With the presence of esports rising, it’s no wonder that all platforms have gained more exposure these past years. Consoles and PCs were always powerhouses, but recently they’ve been shown to an even larger audience thanks to being broadcast on television. With tournaments such as EVO being shown on Sportscenter, and the ESL CS:GO and Street Fighter V leagues appearing regularly on TBS, esports are now in a better spot than ever to grow and expand.
After the success SEMC had with Vainglory’s 2016 season, it seems that this year Vainglory could be on track for that same level of success. As far as we know, this season will retain the Spring, Summer and Autumn Championships – culminating with Worlds. However, is that it for Vainglory? While the current system is not a terrible thing for Vainglory, it may be a massive disappointment for audiences if the amount of top-level tournaments remains the same.
What would it take for Vainglory to reach a bigger audience?
As it stands, Vainglory has been downloaded over five million times from the Google Play Store, and that number is sure to be even greater on the Apple App Store. Comparing that number to the amount of people who were mobile gamers in 2015 – 165 million – we can see that the Vainglory community has the potential to grow exponentially. Furthermore, we may already know the answer to the above question. When the revolutionary 2.0 update was being showcased, it was revealed to us that Super Evil Megacorp (SEMC) was in the process of constructing a 5v5 gamemode for Vainglory.
I initially rejected the idea of this new gamemode, for fear that we’d lose touch with the 3v3 style of MOBA that made Vainglory unique. Furthermore, I was hoping that if a 5v5 game mode was developed, it wouldn’t become the standard mode of gameplay in the competitive scene. However, I’ve changed my mind. Based on the fact that League of Legends, Dota 2, Heroes of the Storm and SMITE all have an enormous following for 5v5 competitive tournaments, it is my opinion that Vainglory’s upcoming 5v5 gamemode will accelerate the expansion of Vainglory – both casually and competitively. 5v5 MOBAs have a pre-existing larger market and audience from the popular PC games already mentioned, and this will increase the appeal and marketing value of Vainglory itself.
What needs to change to encourage this development?
In order to greater support a 5v5 competitive scene, I am of the opinion that Vainglory would need to host more tournaments, with bigger cash prizes to offer. While financing of these tournaments will be difficult, a lot of it can be accomplished with more people and organizations branching out into Vainglory: sponsoring competitive teams, and hosting professional leagues. It’s important to note that the amount of tournaments Vainglory has is suited to the limited amount of professional teams competing at the moment. However, the current financial rewards in the Vainglory esports scene can’t support any more teams, because there are only three live finals to which the top six teams of a region are invited, and only one world invitational – if there’s no money being offered, there’s no reason for more teams to compete. While it might be a stretch, it is possible to fix this. More professional organisations joining Vainglory with the 5v5 boom will increase viewership, which in turn raises revenue and causes prize pools to increase – eventually becoming a self-promoting cycle. For example, Dota 2’s biggest event in 2014 had 20 million views with a peak of 2 million concurrent viewers at one point: the peak audience double that of 2013 viewership. For League of Legends, in the two year gap between 2014 and 2016, League viewership rose dramatically from 27 to 43 million – an enormous 59% increase. If a similar increase in viewership occurs with Vainglory, there is huge potential for significant revenue growth.
What can 5v5 bring to Vainglory’s gameplay?
One of the reasons I enjoy Vainglory are the quick matches that can finish within 20 minutes. While 5v5 would almost certainly increase match length, it will additionally allow for more interesting strategy and depth in game.
Check out this clip from the North American League of Legends Championship Series Spring Split, which shows part of a match between Team SoloMid (TSM) and Cloud9 (C9):
— lolesports (@lolesports) April 23, 2017
I’m not a League player, but what stands out to me in this video is how well TSM were able to play in the given situation. As they were taking the Elder Dragon (an important objective in League), all five members of C9 came to initiate a teamfight, planning to catch out TSM. In the brawl that ensued, TSM killed three of C9’s players and managed to take the Elder Dragon with no losses. TSM then rotated down to the bottom lane, as the two remaining C9 players moved to take down TSM’s towers. To counteract this rotation, TSM sent back only two players – and this is what got me hyped up while watching the clip. TSM simultaneously pushed down the lane towards C9’s Nexus (League’s equivalent of the Vain crystal) while also winning the 2v2 against C9 at their base – securing the championship in a series of decisive plays. In my opinion, it would be amazing for that level of strategy to be introduced into Vainglory: not just the more complex team-fighting dynamic, but the increased importance of map awareness and rotations, as well as the larger focus on objective-splitting and strategic positioning of players.
How will the professional scene change with the introduction of 5v5?
It’s always been a fairly common opinion that North America is the best region in the world at Vainglory, with the best teams competing in NA. The same reasons are continually thrown around when debating “NA > EU”, such as better drafting strategies, players having higher skill, and increased aggression being the meta. However, during the inaugural Vainglory World Championship, when Phoenix Armada (now Invincible Armada) performed spectacularly, a paradigm shift occurred in the Vainglory community. Armada is now viewed as easily being the strongest and most dominant team in the world. According to several professional players who competed against them, Armada’s success stemmed from their extremely impressive individual mechanics, their rapid decision making in clutch situations, and their utilisation of early game aggression even more effectively than the teams from NA.
One clear example of their dominance can be seen when looking at a match where Armada were up against GankStars Sirius. While Armada were on the back foot and retreating after losing Willy, both druid and Mango quickly bought infusions at the jungle shop, and thus were able to quickly and brutally retaliate against an overconfident Sirius.
While plays like this will still be possible in the future of Vainglory, it is my opinion that 5v5 will shake up the current professional scene dramatically. With a larger map, deeper strategy and a greater number of teams, I feel that while individual mechanics will remain relevant, they will no longer be the most important factor when deciding the outcome of a match – and gaps between skill will be able to be bridged with advanced macroplay. Invincible Armada may no longer remain on top of the professional Vainglory scene, with brilliant thinkers like FlashX able to counteract the overwhelming skill of players like druid through strategy, instead of having to match their mechanics.
Lastly, while I haven’t kept in touch with regions other than EU and NA, the recent VGL and VIS matches have showcased how the overall skill level of high-tier players in Vainglory has increased, and the gap between Vainglory8 and Challenger teams has decreased. Recently, all three Challenger teams defeated the Vainglory8 teams in the Challenge battles, taking their spots for the next split of Vainglory8. With the reliance on mechanics likely to reduce in the future, the perceived differences between professional and Challenger teams may disappear forever.
— VIS League (@VISLeague) May 8, 2017
So, how will new players coming into Vainglory perform?
My current opinion is that some of the competitive players who are brought in by professional organisations from PC MOBAs will end up performing better than expected. As the 5v5 map in Vainglory will most likely be similar to the maps of other existing MOBAs (think League or Dota maps), any new competitive players with a background in 5v5 MOBAs will have an advantage over the current crop of competitive players, who are habituated to the 3v3 map. Their preexisting knowledge of 5v5 strategies and rotations could possibly see newcomers in Vainglory dominate the old hands such as the Hollywood Hammers (formerly Hammers Esports) and GankStars.
As for playing skills and mechanics on touchscreen devices, since many current professional players already come from MOBA backgrounds, I am of the opinion that the mechanics of newcomers would eventually catch up to the rest of the competitive scene. This is seen all the time in many other esports, where players transition to other games and find success. In Call Of Duty, players like FormaL and Crimsix first played Halo, before switching over and dominating. In Tekken 7, Poongko switched from playing Street Fighter and was also quite successful. Finally, while he hasn’t played competitively in Vainglory, Zekent – a developer in SEMC – used to play competitively in League of Legends. I find it extremely plausible that players could switch over to Vainglory from games like League, Dota 2 and SMITE, and end up thriving.
This returns us to the main question: will Vainglory ever make it to the big screen? As of right now, it may still be too small, and lacking in appeal to a larger audience. However, if everything goes right for SEMC in the roll-out of the 5v5 gamemode, and the introduction of more professional organisations into the Vainglory scene is successful, it’s not impossible that one day Vainglory may become bigger and better than anything we could ever imagine.
Article written by Ryann17 and edited by hoIIand
- U.S. mobile phone gamers. (2015). Statista. Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/statistics/234635/number-of-mobile-gamers-forecast/
- McWhertor, M. (2014). The International Dota 2 tournament watched by more than 20M viewers, Valve says. Polygon. Retrieved from https://www.polygon.com/2014/7/29/5949773/dota-2-the-international-tournament-20-million-viewers
- Worlds 2014 by the numbers. (2014). Riot Games. Retrieved from https://www.riotgames.com/articles/20141201/1628/worlds-2014-numbers
- 2016 League of Legends World Championship By the Numbers. (2016). LoL Esports. Retrieved from http://www.lolesports.com/en_US/articles/2016-league-legends-world-championship-numbers