As was revealed last year, Tencent’s popular mobile MOBA Arena of Valor (Honor of Kings in mainland China) is getting a Nintendo Switch port. With the closed beta beginning this week, gamers are starting to get the feel for the console’s first MOBA—and they’re liking what they’re seeing.
“I didn’t think that [a MOBA] could work on mobile, and then I played Arena of Valor on mobile and I was surprised at how well it worked, and then when they were talking about translating it over to Switch, I was kind of skeptical again,” says IGN’s Tom Marks. “But I think they’ve done a pretty good job of getting the experience over. It’s definitely something where I can actually picture myself playing a MOBA on a console now where that was never an idea I had.”
To be clear, there’s still some kinks to work out. The game’s current Switch roster being half that of the mobile version, for example. But it’s also in closed beta, and Tencent is saying the mobile and Switch ecosystems won’t be linked, eliminating concerns about competitive parity. Still, with praise towards the way the game handles on the Switch, it seems likely the title will have a significant following. With games like AoV starting to go cross-platform—and with gamers starting to embrace them—it’s time to consider where this leads the gaming industry.
The Switch is attracting every platform’s best games
Arena of Valor makes for an interesting case study within the gaming industry. The game’s popularity in China (with a record 200 million users) is remarkable, eventually leading to a global release. AoV also isn’t showing signs of slowing down anytime soon—the game added a Battle Royale mode last month and is getting a $500,000 World Cup in July.
And then, Tencent said it was coming to the Switch. Nintendo stock jumped more than 7% following the announcement. With praise coming from gaming analysts, AoV looks like it will be a mainstay for many gamers in the coming years.
The Switch’s ability to attract one of the top mobile games is certainly noteworthy, but made especially so by the attraction of another title: Fortnite . At E3, Epic Games and Nintendo revealed a partnership that saw the record-breaking PC title launch on the Nintendo Switch on the same day it was announced. Fortnite is easily the hottest game on the market right now, with significant viewership on Twitch, tons of players, and both Epic Games and Tencent promising substantial investment in the coming months.
Gaming platforms are merging
All of this begs a certain question that has been plaguing me of late: If one of the top mobile esports can make it on a console—and one of the top PC esports can make it on the same console—what’s the difference between platforms?
Seriously. Outside of control inputs, the barriers between gaming platforms are starting to break down. And, outside of a few niche areas, I’m not certain that’s a bad thing.
Before we get into it, let’s put to rest those niches. The clearest one is ultra-high-quality gaming graphics, where the PC platform will always be king. Consoles, and especially mobile platforms, can never match the raw processing power of a suped-up gaming computer.
Then, there’s the self-interest of console platform developers to keep in mind—they have a lot to lose if people can replace the console easily with a mobile device. In fact, one console developer is already acting to draw a wall between itself and the competition, affectionately dubbed by Polygon as “Sony’s Fortnite cross-play nightmare.”
Drivers of this merge
Looking past those differences, however, however, it’s clear a merger of sorts between gaming platforms is on the way. A number of games now have seen cross-platform development—Fortnite and AoV, yes, but also Hearthstone , Street Fighter , Rocket League , and others. Even for established PC games, developers are seeking to integrate into mobile forms, evidenced by World of Warcraft‘s Legion companion app, or Riot’s League Friends app.
Moving forward, especially for competitive games where the focus is on fast gameplay and visual clarity, development for multiple platforms is an obvious winner. The core concept is a simple one to understand: the more potential players a game can have, the more players a game can have. With Fortnite and AoV serving as clear examples, platforms don’t matter to core competitive gamers, gameplay does. And as barriers between controls on those platforms begin to break down, there is a clearly higher preference among gamers for playing a single game across a number of consoles than playing a number of games on a single console.
But that’s not all. Game streaming technology will serve to break down even platform processing barriers. A perfect personal example here: my device of preference for playing Blizzard Entertainment’s Diablo 3 is the portable Playstation Vita. Sony’s Remote Play feature on the PS4 allows you to stream any game from the console to its handheld brother. More and more platforms are using this or similar technologies—Valve’s Steam Link, Xbox’s game streaming feature, and any number of third-party PC remote apps, just to name a few.
The future of gaming is clear. oOtside of specific examples or games forced to be single platform by platform developers, game developers are opting to be inclusive of which platforms their games can be played on, especially for competitive titles. With mobile devices gaining not only specific development from developers to run top PC and console games, plus the advent of game streaming capabilities, there will likely be few barriers for playing top games on any device a gamer wants to.