League of Legends, Valorant, and Fortnite may be kings of esports in the eyes of millions, but they may not be top dogs for much longer. Mobile games in esports are growing exponentially and, according to one industry expert, they will “transform the industry as we know it” over the next two years.
Arnd Benninghoff, the executive vice-president of esports and gaming at digital entertainment powerhouse Modern Times Group (MTG), believes the future of competitive gaming–and the most exciting developments it will deliver in 2023 and beyond–will be spearheaded by games that anyone can play, anywhere they are.
Benninghoff, who oversees key acquisitions in MTG’s gaming portfolio–which now includes esports juggernauts ESL and DreamHack, plus Hutch, PlaySimple, Kongregate, InnoGames, and Ninja Kiwi–says mobile games are already a key driver in esports’ success.
“In 2020, across all esports titles, four of the top five games were mobile,” he notes, pointing to titles including PUBG Mobile, Garena Free Fire, and Mobile Legends–all overwhelmingly popular in the Far East, as highlighted earlier this year by Rivalry CEO Steven Salz.
Thanks to rapidly improving mobile technology, and with a wider-scale rollout of 5G just around the corner, Benninghoff says mobile esports will only become a more dominant force in the industry in the coming months and years.
“Whether through gameplay or through next-generation events, the accessibility of mobile gaming means mobile esports has the potential to unlock new players and audiences across the globe,” he says. “We will begin to see a competitive gaming space that caters for everyone, everywhere.
“In the next two years, we expect to see a democratization of esports, championed by a new generation of players and fans, unlocking significant new opportunities for businesses operating within this space.”
However, mobile games won’t stage a full, hostile takeover of the esports industry. Despite exploding onto the scene in recent years, Benninghoff believes that PC and console developers will unlock greater potential from their games via mobile, supporting crossplay, expanding opportunities for gamers and viewers alike, and “contributing to the prosperity of the entire industry.”
“I’m looking forward to seeing how esports events evolve in the next few years,” he adds. “With the return of live events on the horizon, we can expect them to come back with a bang – a bigger and better spectacle.
“As in-person and online gaming merge–and mobile, PC and console become more intertwined–stadiums can be reimagined, creating more immersive experiences that will excite fans from every corner.”
MTG itself, which was understandably forced to cancel countless live competitions due to the lockdown conditions of 2020, is hoping to lead this evolution in esports events from Q4 2021 onwards. Benninghoff explains that the company has learned an incredible amount since the advent of COVID-19, adding that the experience will influence the way it plans its gatherings “long after the pandemic is gone.”
“We’re eagerly awaiting the return of audiences at events, and we’re planning to have a combination of live and online productions,” he concludes. “These are exciting times for MTG’s esports operations, and we’re set to tap into markets that we’ve never been before.”