"Mobile games can’t be eSports" was the general consensus around the time Vainglory launched. Despite the skepticism, Super Evil Megacorp, Vainglory's developer, invested in and cultured an eSports ecosystem for their game, creating a market few people believed could exist. As a result, premier professional organizations such as NA’s TSM and EU’s Team Secret have picked up their own Vainglory teams to partake in international tournaments.
Co-founder & CEO of Super Evil Megacorp Bo Daly recently visited Korea, holding a conference to listen to player feedback. He emphasized that player-developer communication is one of the most important factors to a game’s success.
Are you satisfied with where the game is now in terms of being an eSport?
We always had eSports in mind ever since we launched the game. I’m proud of the fact that the eSports aspect developed faster than we had anticipated, and also of the fact that we have the biggest mobile eSports player base. Considering no one thought a mobile game could be an eSport, I’d say it's no small feat. The issue now is what we can do to "grow the pie" from here. Mobile eSports is still in its infancy, but I'm hopeful for its growth, considering its accessibility compared to PC games.
Besides its success as an eSport, what else has Vainglory achieved?
I think we succeeded in many aspects, not only eSports. A significant number of players from all over the world, including Korea, are signing up to get into the game. Many people play PC games for an extended period of time - we want Vainglory to be a game like that. In regards to in-game content, we’ve just pushed out 1.22 with a new and entirely unique character.
What did you hope to achieve with the 1.22 update?
Three things. First is an update to hero skins, including Moon Princess Celeste to celebrate Korea's Chuseok - we wanted to reward dedicated players with special content. Second is UI improvement - we wanted to both make the game more friendly for new players and resolve the mismatch between phone and tablet. Last is social functionality.
How do you approach hero balance?
Balance is a delicate issue. We consider data from both professional games and casual games to adjust balance. Players have different hero preferences across regions so we also take that into account to shape a balanced meta.
Compared to other mobile games’ game lengths, Vainglory's runs on the longer side. Are you happy with the current play time per match?
Most people think mobile games should be short, but that’s not how we approached Vainglory from the get-go. I see many players set aside a certain amount time to play Vainglory, which I think is the best way to play. So yes, I’m happy with the current game length.
You could say that short play times are the proven way to go for mobile games, a preexisting success formula. However, we wanted to go off the beaten path to open a whole new market. I imagined there must be hardcore PC gamers who would also enjoy hardcore mobile games. I think we’re heading in the right direction; we made Vainglory to cater to that particular audience.
Vainglory somewhat feels like a mobile port of a PC game. Any plans for future PC support?
It’s technically possible and we could eventually consider PC as a platform. Having said that, we still believe mobile is the most interesting and appropriate platform for the game because interaction among players via mobile devices is a very important part of the game. We believe the current mobile platform is the optimal environment for our development goals.
It’s rare to see a CEO participate in a player conference to directly receive raw feedback.
A community is one of the most important parts of a game. Simply put, we live and die by the community. Vainglory is a game that we started developing with a sole purpose of making our community happy. We don’t want to manage a community; we want to become it. That’s why we value these kinds of player events so highly.
What’s the future development direction for the game?
Despite the prevailing sentiment that a mobile game wouldn’t establish itself as an eSport when Vainglory launched about a year ago, we eventually made it a reality with positive responses from professional players. We now want to trace back our steps and remedy a few parts of the game that we missed, such as easing the learning curve for new players. We are aiming to improve the game for not only core players but also newcomers.
I’ve seen many games with sensational ideas come and go because they can’t deliver the quality of gameplay people expect. In order to avoid the same pitfall, we tried to perfect the foundations first before moving on to adding fancy ideas.
What more can be done for Vainglory in terms of eSports?
The most important thing is to foster an environment which encourages players to participate. It’s not a matter of mindlessly enlarging the prize pool until people deem it attractive; we need to make a game in which professional competition is both sustainable and fulfilling.
Any last words to Vainglory's fans?
When Vainglory first launched, its chances of success were slim at best. I’d like to express my gratitude to all the players who have enjoyed and are enjoying our game. I’d also like to let people know that this is the best time to jump into Vainglory, if you haven’t already. It's also a fantastic time to invite your friends to join! [laughs]