The spotlights are on. The crowd is cheering. The players are walking up to the stage to get in position for the next big esports tournament.
Once the players take their seats, however, they’re seated not in front of a console or PC, but in front of iPads and iPhones.
That was the scene at the 2016 Vainglory World Championships in the historic TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood last December. While games like League of Legends and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive rule the esports airwaves, mobile games like Vainglory and Clash Royale are slowly becoming ingrained in the esports scene.
When Vainglory was used to show off the graphical capabilities of the then-new iPhone 6 at Apple’s announcement event back in September of 2014, the world got its first real look at what a true mobile MOBA could look like. At that point, League of Legends was starting to reach a critical mass, with the prize pool for that year’s World Championship already crossing the $2 million mark. While the game was already one of the most played in the world due to its free-to-play model, there was still a barrier to entry due to needing a somewhat decent computer to run it and a high-skill level to succeed at it. That’s where mobile games come into play.