Back in 2020, unprecedented global circumstances led to the esports scene achieving breakthrough mainstream popularity. Following its arrival in the public conversation, investors, traditional sporting organizations and brand sponsors have eagerly been vying to integrate themselves with this rapidly growing and lucrative new market. To date, the vast majority of interest has been focused on well-established games, tournaments, and platforms, such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and DOTA 2, both on the PC. But in the background, a previously niche sub-set of esports has been gaining ground rapidly – mobile esports.
This sector had previously been held back by poor device optimization and a lack of reliable and consistent input methods. Yet it’s increasingly looking as if mobile esports may eventually grow to become the dominant concern in the wider industry. This is perhaps understandable, given that smartphone ownership, globally, sits at around 97% of the population. The trend towards mobile gaming is already well underway in emerging markets, with analysts DFC Intelligence finding that gamers from regions such as Latin America, South-East Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa are 1.5x likelier to use their smartphones as their primary, or sole, games console.
An Evolving Platform
Gaming on mobile has been evolving and diversifying steadily over the years. While it’s true that, generally, the most popular games on the platform remain the type of hyper-casual freemium titles that appeal to a broad user base, increasing the platform has become more hospitable to a range of gaming formats and experiences.
With hardware growing more effective and powerful, and greater investment in the sector from developers, we are increasingly seeing mobile gaming become home to a range of compelling gameplay experiences. For example, on what other platform could you expect to find gamers making use of no deposit bonuses provided by online comparison platforms such as OddsChecker to experience the best of online casino gaming, rubbing shoulders with resource-hungry benchmark titles like ARK: Survival Evolved?
This flexibility is what has led to such a boom in mobile game development in 2022, and the esports scene is one of the major beneficiaries of this trend. With that said then, what are the most popular mobile esports being played in the world today?
Arena of Valor
Arena of Valor is the international version of the domestically immensely popular Chinese game, Honor of Kings. This 5v5 MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) game is one of the fastest-growing esports across any platform. The Arena of Valor World Cup 2022 also boasts the largest mobile prize pool in history to date, with a total of $10 million up for grabs.
The most downloaded game globally in 2019, Free Fire is a battle royale game cut from the mold of PUBG. The 2021 Free Fire World Series tournament hosted in Singapore attracted a record 5.4 million peak viewers, a record for esports – surpassing even League of Legends’ largest events.
PUBG Mobile / Battlegrounds Mobile India
PUBG Mobile is the mobile version of PlayerUnknown BattleGrounds, the game widely credited with popularizing the battle royale genre. As such this indie title. which started life as a mod of ARMA 3 and has inspired massive productions such as Fortnite and Call of Duty: Warzone. The game is immensely popular around the world, especially in India where a new version of the game, known as Battlegrounds Mobile India, was relaunched in that market to comply with local requirements. Combined, PUBG would be the largest and most-watched mobile esports in the world, with an excess of 4 million peak viewers.
Mobile Legends: Bang Bang
With over 386 million hours watched in 2021, as reported by Esports charts, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang was almost twice as popular as PUBG that year. This new MOBA is particularly popular in South-East Asia. Its frenetic pace, with 10-second matchmaking and 10-minute rounds, makes it a compelling and casual compromise for the mobile esports fan and has precipitated its rise as the most popular mobile esports in the world today.