When you think of mobile gaming your mind might not immediately think of the potential to play competitively.
But mobile esports is a reality. More and more gamers are playing games like PUBG Mobile, Arena of Valor and Clash of Clans on their smartphones and tablets and earning big money doing it.
Still not convinced? Then take a look at last year’s PUBG Mobile Club Open Fall Split Global Finals. Featuring competitors from over 20 countries and a prize pool of $476,000 the event attracted huge crowds in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Their plans for this year are even bigger and the growth of the game on mobile shows no signs of stopping.
And no discussion about the best mobile esports games in 2020 could be complete with a mention of Riot’s new mobile-only MOBA - League of Legends: Wild Rift. Riot are of course the masters of all things esports and their plans for the next instalment in League of Legends could prove to be a gamechanger for many not yet gaming on their mobile devices.
So if you are ready to get involved in some mobile esports here are the titles for you.
All of these games are available on iOS and Android.
“How could I possibly compete with PC players?” I hear you cry - but don’t worry the developers of Fortnite, Epic Games have recently begun hosting platform specific tournaments with the most recent Winter Royale handing out over $3,000,000 to mobile players across the world.
Many of the game’s best mobile players play on iPads which in a recent update can now play the game at 120fps - something which the Xbox and PlayStation struggle to.
Okay, it doesn’t look as great as it’s PC and console versions but then you are playing on a device as thick as… well, your phone.
And if you still want to go up against the very best Fortnite players you can - the various Fortnite tournaments from the FNCS to the weekday Cash Cups are open to all platforms and the very best on mobile have been known to place in the money.
Here are highlights from mobile player “Iamnoob” who finished in 247th in the most recent Cash Cup - that was higher than FaZe Clan’s Mongraal in that particular week.
“Iamnoob” has earned $17,000 in his career, showing that when it comes to mobile esports Fortnite is up there with the best.
With an integrated worldwide league infrastructure, regional tournaments and a huge player base - PUBG mobile is the most mature mobile esport on the market.
The game itself will be instantly familiar to anyone who has played the console or PC versions. In fact, in many ways the mobile version is an improvement on its “big brother” with new updates, game modes and QoL features finding their way into the mobile version quicker than on PC.
A fully integrated clan system makes it easy to find, chat and build a squad of like-minded players and the inbuilt tournament system keeps you connected to the esport ecosystem.
PUBG Mobile has been responsible for some of the biggest mobile esports tournaments to date. $2,835,000 has already been won by players all over the world, and their plans for 2020 are even bigger.
With a combined $5,000,000 prize pool, the esport scene will now have a 4-tier structure, starting with the Campus Championship for amateur players.
From there you can gain entry to the PUBG Mobile Club Open or Pro League which operate at the country level, before reaching the Regional Pro and World League.
These all feed into the end-of-season, PUBG Mobile World Championship, where one team will be crowned the best in the world.
So if you want your esport fix from your mobile device - there is something for everyone on PUBG Mobile.
Call of Duty: Mobile
One of the newest games on the list but one which is certainly set to make big waves in 2020. Call of Duty: Mobile was a huge success when it launched back in October surpassing over 180 million downloads in just three months.
The game itself captures perfectly peak Call of Duty - great maps, balanced weapons and the ability to run, gun, slide and launch drone strikes at the frenetic pace that Call of Duty fans know and love.
On the esport side, the first official tournament was the COD Mobile Creator Challenge, run by World Showdown of Esports (WSOE) taking place in Vegas - the invite-only event had a prize pool of $30,000 with the winners taking home a tidy $15,000.
There have also been tournaments hosted in Thailand and Indonesia - countries that have huge mobile gaming communities.
Its esport scene is nascent but with the history of the franchise and the huge player base you know it's only a matter of time before a scene develops around it.
Until then there is plenty to get your teeth into. A clan, rank and leaderboard system will satisfy even the most competitive players and as you win more games you will earn in-game currency that can be used to unlock a variety of weapons, perks, and cosmetics for your character.
A battle-pass system also means you don’t have to pay out huge sums to unlock or speed up the process of improving your character, just do your daily or weekly challenges and you can be kitted out in the best of gear.
When it comes to mobile games Finnish developers Supercell are the biggest game in town. Games like Boom Beach, Clash of Clans and Brawl Stars have all been huge successes but as an esport, it is their 2016 title - Clash of Clans - that reigns supreme.
The tower defence game has an official esport league - the Clash Royale League and major esport organisations like Team Liquid and SK Gaming fielded teams at the most recent Clash Royale World Championship held in December with a prize pool of $400,000.
It is not just Supercell that is confident of the game's potential as an esport. A deal was recently struck with ELEAGUE that saw Clash Royale World Championships highlights being screened on TBS with plans for more tournaments and events to be covered throughout 2020.
Garena's Free Fire might not be the most instantly recognizable game on this list, but rest assured it is loved and played by millions all over the world, beating out PUBG Mobile as the most downloaded mobile game of 2019. The game may be bigger in Latin America and South-East Asia but Garena has big plans to push into more established markets.
For those unfamiliar Free Fire is an FPS, very much in the same vein as PUBG, a Battle Royale but with just 50 players jumping onto the island producing faster-more action paced games, typically lasting just 10 minutes. The game also differentiates itself from his more famous rival by introducing over 20 different playable characters each with their own abilities that can say, make them sprint faster or carry more equipment.
The game is continually updated and has a thriving esport scene, with a number of LAN events played as part of the Free Fire World Series. The first international event was set to be the Free Fire Champions Cup to be held in April in Jakarta, Indonesia but those plans are currently on hold due to COVID-19.
League of Legends: Wild Rift
No list of the best mobile esports could be complete with at least mentioning League of Legends: Wild Rift. Sure, there have been mobile MOBAs in the past and they have strong esports scenes, but when League of Legends: Wild Rift is released later this year expect their player numbers to drop dramatically.
Because no one does MOBAs like Riot and no one has the ability to turn those games into the biggest esport in the world.
If you can't wait to get your hands on Wild Rift then head on over to the official website where you can put your name in to become part of the closed beta.