The interest in professional esports has seen a huge increase, especially during the pandemic when people were confined to their homes. Ordinary gamers would watch and imagine themselves competing at the highest levels and earning prizes at the end. A largely untapped market lies in bringing the professional esports experience to your casual gamer.
Following its investment in a cloud gaming service, Microsoft has an opportunity to further profit from its mobile gaming market through the introduction of cash tournaments. CEO of Ryu Games, Ross Krasner, talks about the global success Microsoft could have by addressing countries whose largest gaming base isn’t with the latest consoles, rather mobile gaming and how the introduction of cash tournaments could be a global success:
Strategic investments into mobile gaming are starting to take shape with traditional PC and console giants, like Microsoft. As a result, we could see the cash tournaments market (aka esports) for both console and mobile expand in entirely new ways.
Microsoft’s Xbox cloud gaming service xCloud launched just one year ago, leveraging its established Game Pass video game subscription service, and it’s already clear that the service will help Microsoft make headway in the mobile gaming market.
Fast forward one year, Microsoft’s VP of Gaming Phil Spencer stated that xCloud and Game Pass are as equally important to Microsoft as Xbox Series X consoles and gaming PCs because they give the ability to play games to those who can’t afford higher-end hardware or even $70 games. In other words, people playing on phones are just as important given Microsoft’s investment into xCloud and Game Pass.
They’re just missing one opportunity that could change the game for both Microsoft and their players — operating their own cash tournaments system.
Esports is on a tremendous growth trajectory. Even with covid-19 impacting the closure of live events for most of 2020, the industry was estimated to exceed $1.1billion in 2020, up 15.7% from 2019. Contributing factors to the growth are esports viewership, awareness, platforms offering live esports coverage as well as brand sponsorships solidifying. The rise of 5G is also expected to be a boon to mobile esports by offering players massively improved latency and viewers faster streaming.
At the same time, the esports ecosystem still very much relies on a select number of globally operating teams and game franchises, like League of Legends, Call of Duty, Counter-Strike, and Overwatch, which are largely played on console and PC versus mobile.
Roughly 2.4 billion people play mobile games globally, yet the esports scene for mobile is still developing. In mobile-first territories like Asia, Brazil and India, mobile cash tournament gaming has begun to spike in growth, but in Western markets, there’s been a stronger reluctance to embrace it.
Although, there has already been some traction in this space from mobile tournament operators, like Skillz, Papaya Gaming, Ryu Games.
The potential for cash tournament gaming presents a significant opportunity for Microsoft, given their increasing focus on mobile gaming and investment into xCloud.
Leveraging World-Renowned IP
One of Microsoft’s unique advantages in gaming is its renowned IP. In September 2020, Microsoft announced that it would be acquiring top video game franchises, The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Wolfenstein, DOOM and others, from Bethesda Softworks. And this only adds to the company’s existing catalogue of world-famous IP, including Viva Piñata, Minecraft, Halo and many others.
Just imagine a Viva Piñata-themed Bingo mobile game, Minecraft-themed Solitaire, or The Elder Scrolls-themed card game with cash tournaments. Real-money games that leverage recognizable and beloved IP would do well to capture even wider audiences globally – bringing esports further into the mainstream and normalizing the industry for developers and operators.
In September, as Apple required that Microsoft submit every single game to be streamed through its xCloud iOS-based service for approval, it has pushed Microsoft to think differently about how it will operate its iOS service, possibly turning it into a browser-based application instead. In this way, Microsoft could write their own rules and get around Apple’s store regulations for approvals, payment models, even cash tournaments.
Creating their Own Rules
Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Players are already using third party sites like Player’s Lounge and GamerSaloon to compete for cash in popular PC and console games.
Even Apple is no stranger to cash tournament gaming, allowing mobile games in this genre to operate in its store. However, these games are often suppressed from promotions and features, giving less visibility and opportunity to reach audiences.
This is where Microsoft could step in and create their own mobile cash tournaments gaming system within xCloud. Perhaps, even in the further future, we could see cross-platform play, given Microsoft’s extensive catalogue.
Here’s how the Game Pass model could work with cash tournaments: players could access a library of cash tournament-only games, offering additional incentives and rewards for completing certain tournaments or ‘challenges’, such as access to ‘premium’ games or an in-game currency system to unlock new tournaments.
Given that Game Pass is a registered service, this would also allow Microsoft to set parameters and verify players meet the minimum age requirement of 18 years and live within regions where cash tournaments are legal.
As xCloud continues to evolve over the next year, the expansion to cash tournaments for both console and mobile might not be too much of a stretch of the imagination. If they’re smart, they’ve already been following the massive growth of the cash tournaments market and setting the pieces in place to make their move before the end of 2021.