Something very strange happened at the video game edition of the BAFTA’s—Britain’s largest award show—tonight. In the show’s only esports-specific category, a mobile game that can only generously be considered an esport beat out some of the biggest names in the industry.
That’s right: Clash Royale, Supercell’s mobile-strategy game, won the “esports audience award,” besting League of Legends, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch, Dota 2, and Street Fighter V. Even the game’s nomination raised eyebrows in February. There were high-profile games with much stronger esports followings that missed out on the nomination, including Hearthstone, another mobile game.
The awards were chosen by fan votes, so that might be part of the reason for Clash Royale’s surprise win. There have been no official figures released on how the voting stacked up or by how much Clash won. But Clash was up against League of Legends, the most popular esport in the world with millions of players worldwide, and Overwatch, the hottest esport of the moment.
More importantly there’s also the major conflict of interest at the very heart of the award show: BAFTA’s newly-appointed vice president of games, David Gardner, is an investor in Supercell, Clash’s developer.
Other awards were given on the night for games with esports followings, with Rocket League picking up the best “Evolving Game” award and Overwatch grabbing itself “Best Multiplayer.” At least Clash didn’t pull any upsets in those categories.