Vainglory: A Pioneer in mobile eSports and why it failed
Long before the rise of MOBA’s such as Mobile Legends, League of Legends: Wild rift, there was Vainglory. First released in 2014 by Super Evil Megacorp or SEMC in San Mateo, California, the team was composed of veteran game developers from Riot and Blizzard, both of which were developers of League of Legends, DOTA and DOTA 2, arguably three of the most successful MOBA games to be released on desktops. Originally released as a 3v3 MOBA, the game was designed to attract PC MOBA players to mobile.
Released in 2014 and chosen by Apple for their product presentation for their iPhone 6 really showcased why it deserved to be shown to the world. Vainglory’s eyepopping graphics and Vainglory runs on SEMC’s own E.V.I.L engine, which highlighted the custom designs and animations of each champion. Vainglory also boasted that they are the only mobile MOBA with precise touch controls, a design which has not been seen yet in recent mobile MOBA games, which enabled players to make plays and strategies, The objective of the game was to destroy the enemy’s Vain crystal located inside their base, to reach the enemy Vain crystal, players fight in three divided areas called “lanes” and destroy enemy turrets, additionally players may also fight in the jungle to secure objectives or jungle monsters which grant them in-game buffs such as the Kraken and Black Claw, both of which are monstrous beasts which can be summoned by the team who defeated them in the jungle in the lane to help to destroy turrets making it easier for teams to push deeper into the enemy base, as well as Ghost Wing, a dragon which grants them powerful buffs for a short amount of time.
Following its success in 2014, Vainglory ventured into the world of eSports, collaborating with ESL and OGN Korea. Vainglory drew an audience as large as one million through a South Korean competition called Korean eSports League OGN Vainglory Invitational in July 2015. After their success in South Korea, Vainglory Premiere League, an eSports event, offered a prize pool of $80,000 to the winner of the competition, 12 teams from four regions (North America, China, South Korea and Europe) participated. This led to Vainglory becoming the first and biggest, mobile eSport event.
After their success in 2014-2015, their popularity started to dwindle, due to their lack of advertising, SEMC mainly focused their advertisements on the North Americas and Europe which had a smaller player base compared to those in Asia particularly Korea and in Indonesia where it had a massive player base. Paired with its complex game mechanics compared to other MOBA’s such as Mobile Legends and graphic intensive gameplay which required high-end phones to play with, led to a domino effect in Vainglory’s dark days.
With the rise of other MOBA games such as Mobile Legends, Vainglory’s popularity plummeted, with people preferring the simplistic gameplay and lower graphic specification which allowed players to play with relatively low-end phones. Because of Vainglory’s popularity plummeting, various organizations and sponsors withdrew their support which led to SEM cutting Vainglory’s eSport budget.
In November 2019 SEMC announced their publishing partnership with Rogue Games, which gave Rogue Games the responsibility of managing and operating Vainglory outside of China because SEMC wanted to focus on their new game, Project Spellfire, but in 2020 Rogue games decided to shut down Vainglory’s servers but SEMC managed to take control and restore its servers and planned to make the game a community-based server instead of SEMC’s own servers. After making the game community based Rogue Games issued a statement on their website apologizing for Vainglory’s shutdown, pointing out Vainglory’s astronomical server cost, which was difficult to maintain, saying those costs were unfeasible for the company, as well as the effect of COVID-19 on the economy “We were given reigns of the game shortly after a very large in-game sale, which wasn’t an ideal starting point for us” the apology statement reads.
Today, Vainglory is a shell of its former glory with only a small player base continuing to play the games. Much of Vainglory has been stripped down, with no cosmetics such as skins and accessories, no in-game communication such as voice chat and chat and no ranking system or friendship options such as guilds and in-game guilds.
Vainglory blazed the trails for the world of mobile eSports, now it is merely an ember of what it one was.