The most watched esports tournament in June 2022 wasn’t for a game a lot of Western esports fans are aware of. The MLBB Southeast Asia Cup (MSC) 2022 achieved a peak viewership of 2.8 million viewers, per Esports Charts.
MLBB is a MOBA title available only on Android and iOS devices. The game is immensely popular in Southeast Asia, as the viewership numbers show. MLBB is the same game that has been sued by Riot Games for allegedly ripping off League of Legends: Wild Rift. While the lawsuit is a different thing, mobile esports titles like Free Fire, PUBG Mobile, Arena of Valor, and MLBB have shown just the power of handheld competitive gaming.
How big is Mobile Esports really?
In the present day of increased mobile connectivity and easier access to the internet especially in developing countries, mobile esports rivals other esports titles in almost every aspect. Let’s talk about the viewership first. If you were to open Esports Charts right now and sort the esports tournaments by order of peak viewership, the top-ranked tournament would be a mobile game. The Free Fire World Series (FFWS) Singapore currently holds that record with a peak viewership of 5,414,990.
The 2021 League of Legends World Championship is number two with 4,018,728 peak viewers. It’s to be noted that Esports Charts doesn’t include viewership stats from China. In fact, out of the top 10 most watched esports tournaments of all time, six of them are mobile esports titles. One of these is for Free Fire, four for MLBB, and one PUBG Mobile tournament.
Franchising is coming to mobile esports too
If franchising is the benchmark for esports becoming “serious” for you, then you must know that it’s coming to mobile esports as well. The biggest franchised mobile esports league in the world is the King Pro League (KPL). The KPL is only open to Chinese teams and is played with Honor of Kings. For the unaware, Arena of Valor is the globalized version of this battle royale title.
Honor of Kings is one of the most played video games around the world. In November 2020, the game had 100 million daily active players. Yes, you read that right. More than 100 million people play this game daily. That number has certainly gone up now. Furthermore, Tencent has announced that it will be releasing Honor of Kings globally soon.
The first franchised league for the title is the KPL. To get a sense of how big it is, a franchised slot in the 16-team league sold for more than $8.6 million in 2020.
Additionally, MLBB has two franchised league called the MPL Philippines and MPL Indonesia. The MPL Indonesia constantly breaks viewership records. The latest season, season nine, had a peak of 2.8 million, according to Esports Charts. PUBG Mobile has also announced its intention of experimenting with franchising in SEA from later this year.
It’s time to take mobile games seriously
Earlier this month, popular esports organization Dignitas tweeted out a controversial opinion: “mobile gaming is not real gaming.” After immense backlash from the mobile gaming community, the org deleted the tweet. However, it showed just how much the West is sleeping on mobile gaming.
Mobile gaming not quite catching up in the West isn’t a surprising thing to see. The developed nation’s gamers mostly have access to more expensive setups to play console and PC games, which have better graphics.
However, with the capabilities of mobile phones increasing, the graphics for mobile games are getting even better. In fact, Super Evil Megacorp even managed to create a cross-platform MOBA game called Vainglory. Players on PC and mobile could play together. While the game has died off now, it did give a glimpse of what the future could look like.
On top of this, as the West sees more mobile gamers, it might be time to take mobile esports seriously as well. Western organizations like TSM already do, as a matter of fact, but instead of investing locally have picked up teams in Brazil and India. They are even litigating against competitors, showing how serious things are for mobile esports.
With mobile esports becoming a global phenomenon, it’s time for the west to recognize something that they’ve been neglecting for a long time.