Jan 24, 2020
Qualcomm products mentioned within this post are offered by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.
In eSports: Following the Rise of a new Sport we talked about the explosive growth of eSports, which has traditionally been based around PC games. Now, with a new generation of mobile-first gamers who want to play anytime and anywhere, it should be no surprise that mobile gaming is overtaking PC gaming, with sources indicating that 83% of gamers now play on mobile. This of course, is helping to fuel the growth of mobile eSports, where mobile games like Tencent’s Honor of Kings, have developed a huge following amongst mobile gamers.
There are two significant factors that are contributing to the shift in popularity from PC to mobile gaming: the performance and rendering quality of mobile games that now rival the look and feel of PC and console games, and powerful wireless connectivity performance options thanks to technologies like 5G. Let’s take a closer look at how these elements are poised to benefit both mobile gaming and mobile eSports, and how Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. (QTI) is providing the technologies to support them.
PC-quality on mobile
Last year on Qualcomm Developer Network, we focused on features of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Mobile Platform that fulfill our Qualcomm Snapdragon Elite Gaming vision to increase realism in games including physics-based rendering (PBR), high dynamic range (HDR), and Tensor Acceleration.
The demands of mobile gamers and mobile eSports competitors have raised the bar again. Going forward, meeting or exceeding PC-quality games on mobile means mobile devices and games must deliver extremely high-quality graphics at very high framerates.
This may sound like a luxury, but for gamers like mobile eSports competitors, who often have large cash prizes at stake, such features can mean the difference between winning and losing.
For mobile gamers, we recently announced the Snapdragon 865 Mobile Platform, which includes three key feature areas to support our Snapdragon Elite Gaming vision.
The first area revolves around ultra-smooth gaming that includes:
- Qualcomm Game Smoother: a jank (stutter) reducer that runs at nearly any frame rate to ensure that the game renders in sync with the underlying simulation.
- Adaptive Game Performance Engine: a new feature that monitors game workflows at the frame and subframe level. This feature adjusts the system’s performance to help the game run at a high quality with the highest settings, and for as long as possible, on the device’s battery.
- Frame rates up to 144Hz are now supported, which has been the gold standard for desktop PC-based eSports.
The second area builds on the true 10-bit HDR quality that we introduced last year to include:
- Qualcomm Game Color Plus: a new feature from Snapdragon Elite Gaming automatically enhances the visual fidelity of games (e.g., details, contrast, and saturation) mimicking true 10-bit HDR as closely as possible, without any changes to the game code. It’s accelerated by the Qualcomm Adreno GPU for low latency, low power and memory bandwidth possible.
- Adreno HDR Fast Blend: helps run HDR games up to 2x faster by accelerating blending of multiple layers. Dynamic scenes with particle effects like fire, smoke, or snow are seamlessly blended together for the most efficient rendering pipeline and a faster, smoother experience.
The third and final area involves the introduction of desktop-level features:
- Adreno Updatable GPU Drivers: updates for Android GPU drivers will now be available via the Google Play Store, allowing mobile gamers to install the latest GPU optimizations, just as PC gamers have always been able to do.
- Desktop Forward Rendering: new shader cores that provide advanced shading and lighting post processing is now available on mobile, something that was previously only available on PCs. This provides the potential for more realistic graphics by utilizing camera properties, and incorporating multiple dynamic lights, dynamic shadows, desktop motion blur, and planar reflections.
Making the case for 5G
Of course it’s not just about the rendering. Fast, reliable wireless connectivity is the key to good multiplayer mobile gaming experiences. And in the world of mobile eSports, the need for good connectivity encompasses a wide range of demands and requirements.
An eSports venue is commonly configured as a sports arena-like setup, which not only features the competitors, but also game monitoring (e.g., anti-cheat) systems, broadcasters, live streams (e.g., to venue jumbotrons and to millions of viewers on the Internet), announcers, and crowds of hundreds or thousands of live spectators. With the need to flow data to and from all of these stakeholders, you can image the performance demands this can place on the network infrastructure.
This means the traditional approach of running Ethernet cables everywhere and providing Wi-Fi hotspots can be a logistical and budgetary headache, especially for a production company that must set up and tear down these deployments in different venues throughout a season of an eSports championship.
This is where the potential of 5G is really poised to shine. 5G’s reduction in lag can directly benefit competitors whose reaction times depend on low latency, while the increased bandwidth can support faster data transfers such as the streaming of each player’s viewports. Just as important, 5G’s support for mass numbers of users, as well as consumer premise equipment and private networks, bodes well for the large crowds of always-on, always connected spectators who also want their personalized view.
5G will undoubtably help with multi-venue competitions as well, where different teams may compete in real-time from different locations. In addition, 5G is showing great promise to support cloud-based streaming games, where game logic is performed in the cloud, and the rendered frames are sent to each player’s mobile device.
The majority of Android-based gaming phones today are based on the Snapdragon 845, 855 and 855+ series of mobile platforms, and such devices have become sought after amongst elite mobile gamers and mobile eSports competitors alike.
Now, with the Snapdragon 865, manufacturers of mobile gaming devices are well positioned to take advantage of 5G, as it can be paired with the Snapdragon X55 5G modem-RF system. The Snapdragon X55 modem is the successor to the Snapdragon X50 5G modem-RF system, and supports 2G through 5G data transfers, sub-6GHz bands in FDD (frequency division duplex), and all three mmWave communications bands (26GHz, 29GHz, and 39GHz). This will be of particular interest to mobile eSports gamers, who will now be able to use their device at all 5G-based eSports venues around the world.
Mobile gaming – now and in the future
We’re now at a cross roads where mobile gaming is overtaking PC gaming in popularity, and the quality of mobile games is now rivaling that found on traditional PC and console systems. And while mobile gamers appreciate fast performance and reliable, low-latency connectivity, mobile eSports competitors require it to be competitive.
Our research indicates that today’s mobile gamers are willing to pay for mobile gaming devices with advanced capabilities, because to them, winning is everything. Mobile gaming device manufacturers and game developers should pay close attention to this space and look to mobile eSports as a proving ground for their technologies.
To learn more about the Snapdragon Elite Gaming features of the Snapdragon 865, check out the YouTube videos of our recent Snapdragon Tech Summit, especially day 2, where we announced a number of 5G and Snapdragon Elite Gaming features. Also be sure to check out this blog on 5G and eSports.