One of the interesting trends visible at this year’s E3, if you looked beneath the surface, is the increasing reach of mobile games into the core gaming territory. There’s no better example of this than Super Evil Megacorp’s Vainglory, a MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) designed for touchscreens. The game has been in beta on iOS since late last year, and now Vainglory is coming out of beta with its official launch on July 2 for iOS and Android devices.
Vainglory will celebrate its official global launch with an exclusive event broadcast live from Twitch Headquarters, taking place in San Francisco on July 1. The launch update to Vainglory introduces new key features and content such as Android support for over 150 devices, Casual and Ranked queues, a three-tiered skins system and hours of tutorial content for new players. “We are determined to shatter preconceived notions about what’s possible on touch devices and bring the core gamer experience we grew up with to the mobile generation,” said Bo Daly, CEO and co-founder of Super Evil Megacorp. “Super Evil Megacorp is not a ‘mobile games studio’ —we make core games for core gamers and believe touch screens are the future primary core gaming devices.”
Super Evil’s COO and creative director Kristian Segerstrale spoke with [a]listdaily about the launch and what it means for core gaming on mobile platforms.
How does the team feel about reaching the milestone of an official launch date for Vainglory?
It’s equal parts incredible excitement and being absolutely terrified right now. We’ve been working with the player community for a long time to improve the features, and we’ve added tons of features. When Vainglory originally went live in the West about seven months ago the feature set was still very core, and very bare bones. Now that we’ve finally got the feature set that contains a casual queue for more casual players, where you can start before you try ranked gaming, we feel like we’re finally ready to invite in the masses, including the Android players. We’ve been working very hard to make sure we’re ready for it.
What surprising things have you learned since the beta launch of Vainglory?
I think there are three important things. The first and foremost is the sheer amount of time core gamers are willing to play on touchscreens. The established wisdom was people want to play three or four minutes at a time, maybe 20 or 30 minutes a day. The average session length for Vainglory is 24 minutes, and the average time spent per day is now north of 80 minutes per player. That has been a wonderful, pleasant surprise, to see that core gamers are ready to spend nearly as much time as they do on other gaming platforms. That shows us gamers are willing to make touchscreens their primary gaming platform, which was always the intent.
The second pleasant surprise is how quickly the community has embraced competitive gaming. We expected to be building Vainglory for years before the eSports scene happened, and here we are two weeks ahead of the world’s first invitational tournament in Korea at an eSports stadium with the best teams from every continent. That to us is super exciting. We’re excited by the trajectory. It’s early days still, but the velocity with which the community has embraced competitive play has taken us by surprise.
The third thing that has been interesting to observe is the amount of spontaneous Vainglory get-togethers that are being organized by the community, LAN party style. It was always our hope and our vision that at some point in time people have the same experience that we have here in the office, where we get to play with each other around the table. The sheer level of noise and fun from that experience is something we really want to get our players to feel. It’s been fun watching people around the world self-organizing into Vainglory events.
What can you tell us about Vainglory players? Are they core gamers on console and PC who have taken up Vainglory, or are you attracting some number of players who don’t think of themselves as core gamers?
Bear in mind that so far we’ve worked with an early adopter player base. When we look at the people who play Vainglory a lot, more than a hundred matches, the thing that we’ve been super-encouraged by is that yes, half of them identified as core gamers in that they played core games on a PC previously and they found Vainglory for that reason. But we’ve also been very encouraged by the fact that for half of our players, Vainglory is their very first MOBA. They’ve never played another MOBA before, and they’ve now gotten into Vainglory enough that they’ve played more than a hundred matches. We’ve been very pleased to see we’ve been able to create accessibility to a genre that’s traditionally been very inaccessible to newer players, and we’ve been able to do that without compromising on the strategic depth.
Now that you’ve reached the official launch and completed the core set of features, what is the next stage in Vainglory’s evolution?
We’re very happy to be here — it’s an important milestone — but that said, we’re still at the very beginning. There are three important axes we want to evolve the game along, and one of them is certainly competitive. We want to make sure we bring more of that into the game itself. We’ve really enjoyed the competitive scene, and you can see the explosion in the number of Twitch viewers the game has had, and the competitive scene is largely responsible for that. Helping those competitive players compete inside the game we think is pretty important. That competitive arc both inside of the game and outside of the game, in terms of leagues and tournaments, is one important axis.
Another important axis is just the social features and communications features inside the actual game. One thing you may notice that’s entirely missing in the game right now is any form of team or guild affiliation. Our players are self-organizing the teams and guilds, they create web pages and Twitter accounts, but we don’t support any of that in-game. The community is ahead of us in all of these things in every respect, and all we’re trying to do is meet their expectations inside the game itself.
Finally, one of the things that’s been a big focus for us is to work with local player communities. We are now very actively working with local communities to make sure wherever people play Vainglory, they are supported by a community of content creators, strategy guides and a set of players who are very actively engaged with each other. Fundamentally our dream is not just to be creating a game like any other computer game, but we’re hoping to create something more akin to basketball, which is a game that you play. But it’s really about the people that you play it with, and it being a part of your life because you care about playing it, watching it, and being with friends and interacting with friends around it.