As Pixion secures USD$2m in seed funding, has there been a better time to be in mobile esports?

London-based studio Pixion Games has revealed that it has secured USD$2m (£1.6m) in seed funding to further its efforts developing mobile titles specifically geared towards esports.

Private investment firm Eldridge Industries led the round, with contributions from Jabre Capital Family Office and three angel investors. As well as being used to develop the studio’s games, the funds will also be used to scale the team, which presently boasts talent formerly serving at King, Curve, Hutch and Konami.

So far that reads like a fairly conventional investment story. ‘A mobile team has attracted seed funding to expand its efforts’ is a story we’ve all read before.

What is interesting here, however, is that this is another sign of the growing financial interest in the booming mobile esports sector.

Traditionally, of course, competitive esports was focused on PC gaming, and console to a lesser extent. Throughout its lifespan, meanwhile, mobile gaming generally has suffered somewhat from the perception that games played on smartphone are ‘not real games’. Look at the numbers of those actually playing mobile games, and that sentiment is clearly that of a vocal minority. However, it’s taken some time for mobile to be embraced as a bona fide, credible esport.

Games like Hearthstone and Clash Royale have in fact been played as an esport for some time, but in recent months the interest and focus on mobile esports has significantly ramped up. The rapid growth and reach of mobile focused events like the Red Bull’s MEO and the Clash Royale League certainly showcase that both esports athletes and their huge fan audiences have eagerly embraced mobile. Elsewhere, in 2018  Tencent’s primary Honor of Kings league attracted some 18,000 attendees at its Split Finals, which saw competitors do battle over a significant USD$1 million (£800,000) prize pool.

Equally, newer titles like PUBG Mobile have brought significant attention to the mobile esports space, which is arguably more accessible than traditional esports; the latter typically requiring a powerful, costly gaming PC. And it is that accessibility which is something Pixion appears keen to lean into.

“Mobile gamers are maturing across the spectrum and we are seeing a re-segmentation of casual players looking for a more core experience on mobile. These players who we call digital natives are accepting more complex systems but still want accessibility to be central to their experience,” said Kam Punia, Founder and CEO of Pixion Games, which has to date released battle royale MOBA Bash Arena. “We are delighted to have Eldridge and our other investors on board. Collectively they share in our vision of bringing esports to everyone.”

Some of the current Pixion team, soon to be joined by others as the team scales up.

“With the rise in demand for mobile gaming, Pixion Games is well-positioned to become a premier PVP gaming provider,” added Todd Boehly, Chairman and CEO of Eldridge. “We are excited to support Kam and his team pursue their goal of creating an esports experience for the casual player on the go.”

The challenge, of course, is that esports generally has always been focused on a relatively small number of dominant games. Over in PC esports it’s noteworthy that two games originally released in 2009 and 2012 – League of Legends and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive respectively – continue to stand as dominant esports titles. Over in the world of mobile, games like Vainglory, Clash Royale, Arena of Valor/Honor of Kings and Mobile Legends equally dominate. It could be deemed to be rather tricky to break into that list of giants. But the recent seed funding for Pixion seems to show that funding is there to help developers looking to break the mobile esports space.

Mobile esports has also traditionally fared considerably better in China and other parts of Asia. But according to a Newzoo report, that fact is gradually changing.

More broadly, competitive gaming in general continues to be remarkably alluring for investors – as this week’s USD$35m investment in esports org and lifestyle brand 100 Thieves demonstrates.

It is a good time to be in esports, and increasingly good time to be in mobile esports.