The Rise of Mobile Esports and League of Legends: Wild Rift

With more and more world-renown game titles entering the mobile scene, especially strategy-based online games, it’s very probable to see a world with mobile and computer games of the same title run in parallel. Worst case, the mobile version of the game would eventually take over the computer audience and convert them all to mobile gamers – although it’s very unlikely.

Nonetheless, this trend is very much visible with the recent open beta release of League of Legends: Wild Rift, alongside other precursor mobile titles such as Call of Duty: Mobile, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) Mobile, and so on. 

On the surface, they all seem like a cheaper clone of the game everyone grew to love on their desktop, just with the added shiny bonus of portability. In reality, a few of them gained even greater popularity than their desktop counterparts, creating a competitive scene of their own.

What remains as the question is whether or not this trend happens due to these games’ convenience, or simply because they’re much easier to get into; that is, of lower complexity than their desktop editions. 

While the endless war of mobile versus PC gamers is far from coming to an end, let’s focus on concrete technical differences between these two worlds – seemingly moving in parallel and living in their own separate worlds.

 

Convenience

Perhaps the biggest argument for mobile games is their convenience. This feature stems from its multiple benefits compared to PC versions. To play mobile games, you would only require a well-running mobile phone, which is gradually becoming more accessible to the general public. With a single click of a download button, you are set to play and embark on the mobile gaming journey.

Mobile Esports. Tilt Report.

Aside from convenience in terms of installation requirements, the name literally shouts mobile games’ incomparable upside: mobility. Unlike desktops or laptops, mobile phones are much easier to bring around, and with the aid of a good and stable internet connection, one can enter the mobile “Summoner’s Realm” without the need to queue up for PC cafes. 

Hence, instead of religiously waiting for food to come, you and your homies can comfortably launch games with a trivial click of your fingers. That said, it’s unsurprising to see a group of youngsters, in particular, hang out in a cafe, or a restaurant while babbling about hitting enemy turrets and stunning enemy champions – a scene formerly limited to enclosed, private LAN parties in houses or PC cafes.

Given these drastic changes of not having the need to pimp up a PC with shiny new graphics cards, nor the need to rent LAN parties, the market for mobile games is presently on a sharp rise. 

Specifically, many Southeast Asian countries famous for their gaming culture amongst the youth would slowly become the competitive scene’s best players – since it’s where the greatest share of audience of these mobile games are. As not everyone has access to high-end computers, mobile games came as the savior of these less fortunate gamers.

 

Complexity

Now, let’s turn to the other side of the coin. As much as these mobile editions try to replace their desktop precursors, they would not be as complex as their PC relatives are, for apparent reasons. With computers, users have access to at least two mandatory peripherals: a keyboard and a mouse. These two devices are adequate to produce a game with high complexity. 

We have seen this from time to time. RPG players have to press a sequence of coordinated keys to do an ultimate move. MOBA players have to aim their mouse cursor accurately and press a series of key combinations whilst hovering around a minimap. FPS players place close attention into moving their mouse gently such that their gun recoil doesn’t hinder shooting accuracy. 

On the other hand, mobile games tend to abstract such difficulties, remembering how they only have a touchable screen to navigate with. Despite such limitations, game developers found smart workarounds to still provide that notable complexity found in strategy games across genres.

Mobile Legends. BlueStacks.

A recurring theme with mobile games alike is to have a movable joystick on one end, and an array of action buttons on the other. The remaining screen region could be used to move the in-game camera perspective. In just one screen with no added peripherals, mobile games attempt to imitate the feel of swift, coordinated, and challenging actions found in their PC counterparts.

Nevertheless, there can only be so much a user can do with one screen, compared to the flexibility of having a keyboard and a mouse. The collection of actions to choose from is much more limited, given how static the game controls are. 

Moreover, game controls are not just the only aspect with reduced complexity. Most strategy games would also need to lower gameplay complexity, such as speeding up the game’s pace, boosting personal player progress, removing intricate details, whilst delivering the same entertainment overall.

Let’s see how these scenarios unravel in Riot Game’s latest and hottest mobile title, League of Legends: Wild Rift, in comparison to their PC ancestor.

 

Case: League of Legends vs. Wild Rift

Control Mechanics

As discussed earlier, the shift from desktop to mobile deems for inevitable changes to control mechanics of the game. Instead of the classic keyboard plus mouse combo, players would now have what they call “dual joystick”. As a result, the player is limited to moving their champions by a joystick on the left-hand side, and perform every other possible action via clicking on buttons on the right.

While using the keyboard means you can click multiple keys at once with up to five fingers, you can only do so little actions with the means of clicking on a phone screen. To make things worse, you would still need to at least hold the mobile phone whilst pressing the right buttons. That said, it’s no surprise that the actions per minute a user can make is very little compared to the PC players.

Furthermore, macro and micro abilities within the game, such as hovering through the minimap and peeking on nearby areas, would be much more complicated to do, given how small the screen size is. Nonetheless, it’s a standard handicap applied to all mobile players, hence why it’s still fair in the realm of strictly mobile players only.

 

Game Pace

Since Wild Rift was meant to be played as a mobile game, it shouldn’t be surprising that the pace of the game is sped up. Intended as a mobile game, each match must not take too much time since the game is meant to be played “on the fly.”

For PC League players who have just migrated to Wild Rift, it may feel like Wild Rift is somewhat like a “turbo” version of the Summoner’s Rift rendition – similar to Dota 2’s attempt by creating Turbo mode over the ordinary All Pick/Ranked mode.

This is further evident with how small the game map is, compared to the PC version. It barely takes any time to Recall and return to a lane, given how small the distance is. Again, this helps to speed up the pace of the game, to enhance the feel of being a “mobile game.”

 

Personal Player Progress

Thirdly, Wild Rift’s demands over its players’ dedication to the game aren’t as tough as League of Legends PC requires. Whereas League PC only unlocks several free weekly champions and provides minimal free default Champions, Wild Rift offers a range of Champions for new players to try and have fun with.

Clearly, this signifies that the PC version would very much want their players to stay longer and dedicate a greater amount of time into the game – such that they could unlock their favorite, more advanced Champions. 

League of Legends Champions. Arqade.

Aside from Champions, League PC’s Summoner Spell system conveys this exact same idea. In Wild Rift, new players could have immediate access to all Summoner Spells, including advanced ones like Flash, Ignite, etc. On the flip side, League PC players would need at least a couple of levels to unlock these special powerful abilities.

Indeed, this may seem unfair at first, especially when you meet an opponent who’s played the game longer than you did, in the case of League PC. It is because, your enemy could easily have Flash Summoner Spell at their disposal, while you, the beginner, could merely Heal and Ghost.

 

Rune System

Being a mobile game, Wild Rift has to similarly have a reasonable learning curve. Offering new players a steep learning curve to climb since the start could be uninviting, especially to those who are new to the realm of League of Legends. 

Aside from giving access to numerous Champions and Summoner Spells from the get-go, Wild Rift abstracts the need to construct runes, a notable feature of League PC. As a replacement, Wild Rift players can simply pick preset Keystone, a similar concept to that of runes. However, it’s way more beginner-friendly and does not look intimidating to new players.

Rather than focusing on intricate details like Runes, new players can concentrate on adapting to the basic concept of MOBA and League’s general gameplay. With the pace of the game sped up, as well as having a less steep learning curve, it’s probable that the Wild Rift market could touch upon the audience whom League PC couldn’t achieve during their era.

 

Mobile Games: Easy or Convenient?

With all the factors weighed between the two renditions of the same game, we return to the main question: are mobile games played because they’re convenient, or because they’re less complex and much easier to play?

Of course, the comparison cannot be put eye-to-eye, due to how strikingly different the devices used are. On one end, the PCs have much greater flexibility due to having multiple peripherals to take advantage of, while mobile phones only require one device – the phone itself.

Due to those factors, we’ll likely see the two games run in parallel with each other, as if they had a world of their own. Moreover, it might be very likely for the mobile competitive scene to excel better in countries whose mobile gaming industry is thriving faster than their PC halves.

In Indonesia or other Southeast Asia countries, for instance, we have seen time and time again where the PC esports scene gradually dies over time, say Dota 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, League of Legends PC, PUBG PC, etc. In their replacement comes mobile games like Mobile Legends, PUBG Mobile, Free Fire, and likely the same case for Wild Rift. 

With a population whose mobile-phone activity level shoots over the sky, it’s greatly expected that the market shall soon shift to the mobile genre. If this is the case, then convenience is indeed the reason behind the increasing popularity of mobile esports over PCs, for reasons we’ve discussed earlier.

Although their complexity is greatly reduced, mobile games, competitive ones especially, still give the same thrill and excitement players find in PC games, though notably without the need to have high-end PCs nor PC cafes. A group of friends can easily play these games over cups of coffee, bowls of instant noodles, or as simple as a bag of chips.

Further, the lowered complexity allows for a greater reach of audiences, whose interest in gaming is simply a casual one. With a low learning curve, players new to a particular game mode could adapt in almost no time, plus avoiding the need to commit extra time to play on par with older players.

It shall be interesting, to say the least, in seeing how this Wild Rift competitive scene shall unravel – notably in Southeast Asia (SEA). Could Wild Rift be the key for Riot to dominate SEA as they do in South Korea, China, Europe, or North America with League of Legends? Only time can tell…

 

Featured Image by Abacus.

Wilson Wongso Written by:

Indonesian Computer Science Student, Private Tutor, and Content Writer. At times I read, game, or watch. My boss calls me Jack of All Trades; I could not agree more.

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