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eSports go mobile: The future of competitive gaming?

Ella McConnell's picture
Ella McConnell
Senior Editor
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When you think of eSports, the first image that probably comes to mind is a player - or team of players - installed at a PC, in an ideal situation in front of a crowd of cheering fans.

However, with the hardware capabilities of mobile devices increasing rapidly with each passing year and certain eSports-associated titles already starting to spread, are we soon going to see our newest champions rising as they casually squeeze in a few quick games on the way to school or work in the mornings?

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

Hearthstone left beta earlier this year, seeing a full release on the 11th of March 2014.

Even before this, the eSports potential of Blizzard’s digital trading card game was recognized and acted upon, with the publisher having hosted an exhibition tournament in November 2013 known as The Innkeeper’s Invitational. Hearthstone also appeared at the Intel Extreme Masters for the first time in Katowice in March 2014, with Marcin “Gnimsh” Filipowicz picking up the US$4,000 prize and some special Blizzard goodies.

On the 16th of April 2014, Hearthstone was released globally for all iPads except the first. As well as including beginner-friendly tutorials, the mobile version also shares the card collections and progress of users across devices, meaning nothing is lost should they choose to go mobile. The game is incredibly well touch-optimized – you are meant to use your hands to play card games, after all – and turn-based strategy games are always popular on mobile platforms.

As the activity of players on Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms can attest, informal mobile Hearthstone tournaments are definitely a thing, especially as playing three matches on the same network nets you a special card back. However, whether Blizzard chooses to actively pursue specifically mobile-based Hearthstone tournaments as part of its ongoing eSports strategy remains to be seen.
If you fancy playing some competitive Hearthstone, be sure to check out our ESL Hearthstone cups.

Critical Strike

Critical Strike Portable is an online multiplayer FPS game available for both Android and iOS that offers a nostalgic Counter-Strike-style shooter experience on the go. Its 5on5 playstyle and smooth, customizable touch controls have netted it a four-star rating on both the Google Play and Apple app stores, and recently the mobile game took its first step towards competitive play.

Earlier this week, ESL announced that they would be running a Critical Strike Portable Kick-Off Cup series together with the game’s Finnish developer Critical Force Entertainment for those playing on the Android version of the game, with an iOS cup to follow. With cups running every Sunday in June from the 8th to the 29th, this series should help give an indication of the feasibility of mobile-based competitive FPS tournaments in the future, as well as some of the potential issues that might be faced by organizers and players alike.

World of Tanks Blitz

World of Tanks Blitz is the mobile version of Wargaming.net’s popular free-to-play team-based MMO action game, and is currently in closed beta.

Although at this early stage it’s difficult to assess the full extent of World of Tanks Blitz’s eSports potential, the fact that its parent game frequently holds a number of highly successful tournaments including the Wargaming.net League, which includes participants from Korea, China, Southeast Asia, North America, the Commonwealth and Europe, means the stage is well-set for Blitz to take an experimental foray into mobile eSports – if an FPS like Critical Strike can work as an eSport on mobile, why not something like World of Tanks Blitz?

While mobile eSports events are unlikely to be able to manage to rival the magnitude of those based on PCs and consoles just yet, it’s certainly an exciting new direction, and one that may help get more people involved in the competitive scene, even those who might never have tried their hand at a MOBA or even tuned into a stream.

To sign up for the first Critical Strike Portable Kick-Off Cup this Sunday, click here, or go here to check out our weekly Hearthstone cups. Good luck!