Esports, traditionally, has been about competition in video games and on PC. Even today, if you mention esports to an outsider, he will think of PC competition. But with advances in mobile technology, processing power and cheaper data, mobile gaming is picking up at an unprecedented rate. And with it, its esports scene is booming.  […]

Esports, traditionally, has been about competition in video games and on PC. Even today, if you mention esports to an outsider, he will think of PC competition. But with advances in mobile technology, processing power and cheaper data, mobile gaming is picking up at an unprecedented rate. And with it, its esports scene is booming. 

Gaming is often associated with high-end computers, keyboards and a mouse, but the PC gaming market is not the biggest. Mobile gaming is bigger than the PC and console markets combined. As you are coming to terms with this information, know that mobile gaming will see a spurt in growth in the next few years. You have seen your neighborhood shopkeeper’s son playing PUBG Mobile on his mobile device. People talking about mobile games in public places, especially in Asia is, not out of the ordinary. The growth of mobile gaming has been rapid and is continuing to grow at an unprecedented rate. The 2022 Asian games will feature PUBG Mobile and Arena of Valor, along with a bunch of PC games and more and more developers are releasing mobile versions of existing PC titles. 

Rapid Growth for Mobile Gaming


There are many reasons for the growth in mobile gaming. COVID helped, Smartphone usage growth and cheaper data and higher mobile specifications are contributing factors. 

Growth in Smartphone usage

With increasing numbers of smartphone users comes more potential gamers. Free-to-play mobile games and peer pressure of watching your friends talk about this mobile game contribute to an increase in numbers. The mobile gaming market is particularly strong in countries such as India and China which already have the highest number of smartphone users.

The Growth in Smartphone usage has seen a similar growth in number of mobile gamers. Image Credit: Bicanski on Pixnio

India is one of the hottest markets for mobile gaming. 1.18 billion mobile connections, 700 million Internet users, and 600 million smartphones, which are increasing 25 million per quarter is a massive market with scope for extensive growth. The country also has the highest data consumption at 12 GB per month. The last few years have seen a spurt in smartphone sales and adoption. With Reliance Jio’s dirt-cheap data rates and increasing processing power of phones,  the data consumption in the country has grown manifold. And with it has come an increase in mobile gaming.

China Smartphone usage numbers, including projection till 2026. Image Credit: Statista. 

With more than 560 million users, India is the largest internet population. However, its neighbor, China is an even higher number. And despite the high actual number of internet users, the internet penetration in India stands at just around 50%. The corresponding number for China stood at around 53%.  And the number of mobile gamers is much much less. Mobile game developers and publishers view this untapped market as a huge growth opportunity in markets where PC gaming’s growth does not match that of the west. 

The high cost of PC components and peripherals is a big reason why users are not willing to invest money into buying a powerful gaming PC. The Dollar conversion rates often make importing PC components costly, even compared to the US. But mobile devices are more than just for gaming for smartphone buyers. A mobile phone is a necessity, for communication, work, emails and entertainment. Buyers often compare the various specifications to choose the most powerful mobile at their price range. It is easier to convince oneself that the mobile device is an all-in-one device and not just an investment only for gaming. It’s a necessity that includes a few luxuries.

COVID

A view of the empty roads near the Küçükçekmece Metrobus station, Istanbul’s second-most populous city. Image Credit: Wikipedia.

The COVID 19 pandemic hit the Asian countries very hard. China was one of the first countries to be hit by the virus while India had the highest number of cases. With national governments imposing lockdowns, one of the easiest ways to spend your time at home was to game. A mobile phone already in hand, gaming took off massively during the pandemic. For many users, gaming was not just about gaming. It was also a social experience as you got to spend time with your friends and sometimes family members, playing video games on the phone. Everyone has a mobile and ready accessibility of free-to-play games brought many friends together. 

A September 2020 Forbes article says nearly 60% of mobile gamers are women. A vast majority of women pick up hyper-casual games, games that you can pick up, play and put down. These games require no tutorials and almost zero prior knowledge. This global trend also sees similarities in India where 49% of women started gaming during the lockdown in India. The mobile gaming industry is set to reach $7 billion by 2026, according to a Redseer report. And this is before new technology can leapfrog the industry into a higher gear.

New Technology 

5G is expected to decrease latency and provide a massive boost to mobile games. Image Credit: Christoph Scholz on Flickr.

Mobile phones are one of the fastest adopters of new technologies. There have been rapid advances in mobile technology including improvements to cameras, touchscreen, processing power, battery life and much more. 

The next step in mobile connectivity is the mass usage of 5G technology. The technology is already here and global companies are setting up standards for its implementation and adoption. 5G internet connectivity reaches up to 10 gigabits per second, nearly ten times faster than the current speeds. However, for mobile gamers, the biggest difference is the latency, or rather the lack of it.

4G internet connections have an average latency of 200 milliseconds. For 5G, this number is just 1 millisecond as per this Thales report. Latency is the delay between sending and receiving information. So from the time you press the screen on your phone to the time, it takes to reach the game’s servers and back is the latency. The lower the latency the better your response time. This is a particularly important consideration for multiplayer games, where a better internet connection can mean the difference between victory and failure.

Mobile Gaming: New Markets

The first esports tournament took place at Stanford University in 1972. The winner of the Intergalactic Spacewar Olympics tournament received a year-long Rolling Stones Magazine subscription. Ever since then, esports has grown mostly in western countries. South Korea and China started later, but have since caught up with better infrastructure, internet speeds and community acceptance of esports.

But most of the Asian countries have largely lagged behind other countries in esports and gaming. Many of these countries are skipping ahead to mobile games, which opens up massive new markets for game developers and publishers. 

Mobile Gaming was projected to grow to $89.6 billion in revenues in 2021, up from $79.6 a year ago. The industry represents nearly 75% of all spending on Google Play Store and iOS. While this number may fluctuate, mobile games still account for the majority of spending. The ease of accessibility to mobile games and the low entry cost make them an attractive entertainment option for players.

India is one such market where mobile games have leapfrogged PC games and found widespread popularity. In fact, India accounted for more than 52% of installs propelling PUBG Mobile to the Number 1 spot in mobile games. The industry is not completely immune to political tensions as was seen when India banned several Chinese apps, including TikTok and PUBG Mobile. But PUBG Mobile restructured and recently launched again in the country as Battlegrounds Mobile. Meanwhile, other games such as Free Fire and Call of Duty Mobile have seen an increase in their market share. 

Future Projections for Mobile Gaming

Better internet connectivity, more smartphone users and improved mobile specifications will see the industry grow rapidly in the next few years. Image Credit: Psycat Games.

In 2021, both PC and console markets saw slight market share drops compared to the previous year. However, the mobile gaming market grew by 7.3%, according to Newzoo. So what’s next for mobile gaming?

The market might see a slight dip in the short term, mostly because it saw an astonishing growth rate over the past few years. However, in the long term, the mobile gaming industry will continue to grow at a robust pace. Reasons include the rapid adoption of 5G technology which will ensure gaming on the go without lag. Improvements in smartphone specifications and the Internet of Things will also allow users to spend more time (and therefore money) on mobile games.

India and China are already the biggest markets when it comes to smartphone usage. And it is in these countries that mobile gaming is seeing rapid growth. Riot Games recently released Wild Rift and also released a mobile version for Rocket League. The diversity in mobile games genres is also a plus point for many users. Pokemon Go integrated mobile games and Augmented Reality, urging players to move around and go out. Facebook’s Metaverse is also another opportunity for mobile gamers to experience another type of gaming and spend time in the metaverse. 

The opportunities are limitless for mobile gaming, its growth and variety in the space. And all of this, while convincing yourself that you are buying a high-end phone for work. 

Stay tuned to esports.gg for the latest gaming news and updates

Rohan Samal - Eurasia Editor

Rohan Samal

Eurasia Editor | Twitter: @rohan_esports | Twitch: rohan_3105

Rohan is an editor at esports.gg. He found esports through Dota 2, but has since gone on to follow several other titles including CS: GO, Overwatch, Rainbow Six Siege and more. He has written for several publications and hopes to attend TI10 in 2022.