State of the Ecosystem: Mobile Legends: Bang Bang esports 2023
State of the Ecosystem is a series overviewing the contemporary esports scene in several major esports titles, with a primary focus on the industry side.
(ESI Illustration) Image credit: Moonton Games
Mobile Legends: Bang Bang (MLBB) is probably the biggest esports title that most people within the Western world have never heard of.
Headed by game developer Moonton Games, a subsidiary of ByteDance (TikTok’s parent company), Mobile Legends was first published in 2016 and has since established itself as a leading mobile MOBA.
Within esports, the game generates staggering viewership figures that regularly peak in the millions, with Southeast Asia being Mobile Legends’ primary market. In fact, the title’s recent World Championship garnered an impressive 4.27m peak viewers, according to esports data platform Esports Charts.
From a wider ecosystem perspective, the mobile 5v5 MOBA title utilises a variety of structures including a franchise model, open tournaments and a promotion/relation league format. Mobile Legends’ more prominent competitions are those under its MPL (Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Professional League) banner.
As of this writing, Moonton has seven MPL leagues: Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Brazil, MENA and Cambodia. Currently, the Philippines, Singapore and Indonesia operate through a franchise model, while the others use open formats.
MPL events are used to determine the top teams from each region that then go on to compete in major events such as the ‘M World Championship’ or MLBB Southeast Asia Cup/ LIGA LATAM (depending on the region). Other regions such as Turkey, LATAM and North America regularly feature lower-scale MLBB competitions that lead to qualification to these international events as well.
Image credit: SIBOL via Facebook
Alongside the game’s continued esports viewership growth, which has accelerated even further over the last couple of years, MLBB has also developed a popular female esports ecosystem. Mobile Legends: Bang Bang had meddled male and female categories at the 2023 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, with the latter garnering an audience of 1.37m peak viewers. This is the highest peak and average viewership (305,165) of any female esports event ever.
Similarly to the likes of developers like Riot Games, 343 Industries and Supercell, Moonton is very hands-on when it comes to its esports ecosystem and is largely responsible for most of the title’s major events. However, the game developer has collaborated with third parties such as ONE Esports and ESL to host a range of MLBB esports events.
Notable Leagues and Tournaments
Whilst Mobile Legends’ Moonton-run properties are seen as the title’s premier events, the mobile MOBA has also been prominently featured across the SEA Games and through the Snap Dragon Pro Series mobile ecosystem.
Most viewed tournaments
Mobile Legends regularly breaks the mould when it comes to mobile esports viewership, in particular its international events. This viewership — recorded by Esports Charts — is largely dominated by the Indonesian market, which also garners impressive regional figures for its own league.
M4 World Championship (4.27m peak viewers)
M3 World Championship (3.19m peak viewers)
M2 World Championship (3.09m peak viewers)
MPL Indonesia Season 9 (2.84m peak viewers)
MLBB Southeast Asia Cup 2022 (2.8m peak viewers)
Image credit: MPL Cambodia
To Western audiences, many of the organisations mentioned may not ring a bell. However, some of these teams have developed into juggernauts across Southeast Asia, particularly within Mobile Legends.
Note this is a non-exhaustive list and exclusion does not signify an organisation is not notable.
Tom has been part of Esports Insider’s team since October 2020 and is currently the platform’s Editor. When not playing Football Manager, he enjoys reporting on the mobile esports scene as well as the betting sector.