Mobile eSports and Competitive Play

February 2, 2019
Mobile eSports and Competitive Play

For most of us, any mention of competitive play or esports brings PC to mind. While we were so focused on what we’re used to, we haven’t noticed this growing market. Mobile competitive play is getting bigger and bigger even though most hardcore gamers look down on mobile gaming. So it’s time we looked at this topic in depth.

The Hardware

Image source: Razor offical website

If I mentioned the RTX 2080 or Titan, newest i9 or Ryzen everyone will know what I’m talking about and will have an opinion. On the other hand, if I asked you for a comparison between the A12 Bionic and Exynos 9810 you probably won't have any idea what I’m talking about (they’re the GPUs used by the iPhone X and Galaxy S9, respectively). Which brings us to the point, we are so focused on comparing the Xbox and PlayStation, Intel and AMD, Radeon and nVidia that we forgot that our phones have a lot of competitors and have to constantly fight for their place in the market.

In just a few years the technology advanced at an incredible speed. Mobile accounts for nearly half of the gaming market. It’s no surprise that so many companies decided to focus on that aspect. Razer and ASUS going so far as to create a phone dedicated to gaming. There are even different peripherals being made solely for gaming on mobile devices.

As condescending as most people are towards mobile gaming, it has its (deserved) place in the market. It’s the simplest and easiest way to continue gaming when out of the house. Even the 2 biggest problems people have with mobile gaming, controls, and unoriginal games, are being solved with Bluetooth gamepads and bigger developers joining the game. Like it or not, mobile gaming is here to stay.


Image source: Vainglory offical webiste

A game can have dedicated or integrated eSports mechanics. Dedicated mechanics are created with competitive play in mind and are meant to bring a unique experience to the more invested players (Ranked mode in League of Legends). Integrated mechanics are simply a part of the game, both the casual and competitive players play by the same rules only divided by their skill (Battle royales).

There are 2 options for mobile developers to implement competitive play in dedicated eSports games. The first is the obvious one. Games that can be played casually, but have a high skill cap that allows competitive players to really shine. A good example on PC is how it’s done in League of Legends. You have Normal and Ranked mode, there is very little difference between them, the gameplay is the same, but the mindset is different. This is the most common way of doing things because it also allows the developer to directly influence the competitive play and keep things balanced and fresh.

The second option is social multiplayer. Let’s go back to League for a comparison. Imagine that you really love playing a specific champion, wouldn’t it be great if from time to time you can compete for prizes against other people in your region or entire world who play the same champion? That’s the idea of social multiplayer, public leaderboards allow anyone to compete and be rewarded for their performance. This type of competitive play is usually done through 3rd party services such as Skillz.

The games

Image source: Fortnite official Facebook page

We won’t go into too much detail when it comes to the games, but these are some of the games popular now in the eSports scene.

When it comes to dedicated eSports games, I have to mention Vainglory since I talked about League of Legends so much. It’s an older game, a MOBA simplified for mobile devices, it also has a 5v5 mode for the classic MOBA experience.

I should also mention Arena of Valor while on the topic of MOBAs. Another obvious pick is Clash Royale, a more unique experience, combining collectible cards, RTS, MOBA and tower defense elements.

The integrated eSports games are already well known due to their PC and console releases. The top 3 would be Hearthstone, Fortnite, and PUBG. It’s the PC/Console experience packed into a mobile package and they share the same gameplay.

As for service based competitive play, the best option is to check your favorite service for the games they support. Often they are rather simple games but are very skilled based, making it a real fight for the top of the leaderboard.

The conclusion


Market trends show the mobile market is going to continue growing in the years to come. Due to this, we can expect large developers to continue adapting, which will bring some high-quality games to our phones. Choices for peripherals are going to continue growing, Bluetooth gamepads and other control devices will become more readily available.

With this push, we will also see more phones dedicated to gaming to allow for more things to be done, higher performance, constant frame rates, better graphics.

Even if you look down on mobile gaming, check the app store from time to time, you'll be surprised by the quality of some games. In case you don't feel like searching for that quality too much, follow GameBuz for recommendations, reviews and mobile games news.