How to Make Your Mobile Game a Watchable eSport

Though the eSports industry is young, it’s on course to become a billion-dollar behemoth. SuperData estimates eSports revenue will hit $890 million in 2016, as a result of more brands and advertisers entering the market. Disney and ESPN are two major investors in the space, searching for the big games to broadcast in their nascent eSports offerings.

For developers, an eSport offers the opportunity to rake in cash from streams outside of the app store through broadcasting rights, advertising cash and even ticket sales to live stadium events. Super Evil Megacorp, for example, is one of the top eSport game makers drawing crowds. In March, their tournament around popular mobile MOBA, Vainglory, attracted over 700 entrants and hosted viewers for the finals at London’s Gfnity Arena.

But the first step for any mobile game dev in growing a successful and profitable eSport is to create a game that is as compelling and engaging for a viewer as it is for a player.

Image via Super Evil Megacorp

Add visual cues

Ever sat in front of a sports game and been frustrated that you or the person next to you can’t figure out what’s going on in the game? Mobile eSports have that problem too.

Developers can resolve this using their game mechanics. Antti Sten of game firm Boomlagoon recommends adding audio or visual cues (such as a flash of light) in-game to help viewers understand when something significant happens. Accentuating important moments keeps viewers aware of epic successes or disappointing setbacks along the way, helping them stay interested and engaged.

Follow the lead of traditional sports

According to David Bos, Marketing Manager at streaming company Mobcrush, eSports should follow the lead of live sports when thinking about broadcasting. Major sports leagues such as the NFL, MLB or EPL create dynamic, engaging viewing experiences, and supplement those viewing experiences with relevant on-screen data to help the viewers know what is going on.

“Much like other competitive sports, fast-paced, surprising and visually compelling action leads to engagement,” Bos says. “Capturing not only the core stats [which could be a kill/death ratio or hit points on a key objective], but also the best angles of the action through spectator modes and other viewer-focused features enable both competitive and casual content production to look its best.”

Image via REUTERS/David Ryder

Build an audience

The social aspect of mobile games is another essential component of watchability.

“People watching and wanting to share is one of the most important things in moving the game forward,” says Juri Juskevits, community and marketing manager at Critical Force Entertainment.

Working with a streaming partner is a great way for devs to attract a large audience. Streaming platforms like Twitch or YouTube offer the opportunity to become visible to millions of users — particularly if the game is featured on the site’s front page. These partnerships can also help devs get the attention of top streamers, who attract millions of viewers daily from their own communities.

The road to monetization

Because the eSports industry is still so new, monetization will not happen overnight. Still, it’s possible for devs that can gain traction with a watchable game, particularly with the help of bullish investors or through sponsors, advertisers and tournament organizers.

What’s more, with an audience of hundreds of millions of viewers and the industry already close to being worth half a billion dollars, developers who lay a strong foundation in these early days of mobile eSports will be well-placed to profit in the long term.

This article was originally published on Pocket Gamer.