2020 is going to be a year we’re never going to forget, that’s pretty much a given. Covid-19 is going to be the headline for the year, but there’s another that’s quietly burning in the background: mobile esports. We think the market is going to explode this calendar year. And here’s why.
Let’s start with what the data-driven experts give us. The gist of it: in terms of cold numbers, esports is going through incredible growth (and it’s going to get even better). In 2017, revenue number clocked in at an impressive $665 million.
Compared to what 2020 promises to be, however, these figures will look like chump change. What you find in the back of the couch kind of stuff. Esport is definitely here to stay according to WSN, it is expected that wagering will reach a staggering $12.9 billion in 2020 alone. Considering that at the time of writing most of the world is in lockdown mode, that figure could climb even higher.
So the conclusion is an obvious one. 2020 will be a great year for mobile esports. But why? What are the reasons behind this shift? Let’s break it down.
The Introduction of 5G Networks
There’s an infamous quote that has gone around the gaming community for a few years: “Games don’t make you violent, lag does.” Even if you’re not a gamer, you’ve undoubtedly experienced similar frustration. You’re in the middle of finishing your last-minute work presentation while commuting on the train, and the signal dies. You’re trying to watch Netflix, but all you get is a stuttering grainy mess that vaguely resembles your favorite show.
Lag is the worst.
And because of the lack of a high-speed reliable connection, mobile gaming hasn’t quite been able to reach its potential. When it comes to multiplayer esports gaming, lag is a showstopper. With the already decent 4G and with the introduction of 5G networks, mobile gaming is now a serious proposition. 5G technology will allow more of us to connect, higher speed transfers, and lower latency (the latter being essential for multiplayer gaming).
Introduction of Major Titles
Mobile esports has always been a bit of a brother to more popular gaming options. Developers would look at the flagship titles for PCs and consoles first and foremost, with mobile gaming coming in at a distant second.
That situation is changing rapidly. Instead of having to choose from games developed by the second string, mobile esports is growing in credibility and in the quality of games available. Compared to just a few years ago, it’s just no contest.
Perhaps the best example is Free Fire, essentially an online battle royale that attracts millions of players from around the world. Comparable and perhaps even superior to titles in the same genre, Free Fire welcomed over one million viewers for its inaugural tournament.
We’re also seeing familiar titles from traditional consoles being released on mobile. Call of Duty: Mobile is perhaps the most well-known example, with the game being downloaded more than 170 million times since it was released. Clearly the big players are seeing there’s a huge market with massive potential to tap into.
The ‘Non-Gamer’ Gamers
Mobile games attract a sector that most consoles and PCs haven’t yet been able to touch: non-gamers. The numbers are revealing: 80% of people who do not list gaming as one of their interests are nevertheless still playing games on their cell phones on a consistent basis. Considering many of us own a smartphone, that’s a huge number of people being introduced to mobile gaming (and by extension esports) that never would have been otherwise.
Also, consider just how popular smartphone gaming is in fast-growth markets. In Africa, for example, 70% of smartphone users open up a mobile game. In LATAM, it’s 60%. With smartphone usage increasing and connections being improved across the board, esports is now a realistic option for many players.
Covid-19 has touched every fabric of modern life. With the majority of us being stuck inside for most of our waking hours, gaming has become a nice distraction from the realities of the outside world. And companies have taken notice, accelerating the growth of the mobile esports industry.
Activision, for example, has partnered up with Sony to launch the exciting Call of Duty: Mobile World Championship for the end of April 2020. With a kitty of $1 million, we’re talking some serious cash. While it’s nowhere near the console version (with competitions easily being worth 8 figures), it’s a promising start.
What’s Beyond 2020?
It’s clear that 2020 is going to be a seismic year for mobile esports. But the way we see it, it’s just the start. Once 5G has truly landed, the big players in the industry roll out even more options, and people start to really understand the potential that’s there, we expect mobile esports to become ubiquitous amongst a huge proportion of gamers.