Super Evil Megacorp has partnered with Amazon’s livestreaming platform Twitch in the latest bid to turn the Vainglory mobile game into an esport.
Twitch is joining Super Evil Megacorp in a three-year partnership in North America and Europe to create the official Vainglory Championships and support esports programs. Vainglory is a mobile-based multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game that has gradually built an audience of spectators and professional players who compete in seasonal tournaments. Built on revenue streams from tournaments and sponsorships, esports is expected to grow 43 percent to $463 million in 2016 and reach $1.1 billion by 2019, according to market researcher Newzoo.
Both companies plan to invest in the multimillion-dollar program to build out Vainglory’s official esports structures, promotions, sponsorships, and more so that players can make a living playing Vainglory, said Kristian Segerstrale, chief operating officer at San Mateo, Calif.-based Super Evil Megacorp, in an interview with GamesBeat.
“Our goal has been to create a game with a legitimate competitive community,” Segerstrale said. “As an esport, Vainglory is still incredibly young. The deal with Twitch marks a big step in building a long-term viable competitive environment for games. A year ago, we didn’t know if esports would be viable on touchscreens. Now it is clear, and we can see something that will be much bigger.”
The two companies will split revenues from the events, and Twitch will make a big effort to find sponsors. Vainglory was the fastest growing mobile game on Twitch in 2015, with 150 million minutes viewed, the companies said.
The touchscreen esport had a prize pool of $350,000 last fall. That’s still pretty small compared to League of Legends tournaments on the PC, but it’s steadily growing. And professional teams TSM, SK Gaming, Team Secret and G2 Esports have joined the game in the last few months. Vainglory’s winter championships, which were recently held at Red Bull’s esports Studio in Santa Monica, Calif., and the Gfinity Arena in London, grew its audience to more than three times the autumn championships, drawing more than 1.5 million views on Twitch.
“It is important to build a game that is as much fun to watch as it is to play,” Segerstrale said. “And the touchscreen is more like soccer. In soccer, all you need is a ball. Everyone has a touchscreen. It’s more open and accessible.”
Twitch, which has more than 100 million community members and 1.7 million broadcasters, plans to expand and grow Vainglory’s presence with promotions of Vainglory streamers and esports broadcasts. Twitch will also dedicate a team to help run Vainglory esports events, build official esports web sites, and handle sponsorship and merchandise sales.
“The esports industry has been dominated by PC and console titles, but Vainglory is ushering in a new mobile games movement,” said Nick Allen, director of esports operations at Twitch, in a statement. “The incredible engagement Vainglory has garnered on our platform is testament that our community welcomes the convergence of esports and mobile gaming.”
Starting today, teams of three players hopeful to win the spring championship can register on Vaingloryleague. The three-month season kicks off with open qualifiers and will have a total prize pool of $80,000.
Segerstrale said the company has 45 employees, and all of them are working on Vainglory. The company has raised $41 million in funding from backers including General Catalyst, Index Ventures, Signia Venture Partners, Korea Investment Partners, CrossCut Ventures, Initial Capital, The Raine Group, ZhenFund, Yuri Milner, and Jim Breyer of Breyer Capital.
Vainglory’s Spring Season has today kicked off with a new game mode (in beta) “Battle Royal,” a new hero “Alpha,” a new map skin, a massive “Halcyon Days” event, and new skins for Fortress. Super Evil has gone back and made its tutorial more appealing. New players will be eased into the game in new, bite-sized tutorial pieces, and the competitive season begins late April. In the beta Battle Royal mode, each player is assigned a random hero, and the game starts with heroes already leveled up; as opposed to starting from level one with a certain hero like in a normal match.