The esports arena, like any competitive field, is one riddled with a basic paradox. On one hand, all those who are invested in this activity want to see the participants getting better at what they do. When this happens, the whole domain gets an upgrade – the activity evolves, regardless if it’s a traditional sport, esport or something else. The result is a more challenging space for the participants, which in turn provides more fun and unexpected moments for the spectators. However, every sport is also mindful of the participants attaining a competitive advantage through unfair means or by directly cheating.
This principle is completely true for the esports arena as well. This is why a recent analysis of the field could be pointing towards a factor that has the potential to both change the competitive space and cause controversy. The analysis in question was completed by Skillz, a mobile esports company that examined over 800 million games in mobile tournaments. The result? Players with lager phones managed to rack up more victories than those with smaller screens.
As a company that hosts a platform for mobile esports in which players compete for cash prizes, Skillz took this research seriously. Its 18 million user base is, at the same time, large enough for the results to be statistically viable. After processing the result, researchers at Skillz showed that owners of large-screen smartphones won about 6 percent more than those using smaller ones.
Giving an Edge
The difference of less than 10 percent seems small. But, in large tournaments, especially when teams of esports professionals take on other teams, the same advantage could end up being monumental. After all, practically all of the big mobile esports titles played in real-time depend heavily on reaction time and on-screen touch preciseness. A larger screen would, in theory, allow players to improve both factors without sacrificing their mobility which often happens when playing on much larger tablets.
The players themselves are echoing Skillz research findings. Jennifer Tu, who was the 7th highest-earning mobile esports competitor in the previous year, pointed out that moving to an iPhone X from iPhone 6S made a big difference. There, Tu noticed that the additional space, as well as a better display, provided additional in-match opportunities.
The mobile device industry is on the same page, albeit not only because of mobile esports. The phone makers have been working hard to make larger screens and smaller bezels, while not turning their devices into tablets. Galaxy Note 9 has a 6.4-inch screen while Apple iPhone XS Max took theirs to 6.5 inches. Google’s Pixel 3 XL screen is also 6.3 inches.
The Old Esports Problem
Does all of this mean that the players will switch to 6-inch plus phones and the rest will be doomed to lose? While a wave of this is inbound, the long-term will probably see a normalization of this trend. Similar versions of this process already happened in PC-based esports. A good example was the period in FPS competitions when all players used to drop the video quality to its lowest point in an effort to gain speed. Today, it's hard to imagine having a successful esports player and Twitch streamer using this philosophy.
This is why it is more likely that the process will become a trend. It will reign for a while, after which it will become less prominent when other advantages of smaller screens are rediscovered, like for example using customer setups for clustering game’s UI buttons. Here, a smaller surface would again mean a better reaction time if the players chose to utilize the edges of the screens and have commands that are reachable by both thumbs (in games that use the dual stick control setup).
In spite of this, for now, it can be expected that mobile esports players will start migrating en mass to phones with larger screens, chasing that potential 6 percent advantage.