mobile esports.

Fans cheer loudly for the introduction of popular team QG Happy
Fans erupt in excitement at Mobile Legends Bang Bang Finals. Source: Allan Phang
These passionate female fans cheering is just impressive for Honor of Kings KPL mobile esports — a sight we hopefully will also start seeing more of in the West.
This the opening first day energy for the M1, the first ever Mobile Legends World Championships.
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Written by

Founder/CEO GameGether | Mobile Gaming/Esports | Ex: GM Apple, Esports Org Co-Founder, Pro Player, GM Immortals, Team Liquid. Esports conf speaker & commentator

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