The esports boom has seen the fortunes of competitive gaming rise in the mainstream to a degree never before experienced by the burgeoning scene. The global events of recent years proved to be a perfect storm for the wider uptake of esports, thanks to the sector providing a competitive alternative to mainstream sports at a time when waves of cancellations were occurring. Those disruptions forced conventional sports fans to seek out new pastures in order to find quality competitive action.

While those major sports events have now returned, the spike in popularity esports experienced has left a big impact on the sector, with investors and sponsors eager to establish a foothold in what will, in the coming years, shape up to become a multi-billion dollar industry.

Likewise, analysts report a growing number of free bet offers, such as those provided through leading comparison platform OddsChecker, being redeemed on major esports events, further signaling that the sector has definitively arrived as a mainstream subsidiary of the global sports industry.

Regional Differences

Much of the interest has been centered on several key games, with MOBAs League of Legends and DOTA II leading the pack and a host of tactical shooters and battle royales such as CS: GO, Rainbow Six Siege, and Fortnite making up esports core portfolio.

Yet this picture is skewed toward Western audiences. When looking East, we find a different set of concerns due to the scene in countries like South Korea reaching maturity much earlier, in the 00s.

One of those core differences between the Eastern and Western esports scenes today is the predominance of mobile gaming in the former. A recent survey conducted by DFC Intelligence found that gamers in emerging economies such as South East Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America were one and a half times more likely to use their smartphone as their primary or sole gaming device when compared to Westernized markets.

This should come as no surprise, especially when one considers the upfront investment necessary to play a leading PC esports game in 2022. Custom gaming PCs cost in excess of $1000, and even budget gaming laptops seldom retail for less than $700.

As such, while mobile esports are not uncommon in the West, they have yet to come to command the type of prestige we see in the East, where many of the largest and most hotly contested esports tournaments are focused around mobile titles, such as those listed below.

The honor of Legends / Arena of Valor

The honor of Legends is the most popular mobile esport in domestic China and its international port, Arena of Valor, is among the best-established and fastest-growing MOBAs in the world today across all regions.

This title almost single-handedly made a case for cautious developers and competition organizers alike that the arena battle format can be translated to mobile and can flourish there.

Now, Arena of Valor enjoys some of the highest payouts and widest support in esports tournaments for a mobile title – especially in Asian markets where its popularity has been known to eclipse the likes of League of Legends in people’s estimations of the leading MOBAs.

League of Legends: Wild Rift

Seeing the success of Arena of Valor, it would have been reasonable to predict that Riot Games, the developers behind League of Legends and rising esports hit Valorant, would seek to get a piece of the pie.

League of Legends: Wild Rift, a mobile MOBA spin-off of their mainline series, got off to a slow start – but thanks to Riot Games’ proven track record of delivering rich competitive frameworks for their titles, the scene has begun to take root.

Garena FreeFire

Taking direct inspiration from PUBG and Fortnite, Garena FreeFire is a mobile-optimized battle royale title and one of the fastest-growing esports today.

Particularly popular in South East Asia, FreeFire’s 2021 World Series final in Singapore broke the record for the most concurrent viewers of a live esports event, with over 5 million fans tuning in to catch the action – making it one of the most popular esports titles in Asia.

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