Esports has exploded over recent years, with revenues expected to grow from $413 million in 2016 to $1.1 billion in by 2019 as more and more tune in to watch the pro gamers battle it out. With 2016 gearing up to be the year competitive gaming breaks into the mainstream, what impact are esports making on mobile, and where do analytics fall into this?
Although mobile esports are a far cry from pulling in the number of viewers that mobile games such as League of Legends and DoTA 2 bring in, there are signs that their popularity is growing. And with 334 million people watching the League of Legends World Championships, their popularity is by no means small. Major news that live streaming powerhouse Twitch has partnered up with Super Evil Megacorp solidifies their future outlook. This 3 year deal is to broadcast championships of the popular MOBA Vainglory on the platform, as well as providing them with an esports infrastructure. With this partnership of two industry giants, can we expect to see more take notice of the potential for mobile monetization?
A recent report from Newzoo highlights that esports enthusiasts are not exclusively PC/Console gamers and are very willing to spend their time and money on mobile titles. In fact, 8% of esports enthusiasts that play mobile titles are big spenders, compared to just 3% of all mobile gamers. This shows that esports fans are very much cross-platform spenders, and therefore a very interesting group for mobile developers also.
It should be of no surprise that the Newzoo report also revealed that esports enthusiasts download mobile games more frequently than the average gamer; 42% of enthusiasts downloaded a mobile gaming app at least once/week in 2015. Mobile devices are continually becoming much more capable at providing a AAA gaming experiences, and with the likes of Twitch and YouTube Gaming making streaming from a mobile device just a tap away, it has never been easier to broadcast your own gameplay or to spectate live streams.
Looking at data on the changing preferences for gaming platforms paints further evidence of the potential for mobile esports. According to Statista, the number of smartphone users is forecast to reach 2.08 billion globally in 2016. Now, comparing that to Steam users, which is sitting at around 125 million active users, competitive mobile gaming has a far greater reach.
While mobile is still a relative newcomer, esports is on the rise on all platforms, and the phenomenon is now redefining how developers create and position their game in the market place. Now that 2016 is in full swing, we have a number of new contenders, with Paragon, Overwatch, Battleborn, Paladins: Champions of the Realm, Fifa and Madden all looking to cash in on the esports treatment. Interestingly, even the developers of prehistoric survival game Ark: Survival Evolved want to get in on the action and change the perception of esport game genres. As developers adjust to the new demands of esports, how can data be used to optimize the success of their games?
Outside of the obvious areas such as the first time user experience (FTUE) and economy, getting the game balance right is essential in esports. Averting a social media crisis by tracking if there are any imbalances in certain weapons / characters will give developers the ability to quickly detect and nerf this before it becomes known by the masses.
At deltaDNA, we have observed numerous competitive games over the years released with unknown balancing problems, and weeks can go by until the developer is aware of a problem. If not spotted quickly internally, it can take an outcry on social media to get it sorted. It is sometimes too late by then to fix, as many players die at the hands of an overpowered weapon, deem the game unfair and leave never to return. Using powerful analytics tools to track any anomalies gives developers the power to detect balancing issues and act on them quickly before they become a wider problem.
It’s easy to conclude that with the growth of esports on mobile set to continue for now, we will see developers look for new ways to optimize the experiences they offer, and analytics will come hand-in-hand with their success. For those venturing out into this new medium, getting on board with analytics early on makes sense. Using data to generate clear insight into balancing could save your player base and your brand, and understanding your customers is the most powerful tool for developing a successful product.
If you liked this article, you might like to read, Why the games industry has moved on to deep data.