Esports Weekly Digest –  Week 34

Missed something in the ever-evolving Esports industry? Here’s your weekly recap!

LCS teams are rioting

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Let’s talk LCS. In the eve of the Summer Split Finals in Europe and North America, an interview sparked a response which sparked a drama which sparked many more responses.

Andy “Reginald” Dinh, owner of fan-favorite Team SoloMid, complained in an interview on how Riot doesn’t care about their LCS teams, throwing game-changing patches days before major tournaments. He went on, comparing the cost-to-revenue ratio of an LCS team compared to Dota or CS:GO sections which generate more money.

Riot co-founder Marc “Tryndamere” Merrill was (maybe too) quick to answer Reginald in an emotional and now infamous/edited reddit post where he called out the TSM owner for investing in other Esports. The community uproar was swift, but the best part was that the other LCS team owners came in defense of Reginald, sharing their own struggles and doubts with the Riot’s way.

We followed and gathered all the drama and discussions on our dedicated Twitter thread.

In the conflict of interest of everyone…

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The latest community witch hunt is about a few people controlling too many Esports organizations. A powerful Russian company named ESForce was recently under the spotlighs for owning organizations such as Virtus.Pro, SK Gaming, media rights for Natus Vincere and numerous Esports websites in the CIS region. The funny part is that the website which published the story is now caught in the same scandal.

The well-respected Esports Observer has financial ties with Jens Hilger, an influencial Esports entrepreneur. Part of the founding ESL team, he then left to start new ventures like Dojomadness.

He’s also involved in numerous companies, which seems normal for an investor and entrepreneur. But some of his investments are in rival teams (G2 Esports and Fnatic) and the self-proclaimed independent Esports Observer. Feels like a drama inception.

On a more serious note, these conflicts will keep on happening as long as there is no legislation to rule all this mess.

Team Rocket

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Let’s end this digest with the beloved Rocket League which is doing well, very well. The latest numbers show that jet-motorized football is not a fluke. A year after its launch, the latest Psyonix game boasts impressive numbers :

  • 7,000,000+ paid sales
  • 20,000,000 players
  • approx. $150,000,000 revenue
  • All this with a mere $2,000,000 budget.

Rocket League is a great case study on how to make a successful competitive game: make a great game, put it in as much players’ hands as possible (Rocket League was free with the PlayStation Plus) and keep on polishing its mechanics while adding new content. Then and only then, launch the Esport efforts.

Esports Digest – Week 31

Early August means slow activity for everyone but Esports. With The International 2016 finally live and Overwatch breaking records, there’s no way we’ll slack at the beach. Here’s your weekly digest!

TI6: The pinnacle of the MOBA era?

Valve huge Dota tournament is the talk of the town, from its infamous prize money approaching the historic $20M mark to its numerous storylines, drama and top notch actions – and yes, we’re covering it all.

It will be interesting to see if MOBAs are peaking like everyone is predicting, as the community crowdfunding grew less compared to last year and the active players pool even dived under the all-time high 13M. League of Legends is also feeling the stagnation, as viewership on Twitch has been quite stable this season and South Korea seems to fall in love with love with a challenger named Overwatch…

Overwatch: Summer Hit

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Who can stop Overwatch? Hailed as the next big thing in Esport, the Blizzard shooter has been performing above expectations. Blizzard has been bragging about its latest IP performances since its launch: 15M active players, beating Diablo III as the biggest launch performance. More interesting is the Asian market, known to prefer RTS and MOBAs. Blizzard claims that Overwatch is the fastest selling PC game in China and overtook League Of Legends in South Korean PC Bangs. We can confirm on the latter claim.

Now, what’s next? We discovered a Seasonal Event for this month and a World Cup for November’s Blizzcon. Enhanced spectator mode and stats are also in the pipes, proving Overwatch is definitely gunning for the Esport throne.

Battleborn… Dead?

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The same cannot be said for Battleborn. Take-Twos own take on class-based FPS has been struggling since its launch and after heavy promotion and early discounts, the towel is thrown. Take-Two president Strauss Zelnick had to admit the game failed.

It feels like 2004 when people would launch MMOs during the World of Warcraft frenzy or 2013 where a bunch of MOBAs went crashing at LoL and Dota’s doors. Timing is everything.

Quake Champions: Same Recipe, different Flavor

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Watching all these FPS brats fighting each other, Quake keeps grinning. The father of (fast) FPS is still well and alive. The Quakecon tournaments (which we power) gather fewer players, all of them being seasoned fragger or straight railgun gods. While Esport legends like Zero4 or Faze were fragging each other of 25 years old maps, iD Software gave us a glimpse at Quake’s future.

Quake Champions first gameplay trailer felt right: it’s beautiful, it has abilities but above all, it feels like Quake. The oldest Esport in history may be the surprise underdog for the Esport era to come…

Esport Digest – Week 30

Esports never cool down, especially in Summer. In the eve of the much-awaited International 2016, here are the 3 facts worth your read.

Shaq Attack

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Esports sure feel like a next-gen farwest. In an industry were teams come and go every other day and leagues struggle to maintain some stability, everybody looks up to the big sports where “mercatos” and transfers obey numerous and strict rules. NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal seems to enjoy immensely the loose rules of Esports, as he simply invited famous Overwatch player Seagull and his teamates to leave their current team Luminosity and join NRG, a rival team part-owned by the Shaq. All this with a witty, public tweet. And another incoming drama for Luminosity (check our previous digests).

They talk about my 140 taps

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Talking about Twitter: Even tho the little blue bird is struggling compared to other social networks, it remains the premier platform for stars, athletes, live events reactions and thus, for Esports.

Following their first broadcasting deals with the NFL and Wimbledon, Twitter just announced a streaming partnership with Turner’s ELeague. It’s a big step forward for Esport and a promising one for Twitter, which could turn into the best “watch live and live comment” platform out there.

Open Sesame, Alibaba

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Alibaba’s forray into Esport has been an obsession of ours since the first announcements back in March. Things just got real this week with a huge $150M investment in the International ESports Federation, plenty of tournaments and projects.

Following Amazon spectacular acquisition of Twitch for $970M a few years ago, Alibaba confirms that good content is the perfect match for giant retailers. And that Esport is serious business in China.

Esports Digest – Week 29

Here’s our weelky Esports Digest with 3 stories: good news for fighting games, bad news for skin gamblers and potential good news for sports. But first of all, let’s enjoy NBA Legend Bill Walton enjoying Esports.

Fighting Esports, round 2

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Last week was the Fighting Games fest, with EVO 2016. One of the largest Offline Tournament in the world welcoming thousands of competitors eager to duke it out on famous disciplines such as Street Fighter, Smash Bros, Mortal Kombat, Marvel vs Capcom, Guilty Gear or Tekken.

2016 is also a pivotal year for EVO, as the event moved away from its grassroots approach, hosting the numerous finals in an Arena and having the Street Fighter V Top 8 broadcasted on ESPN 2. Despite some caveits and usual issues, all went quite well, according to several reports.

This first step is a crucial one for the FGC, as the whole “Pro Esports” path taken by the other genres have been hotly discussed by the community, willing to remain a bit underground. The potential is here, the first tests are positive, now is the time for the FGC to jump the shark and embrace its Esports status.

Bad bet

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Who would have bet (pun intended) that a whole part of the CS:GO ecosystem would crumble in a matter of days? The weapon skins gambling sites have been all over the place lately. Hugely popular within the community, they sponsored everything, from tournaments to streamers, raising some eyebrows about the classic addiction / fraud issues.

Things went south when several prominent streamers got caught red handed : gambling with money provided by the sponsor, getting favorable bet results or even own equity stakes in the services they promoted / were sponsored by. Doesn’t need a genius to understand that this little industry was shady and out of any control and regulation.

Comes Valve. The CS:GO publisher is infamously know for its unpredictable communication style, ranging from full hands-off to sudden decisions. The CS:GO gambling business learned it the hard way, as Valve sent several Cease and Desist letters and officially condemned the way these sites took advantage of their public API, all this after months without actions.

This will come as a hard lesson in Esports: whether you develop a healthy and legal business or shady one, everything you built and invested on will still remain in the Publisher’s hands.

Goliath likes David

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We’re at the Eve of a major shift in Esports, a shift named Sport. For the past few weeks, more and more traditional sport franchises, players and leagues have made their first move into Esport. NBA club owners and players, European Soccer clubs and more recently the Spanish and French Soccer Leagues. And this week, 3 NFL Clubs will hire Madden players.

These moves are both exciting and disappointing. Exciting because the whole “Sports/Esport merger” dream is closer everyday. Disappointing because most of these organizations have huge resources but start very slow. Most of them just hired a FIFA/Madden player to represent the club in gaming tournaments. Make sense, but it still look like some glorified PR stunt. We hope that more ambitious Esport divisions will grow and look at Shalke 04’s ambitious Esports project as the current benchmark.

Esports Digest – Week 27

Our fast-moving Esport industry never ceases to surprise us – for better or worse. Here are the main facts and trends for this week!

Hello Manchester, hello Lisbon

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This week, Manchester City and Sporting Lisbon joined the “Sports Clubs going Esports” club, along with Besiktas, Santos, Saski Baskonia, Schalke 04, Valence, West Ham and Wolfsburg. Most of them use the conservative path, adding FIFA players, but somes as Shalke also added a LoL roster.

Can’t wait to see which next clubs are going to enter the fray – and on which games. Rumors has it that Manchester United is in a bidding war with Fnatic over an Overwatch team… The Mercato just reached a whole new level.

SK Drama, s02e04

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Want some CS:GO drama? Here we go. We thought the SK / Luminosity poaching saga came to a conclusion, with both club coming to an agreement, with the Brazilian talents going under the German banner.

Everybody was about to get back into business until the biggest of them all suddenly cut ties: the ELeague notified both SK (aka ex-LG) and Team X (aka ex-SK) that these roster changes made them ineligible for the $1.2M league. We later learned that 7 other teams pressured the commissioner to ban SK and Team X. tl;dr: “It’s us or them”.

ELeague is now facing its first crisis, but it may be the last, as the Turner/IMG project could switch to another game next season…

Gambling is ruining CS

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While CS:GO is an undisputed top tier Esport, it still suffers from two majors flaws which could cost it endorsement from companies like Turner/IMG. The first one remains realistic violence. It is and it will always be a challenge to broadcast a game about terrorism, bombs, automatic rifles and headshot for a wide audience. While most Esport fans don’t mind and see through the decorum, sponsors and media are still struggling with the game’s thematics.

The second issue is more rampant: since Valve introduced the weapon skin system, players went nuts over over-painted knives and stickers. Some say it saved the game which was struggling traction. Some say it’s killing it right now. Gambling skins has become a huge part of the game.

These past few weeks have seen numerous community leaders such as  Mohamad “m0E” Assad, Trevor Martin or Josh OG caught red-handed with betting frauds. Some were sponsored by the gambling services, other owned equity shares in the services they promoted in their videos and streams.

While the community rages and the analysts worry, Valve hasn’t really taken a stand on the matter. That might hurt slowly but surely – like an incendiary grenade.

The more the merrier

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In the meantime, Esport is still attracting more and more people. The ESL One currently taking place in Cologne sold more than 14,000 seats and is poised to break some viewership records.

The International 2016 is receiving money from the community at an impressive rate and may go beyond the unthinkable $20M money prize mark by August.

EVO 2016 will host the largest LAN tournament in history, as more than 5,000 players registered for the Street Fighter V competition alone, while 2600+ will fight for the Smash Bros Wii U champion title. #feelsgoodman

Esports Digest – Week 26

Welcome to our weekly Esports Digest, where we pick interesting trends and facts from our b(l)ooming industry!

The long road to recognition

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The US Government received a petition signed by more than 117,000+ people, requesting Esports to be considered as sport and thus, allowing progamers to get the same P1 visas as traditional athletes. As we expected, the community got a “meh” answer, acknowledging the phenomenon, but stating that each state can act as it prefers.

In the meantime, something good finally happened in Britain. Let’s forget #Brexit and the national soccer team. A British Esport Association has just been announced, following in France’s footsteps.

Nothing guarantees it will succeed, but it still a good sign to see more and more initiatives knock at our governments door. They’ll to open the door, eventually.

LG to SK to…

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We already talked about the latest CS:GO drama, starring SK trying to poach players from Luminosity. Lack of professionalism, legal frame and rules lead to this nasty situation where players secretly signed with a new org, then changed their mind and tried to stick with their current one… And finally have to go.

Full auto-ing announcements and tweets, both teams and players tried to convince fans and observers how everything finally went fine for everybody. End of story, happy end. But all the cheesy farewell / welcome messages can’t hide the bumpy ride Fallen and his teammates had these past weeks. And the saga could face a new cliffhanger, as SK is rumored to have recruted the talented roster… to sell it to another team for a higher price.

Virtual Cheering

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Twitch is expanding the way you can reward your favorite streamers and tournaments with its “Cheering” feature. In a nutshell, you buy virtual confetti that you can throw at your screen, putting some positive vibes in the infamous Twitch Chat.

The move is more serious than its looks, as everybody is trying to find the right post-ad formula. You can already subscribe and donate to a streamer, we’re wondering how Cheering will fit into the fan’s arsenal.

Let’s note that Valve has always been spearheading the virtual cheering business model, with Stickers for CS:GO and the community funded International prize-pool.

Competitive modes

 

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The two newest and hottest competitive games are inching toward full-fledged Esports, adding Competitive modes. Overwatch just released its much awaited competitive mode. While tournaments will still use custom games, the built-in ladder will greatly help nurture talents and grassroots scene.

On the other side of the Esport spectrum, Supercell is teasing its own competitive take on Clash Royale. Going the private ladder way, Supercell wants to make it easy to hop in and out from a tournament. Even tho the options are still basic, it’s a huge leap forward from the current  method where you have to leave your clan to join a temporary one. Kudos to Blizzard and Supercell to start at the base of the pyramide before focusing on the juicy “top tier pro” Esport efforts.

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Esports digest: Week #25

Our weekly digest is back! In the torrent of Esports news, here are the ones which clearly stand out.

Do you recognize me?

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The IeSF is alive and kicking. The Federation main goal remains the same: bring Esports in the Olympics. Their latest goal? Establish an Athlete’s Commission.

Following France, Russia, Italy and Denmark recognized Esports. 21 nations around the globe have now officially embraced Esports. It’s still less than the 45 IeSF members, but it’s growing.

That’s a lot of gems

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Chinese giant Tencent just bought Finnish wunderkid Supercell. Big numbers ahead. Paying 8.6 billion dollars for 84.3% shares stake values the Clash of Clans / Royale at a staggering 10,2 billion dollars valuation.

But this is a strategic investment, as online games accounts for more than 50% of Tencent’s $15 billion revenue last year ($8.5B). Tencent also own League of Legends maker Riot and has parts in Activision Blizzard, Crossfire and Epic Games. Yes, we’re looking at the biggest Esports player here.

It’s in the game

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Tencent doesn’t own EA parts, tho. But the American publisher is clearly late to the Esports party and finally unveiled its strategy. From industry veteran Peter Moore’s own mouth, the key word is “Engagement”. Which means leagues and cash prize. Best-seller Madden 17 will thus get its CS:GO-like circuit with a mix of Majors and independant tournaments. But only offers $1M global prize, when a single CS:GO Major offers the same – plus the stickers revenue. Not in the big league yet EA, not yet.

Live in the Arena

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The Xbox has been the Esports console for years with games such as Halo, CoD and Street Fighter. Now that Sony has secured CoD and Street Fighter for its PS4, we were wondering how Microsoft would re-establish itself as the place to be for console Esports.

The answer is named Arena, a platform integrated into the Xbox Live allowing developers and organizer to tap into a common API. We’ve been very excited by this move and followed it closely, as Microsoft platform and ours have clear synergies. Can’t wait to see Toornament being embed into your favorite game!

eSport digest: week 24

Small fact, big trends, trivia… Here’s what happened this week in Esport

If you can’t beat, be it

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The “Sports vs Esports” rivalry is slowly dying, as numerous traditional sports households are simply getting into Esports.

After West Ham, Sampdoria, Besiktas and Shalke, the Valencia Football Club just announced and introduced its Esport team. All these clubs came at the right time: Esports are both big enough to invest in and small enough to invest moderately.

Back at it again, Russia

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Without any announcement, Russia has officially recognized Esports. To be more specific, Russia recognized again Esports. The country did it already in 2000 but then retracted in 2006.

Sixteen years later, it changed its mind again and hope it’ll stay this way. Virtus.Pro, Russia’s biggest Esport organization, will be able to spend its millions dollars with a lighthearted mind.

Killing the Fatality killer

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That’s a first: a team forbid its Mortal Kombat player Scar from performing to displaying on stream any Fatality, these gory finishing move that made Mortal Kombat so (in)famous.

Facing the expected community backlash, team Panda Global U-turned and killed the clause. We’ll never know how they killed it, tho. More seriously, this little drama shows one the ongoing Esport debates about on-screen violence and the will to go mainstream. As the ESL always claims, “It’s a family show, guys”. But do we really want it ?

Play (of) the Game

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Another player went into trouble. Talented but unstable LoL player Konstantinos “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou was just benched by his club Origen. The team cited “motivation issues” in its official statement. The player cited “Overwatch” on its Facebook post.

If this isn’t the definitive sign the latest Blizzard shooter is on its way to become a huge Esport… You won’t escape the hype, even on Facebook.

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eSports Digest – Week 22

This week is all about success and failures.

 

Revolution will (not) be televised

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And the question is still open for the ELeague. The much-hyped Turner/WME-IMG $2.4M CS:GO league started last week and the numbers are in. With 0.21 rate, estimates are around 250,000 spectators on TV, with a additional 60,000 average viewers on stream.

Now, all the eSport “experts” have been trying to draw a comparison: Reruns of the popular TV show “The Big Bang Theory” brought 3 times more people. MLS, which yearly broadcast rights alone cost $75M, is 50% lower. CGS, the first attempt at bringing CS on television, wouldn’t even reach a few thousands.

It’s still hard to measure Eleague’s impact and we’d better wait for the end of the first season before drawing conclusions.

The cavalry’s here

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Talk about a successful launch. The first Blizzard FPS and its first new IP since 18 years has already enroled 7M players in 10 days. CoD aside, it might be the biggest FPS launch ever.

Other indicators hint at a great response from the competitive community, like the Twitch scores, or the number of A-List teams and tournaments organizers already involved. Our favorite? The game has taken 2nd spot in South Korean PC Bangs, the battleground that make or brake new eSports.

The leading eSport country had moved away from Blizzard to Riot since the Starcraft II debacle and FPS were never the most popular genre.We’ll definitely follow Overwatch – we play the game everyday at the office anyway.

Battleborn … dead?

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Where there’s a winner, there’s a loser. The MOBA-inspired FPS and TPS have been all the talk for the past few years: Paladins, Paragon, Law Breakers, Gigantic, Overwatch… Everybody wants to rule this new eldorado.

2K’s Battleborn was among the favorites, being produced by the guys behind Borderlands. Sadly, the game was met with average ratings and couldn’t survive the Overwatch’s hype. Battleborn was launched 3 weeks before, but its servers are already half-empty and its price tag has been slashed by 40%…

HoTS or Not

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Talking about struggles and Blizzard games… What about Heroes of the Storm? The Blizzard MOBA is losing its casual bet in an over-crowded market. HoTS hasn’t been able to poach enough players from LoL and Dota 2 communities. It even feels like it acted as a great way to discover MOBAs… before moving to the big leagues.

As Blizzard is celebrating its game’s first anniversary, the publisher won’t share any numbers to the media. Not a good sign at all, and a call for a wave of articles, analysis and progamers posts claiming the game is doomed. Let’s never forget that Blizzard met with Dota’s creators… and ultimately rejected them.

 

Brazil’s got talent

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And everybody wants them. This week Best Drama Award goes to SK Gaming and Luminosity. SK, running after its glorious past, tried to poach the Luminosity players from their Brazilian organization, a dirty yet accepted practice in the industry.

But when the players finally decided to stick up with their original team after signing with SK, things got ugly: lawyers, threats, tweet clashes… Until both parties sort all this mess, SK Gaming and WESA are everyone’s favorite bad guys.

Things got better for Immortals. One of the most impressive NA League of Legends team just added a CS:GO roster, buying the Tempo Storm squad. The deal came with no scandals and we can’t wait to see how these Brazilian imports, “raised” by Luminosity’s Fallen will perform. In the meantime, SK should definitely send a scout in Rio’s gaming centers.

 

Is Clash Royale the first real mobile eSport?

Clash Royale latest update brings the game closer to a great eSport, with per-Arena replays, live spectator mode, new clans options, meta balance… Wait a second, are we talking about Clash Royale, the funny, colorful Supercell mobile game as core, competitive game? Definitely.

While the doubters had their fair share of arguments to put the game in the “coffee pause” category, Clash Royale has gained more momentum and more credibility than any other games as the days go by. Millions of players, thousands of “best of” videos, filled tournaments… Are we witnessing the birth of the first and massive mobile eSport? We insist on both “first and massive”, as others have tried before…

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The PC eSport on mobile fantasy

Let’s talk about Vainglory. Hyped as the mobile eSport champion since its announcement two years ago, the Super Evil Megacorp MOBA aims to bring a pure PC genre to mobiles. The game has been a success so far, with an engaged community and emerging pro scene, but remains minor compared to the major PC and consoles eSports out there.

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Most people playing Vainglory praise its top notch execution and the way it deals with the trade-offs from a mouse/keyboard input to a tactile screen. But they also point out that Vainglory remains a chopped-down experience compared to a traditional MOBA. If it’s an excellent mobile game, it still suffers from the comparison with its older brothers.

Chopped-down PC, or Buffed-up Mobile?

On the other hand, Clash Royale is based on a pure mobile experience, with less mechanical skills and more decision making, shorter games and no teams. And it then proceeded to build upon these foundations, with advanced strategies, placement skills and competitive features. And it works.

The game has been a massive hit and #1 grossing app worldwide pretty much since its launch. One could say that it rides on the Clash Of Clans wave, but other Supercell (CoC and Clash Royale publisher) games haven’t met such a success.

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The community also answered with an impressive activity on traditional eSport venues like Reddit, Youtube or Kamcord (a mobile-focused Twitch).

By aiming for competitive gaming while retaining all the mobile game design DNA, Clash Royale may have nailed it: an massive mobile eSport that doesn’t necessarly have to replicate the existing ones on PC.

In the end, it’s a great win for mobile eSports, as we’re now enjoying two great games. So, which one do you prefer: Vainglory or Clash Royale?