It’s been some year for esports, but certain titles have made greater strides than others. One of these is Vainglory, the mobile esport from developer Super Evil Megacorp.
We asked Kristian Segerstrale, COO and Executive Director at Super Evil, some questions in the first of our End of The Year series.
Esports Insider: So a big year for Vainglory. Just how much has the title developed from an esports perspective in 2016, and would you say it’s blazing a trail for mobile esports titles?
Kristian: 2016 was a momentous year of growth for us, especially from an esports perspective.
Worlds was very exciting because it was our first truly international tournament, but during the Grand Finals on the Sunday, when we hit 25,000 simultaneous viewers and were the fourth most streamed game on Twitch, all the growth we talk about became very tangible.
Having big sponsors like Nvidia and Amazon on board, as well as some of the biggest teams with TSM, C9, Team Secret, G2 eSports and more already fielding teams has been a big step. Vainglory is on course to hit 450 million minutes watched this year, which is triple the amount of minutes viewed in 2015 when we were the fastest growing mobile game on Twitch.
“When we hit 25,000 simultaneous viewers and were the fourth most streamed game on Twitch, all the growth we talk about became very tangible”
With the franchise program and the developer API launching early in 2017 we’re really excited to see what the new year will bring.
Esports Insider: How important is the venue itself for an esports event, and what goes into the decision making? The TCL Chinese theatre was a pretty iconic choice, whereas ESL have gone the way of consistency and practicality with its four year deal for the Barclays Center…
Kristian: We’ve been lucky enough to partner with a variety of fantastic venues for our live tournaments and, as you said the TCL Chinese theatre, was an iconic choice at which we were very proud to have host the first Vainglory World Championship.
For us, esports events are first and foremost a way to bring players and fans together to create an unforgettable shared experience.
We chose the theater for its storied history but also because, like us, they believe in the future of esports and are excited for its growth. As evidence of that, the TCL Chinese theatre will be honouring the winning team from Worlds, Phoenix Armada, with a 3D imprint; a modernisation of the famous concrete imprints that make up the theatre’s forecourt.
Esports Insider: Is accessibility a key part of Vainglory’s popularity?
Kristian: We definitely think so. We have worked hard to create a strategically and tactically deep game, but one that you can play with the device in your pocket vs having to buy an expensive PC.
“Not all of our players are going to compete professionally so we always want to make sure the game is approachable and just as entertaining for new players”
From a gameplay perspective, the game has many similarities to what you would see on a PC. We’ve emphasised strategic and tactical depth as well as mechanical skill, whilst also investing a lot in intuitive controls. Not all of our players are going to compete professionally so we always want to make sure the game is approachable and just as entertaining for new players. As an example of this, we just rolled out Update 2.0 which, amongst other things, introduces easily identifiable roles that allow new players to understand heroes’ roles and spot team deficiencies.
Mobile devices are rapidly catching up with consoles and PCs in terms of computing power. And there are so many of them! With over 1.5bn smartphones sold last year and well over 3bn install base compared to around 700m gaming PCs, the sky’s the limit.
The culture of online competitive play on mobile is still emerging – much like PC online play in the early 2000’s – but we’re very excited about the potential and the passion that the community has shown for the game.
“Along with planting roots into a local community, we feel city-based support could help surface more great players and regional competitions”
Esports Insider: What long term benefits could the Home City program hold for growing the fanbase and competitive scene in Vainglory, and what is meant by teams will ‘have this option’? Will 2017 be the year this gets underway properly, or will it be more of a testing phase?
Kristian: We’re still experimenting with the Home City program and will see if it catches on in 2017, but the idea is to foster an emotional connection to home town teams similar to traditional sports.
Along with planting roots into a local community, we feel city-based support could help surface more great players and regional competitions. We recognise that the program might not work for everyone right from the start, so we’ve made it an option rather than a requirement, but those that do take part will receive even more support from Super Evil.
Esports Insider: Can you tell us a bit more about the advisory council and the revenue share? Will Vainglory team franchises have similar player safeguards in place to those in the ECS model?
Kristian: The advisory council will be made of up of franchise teams and key partners, that will be key stakeholders in reviewing the changes we propose to the esports structure before they are implemented.
We’ve always listened to our community and this is just another avenue for us to make Vainglory gameplay and Vainglory esports the most rewarding they can be for the players. Likewise, revenue from broadcast rights, ticket sales, sponsorships and merchandise sales all help build the business of the franchisees, which is beneficial to Vainglory as a whole.
The advisory council will also help promote minimum requirements for good citizenship in the esports ecosystem including looking after player welfare.
We definitely have our eye on other esports organisations such as ECS, but the Vainglory Franchise Program was built from our own experience after two years of competitive play.