EGX, eSports and the Mobile Gaming Boom in Asia

Anyone with an interest in gaming or eSports will know of the UK's biggest games event, EGX, which took place from the 21st to the 24th of September in Birmingham City, UK. Of course there was way too much happening to capture it all, but some of the highlights of the event included:

  • Access to blockbuster games on console and PC before they are released
  • Access to one of the world’s largest collections of indie games and their creators
  • Live eSports
  • Developer presentations with Q&A sessions
  • The biggest Overwatch tournament in the UK

As part of Arm's ecosystem team, it is in our interest to know what is going on in the industry of gaming. Although we are mainly mobile focused, it is increasingly important to see what the gaming ecosystem is planning. Some of the things we look out for include;

  • Where do they see the future of mobile, PC, console gaming?
  • What are the key deliverables for the developers of these technologies?
  • What are the latest technologies being used by manufacturers?

But most importantly, we ask ourselves the question;

How can we enable Arm to help all the various stakeholders? From manufacturers, to developers, to end users, how can we make a difference and make life easier for them?

Our team attended EGX on Thursday the 21st of September, one of the quieter days of a busy event. This gave us a good chance to wander about and take in what the event had to offer and also to attend the UKIE AGM. There were lots of historic gaming consoles and computers on display like the Sinclair Spectrum, Amiga Commodore and BBC Micro. Though it was PC and console game orientated, one of the reasons we attended was to see some live eSports. Personally, I'd never seen a tournament live before (only online) so it was very cool to see the setup and organisation that goes into the eSport arenas.

ESL Qualifying at EGX

The ESL Qualifying at EGX in Birmingham on Thursday.

Were you at EGX over the weekend? Let us know if you enjoyed it, or if you have any comments leave them below!

The lack of mobile eSports.

In the west, eSports has taken off, but mostly on consoles and PC’s. We asked the question on the drive back to Cambridge from the event; Why not mobile? Well, it could be that people don’t see mobile gaming as an eSport here, and view it more as a pastime, something to do when you're bored. The dominant freemium model of various app stores tends to favour the people who wish to invest lots of money into mobile games, which gives them an unfair advantage over a user who does not invest. With console and PC games, you know you are playing gamers with the same stats and items you have, and gamers are simply separated by skill. The fact that people can properly make a living from being a 'professional' eSports gamer really makes it stand out as an actual career choice, and not just a hobby. I recently read of a FIFA 2017 tournament where the first prize was two hundred thousand  US dollars. That is serious money and, as expected, no mobile games offer even close to a living wage style reward. VR, AR and MR could change that soon, but that is a thought to ponder another day. 

However, there is a place where mobile gaming is taken seriously. Roughly 27.6 Billion dollars’ worth of seriousness. Asia, and specifically China, is the highest consumer of mobile gaming in the world at the moment. Accounting for over 60% of gaming revenues.

Newzoo's High Fidelity Gaming Report

Source: Newzoo's High Fidelity Gaming Report

Why is mobile so dominant in Asia?

Why is Asia such a haven for mobile gaming? Well, it could be that mobile phones are the first computers to really penetrate the central Asian market. Outside of the large cities, smartphone sales are growing steadily. The diminutive devices are small, but pack a huge punch in processing and graphical power compared to consoles of 15 years ago, which I had growing up. 

I know what you’re thinking though, Arm technology is mostly mobile based and isn’t involved in a lot of the bullet points at the start of this blog. PC's and consoles are run by energy thirsty technology, but this got us thinking. What defines a console? Technically, I have a console on my desk. A Nintendo Entertainment System Mini (NES Mini).

The NES Mini is jam packed full of Arm technology. The SoC is an Allwinner R16. This has 4x Cortex-A7 CPU's, and a Mali-400 GPU. That is much more powerful than an original NES and it's even more powerful than a 3DS. Does it need to be that powerful? Probably not, but it is pretty cool that a Raspberry Pi style computer with a neat fashionable case can be so appealing. The graphics on the original versions of these machines blew peoples minds, but now nearly everyone walks around with a vastly more powerful computer in their pockets. Safe to say, peoples expectations have risen!

NES Mini

Nintendo has since announced a SNES Mini which no doubt will be much of the same in regards to technology. I hope it will be jam packed with Arm IP. This is my NES Mini I have on my desk.

To get sentimental for a paragraph, I remember being a toddler and watching my brother play the SNES, and eventually better consoles came out and my brother generously donated his SNES to me. The excitement I felt to finally have my own console was immense. My mother used to have to set limits on how much I could play it. To apply this to mobile, the first phone I owned was a Nokia 3310. I distinctly remember making about 3 calls on it (none of my friends had phones) but I wasted lots of hours playing snake (see Freddi's take on the evolution of mobile gaming).  I think this is how mobiles are viewed in Asia. The excitement involved in getting your very first mobile, whether it be entry level, mainstream, or premium; a full generation of kids are growing up with those mobiles being the first computers they have touched, and where they got their first taste of gaming.

This explains the extreme preference for high fidelity gaming in China. See the graphic below for the most popular high fidelity mobile games in China at the moment according to Newzoo.

High Fidelity gaming is huge China

High Fidelity gaming is huge China

We left EGX last week wondering why mobile gaming hadn’t taken off in the west, when the real question we should have been asking is when will it take off? Gaming trends are most definitely generational. Even a few years ago I would not have imagined that you could fill a full theatre with people watching live gaming, and with multiple thousands tuning in on streaming websites such as Twitch. I see no reason why mobile gaming won't eventually enter the serious eSport business. Give people the platform and they will come.

Overall, mobile gaming revenues are now the biggest in the gaming sector with over 40% of overall gaming revenue coming from a portable device. With other sectors like PC and consoles showing stagnant growth, and serving only parts of the world population that can afford it, mobile will continue to grow and flourish worldwide as more and more devices are being sold. Mobile gaming will be bigger than anyone expected.

Want to get your hands on more mobile gaming insights? You can find all the data in the Newzoo High Fidelity Gaming Report.

Interested in EGX? Check out their website to catch everything from the event.

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