Super Evil Megacorp is grinding away on its goal of turning its Vainglory mobile multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game into an esport. It made some progress on that week with the launch of its Autumn Season of its official esports tournament.
The big update marks a milestone in the company’s attempt to make the game into an mass-market esport. If the company succeeds, it will dramatically improve its number of players, its retention, and the overall excitement around the game. The quarterly cadence for the tournaments is a promise that the Vainglory developer will offer fresh content every season.
Esports is a growing sector of the gaming industry — it helped drive Amazon’s near billion dollar acquisition of game livestreaming site Twitch, where many of its 1.7 million broadcasters stream games that are either suitable for esports or part of live-gaming events. The industry could pump $465 million into gaming by 2017, reports the SuperData market research firm. It’s also hitting mainstream cable outlets such as ESPN and TBS.
San Mateo, Calif.-based Super Evil Megacorp has launched an update with new limited-time seasonal content (such as a Halloween-themed environment), free hero unlocks, teams, guilds, balance changes, and a new super-tank hero, Phinn.
“This is our biggest update ever for the game,” said Kristian Segerstrale, chief operating officer for Super Evil Megacorp, in an interview with GamesBeat. (Segerstrale will speak at our GamesBeat 2015 event on October 12-October 13 in San Francisco). “We’ve launched our first quarterly season, which means you can earn things in the game that you can collect at the end of the season. We have an esports calendar that goes with that for higher level play.”
Players of any level will be able to compete in the online tournaments. The new teams are smaller units, while guilds are larger collections of players. The game now supports a wider number of Android smartphones. In the past, the game required a quad-core processor, and now it requires only a dual-core processor in the smartphone and a gigabyte of memory.
The company’s art team raced to create a new map skin with the Halloween theme.
“It gives us a great creative canvas to be inspired by,” Segerstrale said.
Each region will have a tournament. And each new tournament is generating higher and higher prize rewards for the winning teams. He noted that ESPN is recruiting esports editors and TBS will run Counter-Strike Global Offensive tournaments on TV.
“I wouldn’t advise people leave school to become a professional Vainglory player just yet,” he said. “But we try our very best to support the community. What has been fun the growth of the community. The prize pool started at $30,000. Now one has $150,000. That’s the evolution in six months. The teams are getting better sponsorship deals.”
In fact, Alex Novosad, the general manager of one of the winning Vainglory teams, Gankstars, will also speak on a panel on esports community at our GamesBeat 2015 event.
As for competition among mobile MOBAs, Segerstrale said, “We don’t spend much time thinking about competition. If we can provide the community with a great experience, the community will reward us with their time. I would say most other products being created for mobile platforms are for short experiences.”
Vainglory sessions last 20 minutes to half-hour, while others like Call of Champions target 5 minute matches.
As for the game industry, Segerstrale said he was encouraged that “we can move from the consoles with hundreds of millions of players to nearly 3 billion touchscreens that can play games like Vainglory. It will be good to see how that manifests in the next six to 12 months. Gamers growing up now consider the touchscreen as their primary gaming platform.”
The Vainglory International Premier League is currently underway in Korea, and new regional tournaments are happening in the U.S. and Europe.