Exploring the mobile MOBA sensation that beat League of Legends to the punch

Albert Sheng • May 15, 05:05

League of Legends developers, Riot Games, opened up the beta to their new mobile game, Wild Rift, at the end of 2020. Drawn from the style and universe of League of Legends, it’s effectively billed as “LoL on the go,” finally delivering a world-class MOBA experience to millions of smartphone gamers. 

However, long before Wild Rift was introduced, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang was offering a top-class mobile MOBA experience.

The game certainly smacks of LoL, which is why the CEO of the development company, Moonton, was sued for plagiarism and violating a non-compete agreement. But that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. Its main stomping ground is in Southeast Asia, which may sound like a small game, but the statistics would say otherwise. 

So, just how big is ML: BB and how will it influence the burgeoning mobile esports segment?

A colossal fan base for ML: BB

Venture onto any of the major app stores and you’ll see thousands of positive ratings for ML: BB, let alone the massive download count. On the App Store, it’s got a 4.6 rating from over 355,900 reviews and over 2.2 million on the Play Store. Of course, it’s been out since 2016, so it has been able to impress fans for longer than its newer counterpart.

Still, for posterity, Wild Rift has a 3.9 App Store rating from over 20,300 reviews and another 1.1 million on the Play Store. 

On Instagram, Mobile League also boasts nearly 50x the followers of Wild Rift. The reviews on both major operating systems reflect just how wildly popular Mobile League: Bang Bang is, even if its core audience isn’t in what’s commonly recognised as the biggest markets.

That said, the market is certainly proving itself to be a beast in its own right. Late 2020 put the total number of installs for the game at upwards of 1 billion, with some 100 million monthly active users, with there being around 8 million active players each day in March this year. 

It’s a colossus in terms of users and income, continually growing in revenue to exceed $214 million in player spending for 2019 alone.

An esports behemoth pumping up the mobile segment

You only need to look as far as the 10.8 million YouTube subscribers of Mobile Legends: Bang Bang to see that their esports promotions are going swimmingly. At the time of writing, the MPL-PH S7 Week 5 Day 1 was showing, with there being 69,000 live viewers for the Filipino version and another 11,000 for the English stream. 

The channel is all about esports, with many videos having reached hundreds of thousands and even millions of views.

The sheer popularity of the game as an esport, let alone a casual mobile game, has inspired third parties to bolster the scene through advertising, sponsorships, and dedicated companion sites. 

ML: BB is so big in Southeast Asia that the continent’s go-to online betting portal has a dedicated page for Mobile Legends eSports betting sites. With this, there is information on how to get involved with this betting community, detailing the betting options on offer and promotions. Fans of the esport can go to the platform and quickly see all of the sites offering ML: BB odds. Then, sites are sorted by their trustworthiness, quality, bonuses, and overall experience on offer.

There are several long-established and newer Mobile Legends esports tournaments taking place all of the time. One of the more recent inductions saw ONE eSports bring its prestige to the scene, offering 20 teams a crack at $100,000 in the MPL Invitational. In March of this year, Singtel also bolstered the esports scene further, introducing the Mobile Legends Professional League in Singapore with an inaugural prize pool of $100,000.

While the likes of League of Legends, Dota 2, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive are very much the pillars of the featured PC eSports industry, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang is essentially core to the mobile side. 

As for the teams propelling the esport, those which garner the most viewing hours are predominantly from Indonesia and the Philippines. This is with RRQ Hoshi from the former being by far the most popular in 2020. They’ve won three majors in a row, helping to fire up their viewing hours to 23 million.

Mobile esports still has a tremendous amount of room to grow, with the continued additions to the ML: BB calendar proving as much. In 2019, the line of esports was tipped to surpass PC eSports, given its 27.5 per cent increase in revenue that year. However, the key will be identifying the right markets to promote the competitions, with some of the so-called big names perhaps not being able to break ground in Asia as is.

Mobile Legends: Bang Bang is a huge esport and will be one of the main drivers of a growing mobile sector in the years to come.

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