Can mobile games make it in eSports? Amazon's Twitch is betting yes with "Vainglory," a touchscreen multiplayer online battle arena game, which is staking a claim on the eSports scene. It's publisher, Super Evil Megacorp is partnering with the streaming gaming platform to create a tournament, sponsorships and prize money for "Vainglory" players, which accounted for 150 million viewing minutes on Twitch in 2016.
The partnership between Twitch and Super Evil Megacorp will involve multi-million dollar investments from both companies over three years. In addition to the partnership, Thursday marks the beginning of the professional Spring season with $80,000 in prize money up for grabs.
Competitive eSports has mainly been the domain of PC and console games, but this is a bid to create a competitive ecosystem to mobile games, which are have traditionally been for casual, not competitive, gamers "This is the first time such a promising opportunity, such a promising game, presented itself to Twitch," Nick Allen, director of eSports operations, said to International Business Times. It's also new territory for Amazon-owned Twitch, which is attempting to create a whole new gaming league for the first time.
Amazon-owned Twitch is synonymous with competitive gaming, which will be important as the two companies establish new sponsorship deals for "Vainglory." Team SoloMid, which sponsors players teams in "Counter Strike: Global Offensive," "League of Legends" and "Hearthstone," announced its acquisition of Team Alliance earlier in March. Other established eSports sponsors buying into "Vainglory" include SK Gaming and Team Secret.
"Vainglory" combines two runaway sensations into one game. Multiplayer online battle arena games, or MOBAs, such as "League of Legends" and "Dota 2" are hosting multi-million dollar tournaments. The largest eSports tournaments can draw hundreds of thousands, or even millions of viewers from around the world. Smartphone gaming is another booming success with the likes of "Candy Crush Saga" or "Clash of Clans. With "Vainglory," the intense experience of a 20 minute team battle normally found on a PC has been shrunk down to a mobile-sized package.
"We thought it was a crying shame the smartphone generation was growing up with freemium and that was it," Kristian Segerstrale, Super Evil Megacorp COO and executive director, said to IBT. "You do your thing and just wait with timers and all that."
Segerstrale grew up playing complex PC games that required precision and strategy to achieve success. He cites "Warcraft III" and "Unreal Tournament" as examples of the types of games he loved to play.
The trouble with bringing a game that is a faithful representation of a hardcore PC experience to a smartphone or tablet. A mouse is much more precise than a simple tap, which is why gaming mice have multiple triggers and can be customized to a player's preferred style of play. Whether you're playing on a large tablet, a smaller smartphone or on iOS or Android, "Vainglory" had to be faithful to the more complex gameplay found on the PC.
A little more than a year since its release, Its growth came as a surprise to Segerstrale. "The competitive scene has grown much quicker than we ever anticipated. We expected to work for years and years to grow the core community and, hopefully, the eSports element would emerge," Segerstrale said.
After a formal tournament was organized in South Korea, Segerstrale realized there was a community eager for competitive "Vainglory" play. The Autumn season ended with over half a million views on Twitch, but the Winter season had triple the number of viewers, 1.5 million, on Twitch.
Despite its success, Segerstrale only sees potential with touchscreen eSports. There are three billion touchscreens, a number that dwarfs the number of PCs playing "League of Legends" or "Dota 2." "We believe somebody is going to build the seminal touchscreen generation in the same way Blizzard or Riot did for the PC generation," Segerstrale said.