Esports Athletes Can’t Resist the Allure of Mobile Competitions

A new trend is rising within Southeast Asia’s soaring Internet economy. As the region’s online spending continues its winged ascent, mobile esports revenues are flying high in the same cockpit. While PC still rules esports competition, mobile matches are proving their worthiness as ticket-selling, stadium-filling events.

Just how big has the Chimera grown? Now, it’s important to note that most esports revenue flows in from brand investments. Previewing 2022, ads, media rights, and sponsorships see global projections of $1.5 billion.

Swimming in this massive pool are tournaments with jaw-dropping prizes — elusive bounties acting as siren songs for bright-eyed challengers. The rules are simple: win the game, claim your share of the booty.

2018’s global esports tournament prizes reached $150.8 million — a 26% jump over the $112M awarded in 2017.

And with that impressive spike in revenue comes an organic side-effect: audience growth. Year after year, the worldwide number of esports participants advances by double-digit percentages.

Image credit: Newzoo

But to reach this point in esports history, the industry first experienced a decades-long evolution. Competitive gaming planted roots well in advance of mobile phones bringing global interconnectivity to modern culture.

Humble Beginnings

In 1980, the first large-scale videogame contest drew over 10,000 participants, testing their alien-zapping reflexes in Atari’s Space Invaders.

Esports competitors circa 1980

Back then, players had no choice but to tether themselves to a console and monitor. Games were slow and pixelated. Worse yet, on-screen character movement activated a few too many microseconds after controller input.

But the computational powerhouses we now carry in our pockets leave yesteryear’s gaming machines in the digital dust. Today’s average smartphone contains more internal memory than the combination of every Atari console used in 1980’s esports kickoff.

Also, more and more consumers are introducing themselves to digital gaming through their phones. Newly-converted gamers, many of whom are intimidated by console controllers overflowing with buttons and sticks, instinctively gravitate towards mobile entertainment.

Smartphone users discover gaming long before the devices begin to resemble a natural extension of the hand.

And while smartphone use eventually leads to the download of gaming apps, nowhere on Earth is that more apparent than the APAC region.

SEA’s Mobile-first Society

Here in Southeast Asia — where mobile Internet connectivity surpasses 100% — the mobile esports industry is on an upward trajectory.

Increased popularity is full-blown within the region’s ‘Big Six’ countries — Indonesia, Malaysia, the Phillippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. In those nations, 61% of online netizens proudly call themselves gamers.

As young populations, economic development, and disposable incomes continue to swell, so does time spent exploring vibrant, digital landscapes. Because of SEA’s affinity for portable devices, the number of touchscreen gamers is on pace to eclipse those who prefer the satisfying click of buttons.

Putting this sentiment on full display was 2019’s SEA Games, held in Manila, Philippines. And one game in particular — which we’ll discuss farther down the page — saw nine nations vying for the title of smartphone champion.

Digitized Medals

The SEA Games is a biannual multi-sport competition resembling a regional Olympics. International teams converge to pit their skills against elite athletes across a variety of sporting contests.

And in December of 2019, esports had time in the spotlight as a medal-earning sport.

Digital sports are on equal ground with their physical counterparts in 2019’s SEA Games

For the first time in the Games’ 30-year history, athletes competing on virtual battlefields were qualified to hang real-world medals around their necks.

One of the most vocal proponents of legitimizing esports throughout SEA is lifestyle hardware manufacturer, Razer. The gaming giant operates out of Singapore, acting as the SEA Games’ official esports partner and equipping athletes with headsets. mice, keyboards, and more.

Razer CEO, Min Liang-Tan, had this to say about the exhibition of digital games in this year’s event:

“The sportsmanship and fighting spirit seen in esports is no less than that of other sports, and we’ve fought hard for its inclusion in an international sporting event like the SEA Games 2019.”

Globally, esports skirmishes primarily involve keyboards and mice. But for growing swathes of gamers — especially in SEA — smartphone apps provide equally thrilling boosts of adrenaline.

And if there’s one mobile game that Southeast Asians can’t seem to get enough of, it’s the aptly titled Mobile Legends.

Swipe, Tap, Bang, Bang

Mobile Legends: Bang Bang pits teams of five players against other squads in winner-take-all battle arenas. Bearing a lawsuit-drawing resemblance to Riot Games’ League of Legends, ML:BB is in a flourishing contingent of titles setting SEA’s esports scene on fire.

Mobile Legends: Bang Bang is LVL10 fireball hot in SEA

Launching in 2016, ML:BB has 75 million active players across 500 million downloads. A staggering half a billion people installed ML:BB on their phones!

SEA’s infatuation with the title spawned an annual, 3-day event — ”MSC” (Mobile Legends Southeast Asia Cup) — in which finalists now compete for $120,000 in prize money.

Late last year, in addition to the MSC, ML:BB found its way to the SEA Games. As much as Southeast Asians love to play games, they may enjoy watching them even more. Competitive live-stream figures confirm Mobile Legends’ global reach. During the week of November 11–17, 2019, ML:BB garnered nearly 6.3 million hours of YouTube viewership. That’s a lot of eyeballs watching frenetic finger-tapping!

Mobile esports occupies 4 of the 5 most-watched YouTube gaming channels. Image credit: streamhatchet.com

To put ML: BB’s current dominance in perspective, let’s compare PC and console esports viewership on Twitch during the same week…

Not even close! ML:BB attracted more viewers than the top-three Twitch channels combined. Esports titles League of Legends, Overwatch, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive together garnered just over 5 million hours watched.

So, how does all this esports coverage relate to RedFOX Labs? The answer is simple: preparations for our gaming division’s future.

Cheaters Unwelcome Here

RedFOX uses emerging tech to disrupt legacy business models in developing markets. And because there’s a clear demand for mobile games here in SEA — and the rest of the globe — we’re creating our own.

The first game out of our gaming division is well underway. Even more exciting is the technology we’re using to bring it to life. Courtesy of Komodo Project’s innovations, 100% of the game’s logic takes place on the blockchain.

Why did we bother with putting an entire mobile game on a chain? The answer to that question exemplifies why RedFOX exists as a business.

Blockchain tech keeps cheaters from entering our gaming network

You see, when all of a game’s input and output records onto a distributed ledger, cheating gamers have nowhere to hide. The global esports industry, mobile or not, regards cheating as public enemy number one. And we aim to use blockchain tech to send cheaters packing.

But thwarting shady gamers is only half the story. We can’t forget about NFTs! Non-fungible tokens are a huge slice of the gaming industry’s future.

NFTs solve a games-industry problem by allowing holders to buy, sell, and trade tokenized gameplay.

Unlike traditional games in which gameplay elements — weapons, costumes, etc. — remain locked within the same title, NFTs allow in-game items to travel freely between all games within the same ecosystem.

Saving the Game

Mobile competition is a natural progression of the esports industry. From a logistics standpoint, it’s far easier to compete with nothing more than a phone and headset. Rat’s nests of cabling, pallets of keyboards, and crates of controllers don’t necessarily provide a seamless travel and setup experience.

PC gaming still reigns supreme in certain regions. But as the shift to mobile continues its forward march, wall-tethered machines become less relevant in competitive tournaments.

GlobalWebIndex survey of 1M+ Internet users  - ’Smartphone’ is the only category on the rise

Here at RedFOX headquarters, we’re excited to be part of SEA’s mobile gaming boom. We admit that our studio’s first game won’t have the same watchability as current fan-favorites.

But remember, we’re exploring uncharted territory with the blockchain industry’s first 100% immutable gameplay! In other words, we’re proving the concept now and incorporating what we learn into future releases.

Plus, we’re joining the ranks of big-name publishers — including Ubisoft — by hiring SEA’s local talent to help us create virtual playgrounds.

Further details about our new game — complete with accompanying NFT marketplace — are coming soon. And if you’re part of the RedFOX Labs Telegram announcements channel, stop in for a fresh update. On January 16, we posted a video containing a sneak-peek of game artwork in the background. Go check it out!


Hit subscribe to get an inside look at how we’re accelerating blockchain adoption in Southeast Asia and beyond!