One of the key features of esports is its huge annual growth, which attracts a large number of sponsors and partners. What should be expected from 2019 and how esports can change in the next year — Esports Charts will answer this question.
Back in early 2018, we made the assumption that mobile esports will be the main trend of the coming years. Over the past year, mobile games have shown significant growth both in the number of viewers and in the level of organization and conduct of tournaments. The Arena of Valor proved that it is the best mobile discipline right now — this game conquered the hearts of Southeast Asian fans, becoming the most popular esports game in the region. Arena of Valor International Championship 2018 hit the jackpot, gathering 1.120.455 spectators at the peak, including 423.602 people not from China. Arena of Valor has shown fantastic growth over the past year — you can read more information about its development in a separate blog. We are expecting a new record from the discipline. Success in Asia needs to be consolidated with new tournaments and their high-quality broadcasts, and at the same time, developers should try to enter other markets and regions. The time will tell how big is the potential of Arena of Valor.
There is one more fast-growing mobile esports discipline — Clash Royale. Unlike the Arena of Valor, its growth was not systematic and consistent throughout the year, and besides, a lot of Supercell’s decisions are quite questionable. With all this, the first esports season of Clash Royale can be called successful, which speaks about the competent development of the game as a discipline. In 2019, developers and organizers should work even harder and, perhaps, change the vector of development. Right now the most active audience is Clash Royale from South America — so why not focus on it?
PUBG mobile can become an unexpected sensation of 2019. According to statistics, PUBG mobile became more popular than King of Glory in China, which indicates the potential interest of the Chinese audience in esports. Mobile MOBA collects a multimillion audience at the tournaments, and PUBG Mobile is quite likely to do the same if developers want it.
PUBG turned into a big esports discipline in 2018, many large organizations signed teams and players, a lot of leagues and championships of different formats and sizes appeared. PUBG completely lost the war against Fortnine, but PUBG still has more professional and well-developed esports. That is why we expect further growth or at least a stable retention of the audience.
There are some questions about Fortnite’s esports. In fact, the statistics show that everything is okay, the announced $100 million prize pool for the first season still seems attractive to players and organizations. In the same time, Epic Games didn’t create a clear system and esports infrastructure for the game for the last six months. The future of the discipline is not clear, the professionals do not know what will happen in the next month. In addition, Epic Games have chosen a special form of organization — they want to make their esports friendly and homely, which is why it does not seem professional. Perhaps this fact blocks the development of infrastructure.
A new major player has appeared on the Battle Royale games market — Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. Activision has experience in esports, Call of Duty tournaments gather an impressive audience in the US and Europe. However, the developers did not say anything about esports for the Battle Royale. Probably, in 2019 they will want to try to do something in this direction.
In the spring there will be an additional mode for Battlefield 5, which in all respects resembles the Battle Royale. Given the experience of EA and their approach to work, the company will probably want to try out the esports field and compete with Call of Duty. EA has experience in organizing esports infrastructure on the example of FIFA and other sports simulators, so this will not be their first time to create a new big competitive system.
There will be serious competition between Dota 2 and League of Legends in 2019, this is primarily noticeable when you look at the place of organization of the main tournaments of the year. The International 2019 will leave the western hemisphere and travel to China. This is very important as, due to the convenient time zone, The International 2019 will receive a many-fold increase in the number of viewers, especially if the Chinese team will reach the grand final. We can already say for sure that TI9 will become the most popular tournament in the history of Dota 2, however how popular it will be is another question.
On the other hand, the League of Legends in 2019 will leave Asia and go to Europe with a grand final in Paris. Because of this, the audience base from Asia will suffer greatly, as it will be more difficult for them to watch the tournament. It means that Worlds in 2019 will be less popular than last year's tournament. On the other hand, if some team from Europe or America repeats the achievement of Fnatic and breaks through to the grand final of the tournament, the English-speaking audience will appreciate this act of heroism with the new records of broadcasting.
We expect that the situation with RTS can be changed in 2019. The long-standing stagnation of Starcraft 2 due to the Korean domination finally ended after the victory of the Finnish young player Serral in the main championship of the year — WCS Global Finals 2018. This fact attracted many European and American spectators to the game and if the trend continues, the discipline will actively popularize in the English-speaking segment.
The key question is how the second season of the Overwatch League will show itself. The number of teams increased, there additional teams from China and Europe. New teams will bring new viewers to the discipline. But how serious this growth will be is still not clear.
Nothing serious is supposed to happen with CS:GO. The game has no serious competitors, the discipline is rapidly developing in Europe and America. Katowice Major 2019 is going to happen in March, it is the key tournament of the year, it is supposed to set a new record for the discipline.
CS:GO closest competitor is Rainbow 6 Siege, which so far cannot compete with its older brother in the genre. But the situation can be changed after February 11, after Six Invitational 2019 will begin — it is the first ever Rainbow 6 Siege tournament with a $1,000,000 prize fund. Ubisoft makes a lot of effort to popularize the discipline, for example, there are official broadcasts in many languages, which makes the discipline qualitatively different from CS:GO and Overwatch.
Collectible card games
The traditional king of the genre, Hearthstone, is gradually losing the audience, and it is quite likely that it will soon give up primacy to competitors. Blizzard announced that organizers will focus on online tournaments in 2019, which will decrease the amount of LAN championships. Blizzard also announced that the total prize pool will be $4 million. $4.7 million was played on the tournaments in 2018, so we can observe stagnation, and maybe even regress.
Artifact supposed to become a serious competitor to Hearthstone, but disastrous marketing and a repulsive economic system pushed away hundreds of thousands of potential players. Right now, Valve's card game is fighting hard for existence. Probably, the organization of the promised tournament-analog of The International can save the situation, but the first impression cannot be corrected.
Magic: The Gathering can become the main card game of 2019. It was announced that Wizard of the Coast is going to spend more than $10 million on advancing esports in 2019. And the company plans to directly cooperate with 32 professional players, signing contracts with them for $75 thousand. This will allow them to fully concentrate on the game and give the opportunity to take participation in various tournaments and events.
The esports league will start on March 29, 2019, with the start of the Mythic Championships, which will be held as part of the PAX East 2019 in Boston. The prize fund of the championship will be a million dollars.