In this segment, we discuss (at length) the development of a mobile version of #Valorant and what that might mean for the popular game.
The Business Of Esports brings you news, debates, and all the information you need to know about the gaming sector, the world’s fastest-growing market. With Paul “The Profit” Dawalibi leading the charge, and a variety of special guests, BoE TV is the only place to find insider information on the esports industry!
Check out the full livestream here:
Paul Dawalibi 11:08
From the folks over at Riot VALORANT is coming to phones and mobile platforms. I love the sub headline here. But don’t worry, there’s no cross play. I guess. I don’t know why any PC Gamer would be worried about that. If anything. I was hoping for that. The easiest path to Radient ever is just clicking on mobile gamers. But, look, the article here is pretty self explanatory. Right announced that they’re bringing a version of VALORANT to mobile. This comes on the heels of the sort of the very, I think was the success, the tournament, the VCT masters that they did in Iceland. And and I think it came as a surprise to most people because correct me if I’m wrong, but do you guys remember that? At some point, I believe someone at Riot had said like this is only ever going to be on PC, or something to that effect. Like they had said we’re only focused on that, because obviously people kept asking about mobile versions. But there’s a quote here, which which I think is interesting is we didn’t start out with we’re making VALORANT on mobile. We started out with Can we make VALORANT on mobile with a lot of skepticism. For us, whatever you get out of playing on PC, you should get out of playing VALORANT on mobile. But we have to recognize that the mobile player need is different. So clearly, they answer their own questions, and they’re making the game that they can make VALORANT on mobile. Where do you guys fall on this though? How do you feel about this? Good bad. from a business standpoint, from a gamer standpoint, are those answers different?
Lindsay Poss 14:24
I mean, I think for Riot as a business, it’s a good thing. This is their first big play and mobile and it’s clearly a huge market. So why not? They’re opening up a whole bunch of other projects Anyway, you know, 10 years of League of Legends, I suppose it’s time to really switch it up. And this seems like a good way to do it. I also I keep thinking about those new sort of mobile competing with the switch devices. And I think that this could be a huge driver for those particularly again, in Asian countries, and particularly in low income Asian countries. This just makes those look so much more attractive, and that you can play you know, a Riot shooter game on them. Presumably, again, I’m not entirely sure how other platform play will be consistent, but I would guess that those, it’s some type of app you download anyway. So yeah, I think this is cool. I think it’s good. I think it’s good news for Riot, I think that they needed to move into the mobile space at some point. Activision-Blizzard just clearly capitalized on, why not another triple a developer getting into it? And I’m kind of excited to see where it goes.
Jimmy Baratta 15:25
Definitely, I mean, from a developer consumer standpoint, right, you want to put your product in as many hands as many screens as possible, from a audience or from, you know, a fan standpoint, you know, do we want a lot of these, you know, do we want more content that has, you know, it’s heavily influenced by Aim Assist, or limited infrastructure might not be the most fun to watch might not be the most competitive. But this isn’t purely will, it’s not purely an Esports play, right? This is more about building an audience building your game as a brand, and recruiting people that will then watch the PC players in the tournaments, right, that will then want to aspire to be to be on those teams, because they got their taste and mobile. So I think there’s a level of crossover there and kind of a funnel into that PC arena one day, but I completely agree with Lindsay that especially in third world countries, or in areas where, you know, your, your, your everyday person can’t really afford a PC, but they do have a phone, or even that steam kind of handheld device that we talked about last week, and other manufacturers have comparable devices. Listen, I’m not a big fan of FPS is on mobile, but the numbers speak for themselves. And anyone that’s not looking into mobile right now, if you’re a developer or building a community or a following, you’re probably missing the boat.
Paul Dawalibi 16:42
Robert actually brings up the exact question I wanted to ask both of you, which is, as we see more AAA adapt to Mobile, how do you all see that affecting eSports tournament organization? Maybe it could be an Esports play? So let me just, Robert, great question. And I want to I want to see Jimmy, where Jimmy and Lindsay sort of fall on this. But let me just add on to that question, which is, you know, right, from the beginning, has sort of been in my mind, the premier eSports company, right, their game, their games have won the game. And now games have always been designed for eSports at the highest level, like compete competition at the highest level, you know, balance meta, all those things. The suited for competitive play at the highest level VALORANT, in the latest tournaments has shown that, you know, League has shown that for years, and they’ve sort of prided themselves on being the sports company, right? By going mobile here with VALORANT. And more. And also recently with League does this dilute their reputation as sort of Esports, the company that produces eSports excellence from a game standpoint,
Lindsay Poss 18:00
I had the opposite reaction. Because as someone who is a more casual gamer, it would be a lot easier for me to play this on mobile, and then go and watch a tournament and understand it. So I would think that would be an audience growing exercise rather than one that shrinks it. I think that being more accessible, and more open to the public and not just reserved for people who have PCs, or the understanding of PC games could be a really positive thing to actually amp up their pro scene. Because like, for me, personally, I don’t really know what it takes to be good at pro eSports. I do now because you know, I’ve been working with eSports for a while. But because I’m not a PC gamer, I don’t have that understanding of what it takes. And being able to understand the game on mobile and then seeing the ridiculous speed and talent of people who play professional eSports would just be a lot more exciting to me.
Paul Dawalibi 18:57
So your answer Lindsay to Robert is the way it affects eSports is not it becomes an esport it just provides a funnel of new audience for eSports. That’s exactly what I think it will do. Do you think that’s Riot’s ambition? And that’s where it ends, though? Or do you think they have ambition to make this a standalone? esport?
Lindsay Poss 19:15
I think it totally depends on how popular it is. Obviously if all of a sudden tomorrow you have 1 billion people playing VALORANT Mobile Yeah, we throw in some prizes and some tournaments and stuff, get it going. But if it’s more like people aren’t really, you know, they’re playing it casually. They’re not advancing in the game. They’re not developing an extremely unique set of skills to play on mobile, but they’re just kind of enjoying it and playing it, then I think that they will not develop it into an esport totally depends on the adoption and use of it as a game.
Paul Dawalibi 19:44
Jimmy, where do you fall on this?
Jimmy Baratta 19:46
I mean, like I said XSET right we have a pub g mobile team, you see it you see it also with Warzone or with Call of Duty and Warzone with competitive mobile players and teams. I like the idea that it serves as another entry point for other viewers that they say, Hey, you know, I want to watch the mobile competitions because I’m a mobile player. And I can learn from these people what they’re doing on mobile, because that’s what I do. I don’t think they’re necessarily exclusive. You know, I went to a Call of Duty event where they were all playing on console. Right? whether or not that’s good for the industry good for competition? That’s another question. I think you’re gonna find people that are interested, you’re gonna find viewers that are interested in watching mobile gamers that are interested in watching console gamers, just like you find them interested in watching PC gamers. So it’s, I don’t want to say it’s like NFL NCAA, you know, high school or whatever. But, um, because they’re just two different, but what they are different audiences, different handicaps, but equally interested communities, I think that support one or the other. And to Lindsay’s point about, you know, what’s Riot’s ambitions? I think, from as a starter, their ambition is microtransactions, right? downloads and, and purchases of skins. And then like, like Lindsay said, and if they land on a couple, you know, a billion or a couple, you know, 10 million down installs, like, like cod mobile success was then yeah, let’s build some infrastructure around it. Why not? Like we all want it to do well. But, but yeah,
Paul Dawalibi 21:21
because both of you have sort of made it about scale, right? Like, if we get to 100 million downloads, then we’ll make it an esport. Like, I wonder why you’ve tied those two things together, right? They, they could have ambition for it to be an esport and put resources behind it. When they if when there are 10 downloads, right, like, Riot could have this as part of their strategy. I’m curious what you think, is mostly their strategy, or is this about? Like, look, my view is this is just a just a shameless cash grab is what it is. And look as a capitalist, I can’t fault them for it, right? They just
Lindsay Poss 21:59
get in on it.
Paul Dawalibi 22:01
This is not this is a shameless cash grab is what it is.
Jimmy Baratta 22:05
But that’s why I think the installs would dictate how far they take that cash grab, right? Because if the installs signify an interested community and a large viewership, then then they start selling the League spots. Right. And and, and, you know, 10 million or 20 million here and there, right, so I think they tie into each other.
Paul Dawalibi 22:24
And neither of you believe that. A full blown VALORANT Mobile League, with teams with competitions would potentially dilute the VALORANT PC eSports scene. Do any of you think the PC scene is hurt by a mobile scene?
Jimmy Baratta 22:46
I think they’re different. Honestly.
Lindsay Poss 22:48
Yeah. I just think that Riot has pretty clearly established itself as a high end PC gaming company. And I don’t think that adding something especially something that’s auxilary and involves one of, you know, one of their newer titles particularly well, actually link is coming to mobile to I don’t think it I don’t think it downplays them because they’ve they’ve had such success with PC gamers already. And you can’t take that away by adding on. So
Jimmy Baratta 23:16
yeah, I so I hate agreeing with you. And not that I dislike anything you had to say. for the, for the for the sake of the show, and argument, I hate agreeing with you,
Lindsay Poss 23:25
we got to bring Jeff back.
Paul Dawalibi 23:29
Where’s the jokes when we meet? He’s gonna love hearing that, by the way.
Jimmy Baratta 23:37
My students that at UCI, you know, whenever we do class exercises, they always use VALORANT. As an example, they always want to write their essays about VALORANT. It’s incredibly popular in my class in all my classes. So again, what Lindsay said, you know, when you add on to something, I don’t know if that dilutes it, I think you just capture more people from a different perspective, around the same fundamental or underlying concept.
Paul Dawalibi 24:01
What do you guys make of this? It seems a very specific sort of move to go to mobile before going to console, right? Like what you see more traditionally is PC, then console, then mobile or console, then PC, then mobile, right? Like you rarely see, straight from PC to mobile and a completely sort of just completely ignore the console market. You guys think? Do you guys think this is genius? It’s different. It’s like it’s a horrible mistake. It is mentioned in the article. But I’m curious what your take on that is.
Jimmy Baratta 24:41
I personally love it, right? console games are expensive to make. They take a lot of time. They take a lot of resources. Not that mobile doesn’t, but they clearly think the ROI is higher on mobile. They think the audience is going to be more perceptive to the move on mobile and I know I believe you’re not Paul. But I’m a huge advocate and proponent of expanding the mobile eSports scene, just by virtue of growing our audience and raising what Adrian said, you know, raising all ships with the tide by that one big play. And I think mobile is going to be a big player for eSports that over the next not even five over the next three to four years. So for me, seeing Riot support mobile before consoles, that’s them saying mobile is really the the next wave here. Any console, any Xbox gamer might might just install on mobile, or they’re gonna install on their PC. Right? I don’t know about PC, or I don’t know about PlayStation gamers so much. But that support between from Riot going directly to mobile signify that that’s really where a lot of developers should be looking, at least for the next three to four years.
Paul Dawalibi 25:48
I was gonna ask you specifically do you think part of it is they just felt there’s less overlap in the audience, like there’s more overlap between PC and console versus PC and mobile?
Lindsay Poss 26:00
That’s what I was going to say. I also feel like mobile is just way more of an international market. And consoles are really huge in North America. And that’s also in another part. So you know, I don’t mean to downplay consul’s importance, but when we’re talking about the rise in popularity of gaming, we aren’t always just talking about Asia and North America, we’re also talking about like South America, and India and other places where consoles are maybe less popular. And this is just such a quick and easy way to get these games into the hands of people all over the world who either do or don’t have access to a console, you know, everyone has access to a phone, I think it’s much more wise to skip over the console thing, and go straight to the biggest audience that you can build up the interest in your games, build up the interest in your titles, and then boom, you have people watching your eSports do. So I think that they’re making a much more international play by choosing mobile than they would have they chosen another console route.
Jimmy Baratta 26:56
also supports your cash grab argument, Paul, right?
Lindsay Poss 26:58
Jimmy Baratta 26:59
you go mobile.
Paul Dawalibi 27:00
Look, I this is the total cash grab, okay. Jimmy, just, just to your point, okay. I like the cash grab here. And I like the move to mobile. And I like that they did it before the going to console like I, I think these are all, like Riot makes really great decisions. Many times, like we’ve covered this many times on the podcast and on the live stream. I think they make very smart moves over and over again, and it’s why their games are successful. And I think for all the reasons you guys mentioned, the jump to mobile before console makes a lot of sense. The jump to mobile in general makes a lot of sense from a dollars and cents standpoint, where I think they will shoot themselves in the foot is if they put a lot of time and resources behind making VALORANT Mobile, a legitimate competitive esport I just don’t think there’s a future for mobile eSports. And I know there’s a lot of people who don’t agree with me. And I know there’s a lot of people who think I’m crazy when I say that. But when we’re talking about spectator sport, people on a stage competing against each other with an audience buying hotdogs, that world is not going to care about mobile. It’s a novelty right now. But come back to me in 20 years and tell me you think there’s gonna be a place for mobile eSports there. I just don’t think so.
Jimmy Baratta 28:19
Well, listen, I don’t I don’t see mobile filling any $500 million arenas, you know, I agree with that. But I do see mobile competitions at your local internet cafe or your local eSports arena with you know, all your all the local kids that might know we’re talking
Paul Dawalibi 28:33
about why amateur right we’re talking about. Yeah, I agree. I think there’s a place for that. But I would be worried if if Riot was putting you know millions and millions of dollars behind trying to make VALORANT Mobile VALORANT mobile’s pro seen a thing that I think that’s where I would be concerned because I think they would dilute a product that is really good right now like their PC VALORANT Pro scene is thriving is is doing exceptionally well. You know, they blew just for this last tournament they blew Overwatch League and Call of Duty League numbers out of the water like they was embarrassing. The how much bigger VALORANT already is then both of those franchises put together from a pro eSports perspective. And so I don’t know why they wouldn’t just double down on the good thing they’ve got right. I again, I have an issue if they decide to make it a pro to make a pro scene around this. I have no issue with the cash grab because I get it right. People are going to download it spend tons of money on skins great for Riot hopefully allows them to build other great PC games. Good for the gamer. But we’ll see. I think it will be interesting to watch and I feel like just side note and maybe you got before we move on just last reaction on this. This is totally me. Because I’m sure the download numbers are very strong, I’m sure the engagements pretty strong. Anecdotally, though. And I think we’re all pretty sort of plugged into the gaming world in general. League of Legends on mobile is not exactly lighting the world on fire. And this is anecdotally my feeling like you don’t hear a ton about it you don’t like, it’s not in the news every week, you don’t see pros coming out going out, I want to sort of spend the next three years playing League of Legends Mobile. I don’t know. I don’t know if that’s just my my skewed by like my biased perception.
Lindsay Poss 30:39
No, I just League of Legends is much more intimidating than VALORANT, though. So I do. I just wonder if Ballard has more likelihood of since it’s fresher, more straightforward, relatively, maybe there’ll be it’ll be easier to adapt in a way that’s engaging to a different audience.
Jimmy Baratta 31:03
You know, it’s funny, because Adrian brought up in the on the podcast without giving much, much too much away, he brought up Dota being one of his entry. Right eSports titles in getting interested in in this space, which is probably the most intimidating and he is on there as well.
Lindsay Poss 31:17
Jimmy Baratta 31:19
I was like, so you watched Dota and then decided I’m going all in on this, right? Because I would have watched some, you know, Dota, or League and been like, this just blows my mind. And I don’t even understand what’s happening here. So making League Mobile, right, that’s, I don’t wanna say it’s dumbing it down, but it is, it’s putting in front of more people in a simpler format. And, again, you know, there, you have to balance these interests of what’s for the good of the esport for the good of competition, versus what’s for the good of the industry and for the good of your your development company in the growth of your product. And they’re not always the same thing, I think, more times than not, you’re going to favor growth and sales than you are integrity or, or, you know, a fundamental core values. Right, which, sad as it may be. I think it’s for the good for the long term good. And growth.
Paul Dawalibi 32:12
Yeah, again, the way the way I sleep at night is I go, okay, all these millions will go to help them build more great PC games. That’s this is how I sleep at night by convincing myself of this. whether that’s true or not, or stays true or not, I don’t know. But this is how I sleep at night.