The growth of eSports has been little short of phenomenal over the past two years. Global audiences are rising at a rate of more than eight percent year on year, and the total viewership will top half a billion by the end of this year. Meanwhile global revenue is expected to hit $1.8 billion.
One question that constantly hovers over eSport, though, is whether this popularity is sustainable. CS:GO, the most popular game in terms of viewer numbers and esports betting, has been around for 10 years now, an eternity in gaming terms. League of Legends was released in 2009. How long can these titles keep their appeal and what is next for eSport?
Enter Arena of Valor
The sudden appearance of Arena of Valor disrupting the top five games in terms of prize earnings gives the clearest indication of the way the wind is blowing. Also known as Honor of Kings in some Asian countries, AoV was released in 2016. That makes it considerably newer than most eSport games, but sufficiently well-established to have a strong following. It is the first mobile eSport game to be taken seriously alongside the established PC and console classics like CS:GO and DOTA 2.
As far as gameplay goes, AoV is highly accessible, with a 5v5 battle arena format that is strongly reminiscent of League of Legends, plus several other game modes.
Strong eSport infrastructure
There are two major tournaments each year. These are the Arena of Valor International Championship and the Arena of Valor World Cup. The former attracts the top eSport teams from around the world, while in the latter, individual players can compete under their national flags. The game will also feature at the 2022 Asian Games, which has now been pushed back to 2023, and there are numerous smaller tournaments across the globe and online each year.
AoV is a game that was born into the eSport age, and this is brought into focus when you look at some of the top teams. The reigning International Champions are Thai team dtac Talon, and when you look at their approach to the game, it demonstrates just how far eSport, and mobile eSport in particular, has come.
For example, Pasu ‘Erez’ Yensabai left school at 16 to focus on eSport, and was soon scouted by dtac Talon. He and his teammates train 10 hours a day and six days a week. It’s the sort of story you’d expect to hear from young soccer pros dreaming to make it big at Juventus or Manchester United.
A turning tide
Mobile gaming is now more popular than PC and console combined among casual gamers, and has been for the past couple of years. It’s natural that pro gaming will evolve the same way. CS:GO, League of Legends and DOTA 2 are not going to disappear overnight. But the rise of AoV as a serious top tier eSport, and the growing popularity of other titles like MLBB and Hearthstone show that there is a change of emphasis in the air.