Mobile gaming and mobile esports have come a long way in Asia over the last few years, according to a study conducted by market research company Niko Partners in partnership with Google. Niko Partners is one of the leading market research firms focused on the videogame and esports markets in Asia. The research shows key data points behind trends in the mobile gaming space in the region.
Mobile MOBAs Lead the Way
Tencent’s Honor of Kings is already known to be one of the biggest titles in China, along with Moonton’s Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, which has established itself in the Southeast Asian Market. Both titles have dedicated esports ecosystems and are the most downloaded mobile esports titles in Asia since 2015 and 2016, respectively. They are also the most profitable titles in the region in the last three years. However, in 2019 the most popular and profitable titles in Asia (excluding China) were battle royale titles such as PUBG MOBILE, Fortnite Mobile, and Garena Free Fire.
While shooters such as PUBG MOBILE, Fortnite, and Free Fire have a more global following, Mobile Legends and Honor of Kings have a very dedicated player base in Asia. This is good news for League of Legends: Wild Rift, one of the most anticipated titles on the mobile platform, but it will also mean that it will have to face some extremely tough competition in the space.
Asian Gamers Go Big on Mobile
In 2019, mobile esport titles generated $19.5B USD, 68% ($13.3B) of which came from Asia. In 2020, a 50-75% increase in playtime was recorded since the pandemic. Viewership for mobile esport titles also grew 75-100% YoY when the quarantine was implemented. Prize pools for mobile titles in Southeast Asia also grew by 244% from 2018 to 2019. Mobile gaming, including non-esport titles, earned more than $28B in revenue from just Southeast Asia and China. In China, esport titles performed better, with $7.2B USD in revenue (10% more than 2018). Revenue from mobile esports was estimated to be at $1.9M in SEA with a 21.1% 5-year CAGR. Among the various countries in the region, Vietnam showed the most promise with a 28% CAGR.
This growth is likely to sustain as emerging technology and access to it becomes more prevalent in the region. A higher penetration of smartphones, rapidly improving hardware, and access to the internet are all conducive to the growth of the mobile gaming market. With faster internet in the form of 5G set to be adopted in most SEA countries by the end of 2020, the forecasts for revenue and growth seem to be optimistic.
Importance of Gaming Cafes in Asia
The presence of gaming cafes and PC bangs was one of the key drivers behind the growth in gaming and esports in much of Asia since the early days. This phenomenon has been true since the days of StarCraft and continues to this day as social and economic factors in Asia means that there are more barriers to owning a high-end gaming device than in the West. With the rise of mobile gaming, cafes have managed to transition their models, using their floor space to host and organize tournaments. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of mobile esports tournaments at local gaming cafes across Asia was on the rise. The report suggests that “as mobile esports events became more popular, they quickly outperformed other mobile genres across Asia, inspiring new development and intensifying market competition.”
Shounak Sengupta is a staff writer for AFK Gaming.
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