Mobile esports league set to put a cap on its $1 million inaugural season

  • The top six "Clash Royale" teams in the world will face off in Tokyo next weekend, closing out their league's $1 million inaugural season.
  • The Clash Royale World Finals is an electronic sports tournament that will feature the best professional players of publisher Supercell's "Clash Royale" game.

The top six "Clash Royale" teams in the world will face off in Tokyo next weekend, closing out their league's $1 million inaugural season.

The Clash Royale World Finals is an electronic sports (esports) tournament that will feature the best professional players of publisher Supercell's "Clash Royale" game.

Released in 2016, "Clash Royale" has grown to over 50 million daily active users who go head-to-head using digital cards with special abilities, in order to destroy each other's towers.

Supercell formally launched the Clash Royale League back in August to build upon the success of its previous competitive scene, which featured the Crown Championship World Finals in London last year.

Mobile esports has been on the rise amid rapid growth for the mobile gaming sector. According to research firm Newzoo, games downloaded and played on smartphones and tablets will make up 47 percent of the worldwide gaming market this year.

Supercell's head of esports, Tim Ebner, considers the inaugural season a success, mainly due to viewership numbers for the league.

"The primary metric is viewership," Ebner told CNBC. "The number of people watching and the average watch time per viewer [are up] quite a bit from last year."

Newzoo found that from its August launch to November, the Clash Royale league – which unlike the majority of esports events, is not formally broadcast on Twitch – generated 2.1 million hours viewed on YouTube. During the same period last year, Clash Royale viewers watched about 1.5 million hours on the platform.

However, October proved to be the peak of Clash Royale esports viewership, with over half of the 2.1 million hours watched generated during the month.

Ebner attributed that to Supercell's dedication to solving one big challenge in esports: Converting a game's player base to esports viewers. He noted that among the game's users, awareness of Clash Royale's competitive matches had initially started out quite low. Then Clash Royale began offering a series of in-game initiatives to incentivize players to tune in.

Patrick "Chief Pat" Carney who founded Tribe Gaming, a mobile esports-only team that fields a Clash Royale team, said the in-game incentives were the biggest key in the jump in viewers as the season went forward, along with huge production improvements.

Carney and Ebner both emphasized that the league's dedication to producing broadcasts for a mobile audience played a huge part in creating an interactive experience for the mobile-only viewer. Key changes included reducing down-time between matches, and introducing more professional elements to the league's portrait-only broadcasts.

The Immortals will be representing North America as the region's top team at the World Finals next weekend.

The emphasis on producing for a mobile audience — including very specific geographic and demographic mobile audiences — is key, given the immense diversity of the mobile gaming audience, esports team Immortals' CEO Noah Whinston told CNBC.

"It's supposed to unlock populations that don't have access to [personal computers] or high fiber internet, and that might not have an ingrained PC gaming culture. It's been able to activate audiences [that are] non-traditional from an esports perspective."

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