Examiner Exclusive: Vainglory COO talks the rise of the mobile MOBA


Not only has Vainglory risen up the charts in the esports scene over the past year, but it’s also dominated Twitch’s mobile category. Now that Super Evil Megacorp has a partnership with Samsung regarding the game’s graphics API, Examiner.com was able to catch up with Super Evil Megacorp’s COO Kristian Segerstrale to talk about the mobile MOBA and it’s prominence in gaming.

Examiner: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk about Vainglory. Could you give a quick rundown of what Vainglory is for those unfamiliar with the game?

Kristian Segerstrale: Vainglory is is a 3 versus 3 team based multi-player game following a similar formula to something like League of Legends or Dota 2 that is a MOBA; Multi-Player Online Battle Arena. So it’s 3 versus 3 instead of 5 versus 5 with a single lane and a large jungle, but we are very focused on insuring that we can build up loads of meaningful choice and a rhythm of the game that is a little bit faster than our PC based brethren. Not because it’s on mobile, but rather because we think there is an opportunity to design a MOBA experience that doesn’t have dead time.

Everything here is designed from the ground up. We haven’t taken the map from any other MOBA or any other sort of formula, if you like. What we’ve instead focused on is trying to create from the ground up a really interesting set of puzzles. Both on the strategic level and tactical level and even as you play an individual hero, how you build that out and how you play that hero. All of it should be a puzzle with meaningful choice all the way through. And that is a large part we think of also, why the competitive community has grown so quickly and why the tournament scene has exploded over the past 6 months.

Examiner: Why make a mobile MOBA instead of a traditional MOBA on PC?

Segerstrale: So what we wanted to do as a company was to bring to the touchscreen generation the kind of experiences that we grew up with ourselves, as PC gamers. Team-based competitive multi-player experiences which at least we grew up as LAN-based party people. It felt like the touchscreen generation is kind of condemned to these three or four minute experiences. Everyone has designed games for mobile as if you have another main gaming platform like a console or PC. That’s the thing you spend two hours on and then you spend five minutes on this little game that you have with you all the time. We disagree. We think of these platforms as primary gaming platforms. If you look at the latest generation phones, they are about as powerful as PlayStation 3.

Examiner: How does a game like Vainglory that uses touch screen inputs compare to say a PC MOBA that has a keyboard and mouse?

Segerstrale: Yeah, the way we look at it is, we are PC gamers ourselves. So we totally get it when people say, “how on earth can you play on MOBA and touch?” We didn’t know ourselves when we started building this game. We are totally paranoid about control accuracy. We’re paranoid about the feel of playing the opponent and of the platform, all of that stuff.

We literally ground it out for months and years to get to a game experience that we, ourselves, actually now prefer over a mouse and keyboard experience in terms of control accuracy. It’s also been super cool to see how quickly the community has grown and really embraced it. The point is, PC games are amazing, but it’s a little bit like ice hockey, you can only play if you have skates and access to and ice rink, right? Where as something like soccer, you can play if you have a ball. And everyone can get a hold of a ball.

Examiner: Exactly all you need is a ball and some room to kick it.

Segerstrale: Exactly. So I mean, it’s the same thing all you need is a touchscreen and a network and those two things are ubiquitous today. That’s why we’re so excited about building it out. Frankly even console games and PC games and mobile games today are so focused on just building out, launching something really big immediately on day one and try to get to a top 10. That hasn’t been our strategy.

We instead focused on working with the community on competitive viability. All the questions that any PC player would have about, “how on earth?” those are exactly the questions we have been working on now for a long time. Since we launched on Android about 10 months ago or so the community has just grown and grown and grown with all the millions of monthly active players and millions of players watching the game being played every month.

Examiner: How has the mobile esports scene grown since you released your game?

Segerstrale: So, we were the largest and fastest growing touch screen game on Twitch last year and we’ve seen our live championships grow viewership. We did a multimillion dollar deal with Twitch just a few months ago on the eSport structures and things. We’ve been really excited about the amount of big sponsors, big partnerships, the big eSports teams. G2 Esports are playing right now, but also Team Secret, Team Solomid, all these guys getting involved. It’s just been super fun and we still think we’re super, super early. We’re really working on both the experience as well as learning about eSports and all that, but it’s just been super fun to see how quickly the community has exploded.

Examiner: What makes Vainglory different to the other mobile games out there?

Segerstrale: The thing that makes Vainglory different from other mobile games is not just that it’s ultimately long sessions [compared to other mobile games] and it’s a team based game, but also the fact that it’s not Pay-to-Win. There’s nothing you can pay for that makes you more powerful. So generally you are as powerful the day you install the game as the world champion is playing the game right now. And that’s been commonplace with PC for a long time, and it’s sort of well understood. But mobile games are unfortunately very often are designed in a way that makes you more powerful the more money you pay and we just think that the touchscreen generation deserves better. So, that’s why you can pay for things, but they’re all cosmetic.

You can accelerate I guess, unlocking heroes permanently, there’s a free hero rotation very similar to how this genre has evolved on PC, but not Pay-to-Win is a very important piece. So when you start playing the game, you literally are quite powerful from the start. And there are lots of online resources, lots of in game academy resources to learn how to play the game better. It’s something that we’re very passionate about, teaching the genre to a much broader audience because we have the opportunity. For about 70% of our players this is their first MOBA which made us super proud because we just think it’s such an excellent genre of game and if we can grow it, it’s good. To your point earlier. There’s north of 3 billion of these touchscreens out there.

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