Free Fire has quietly become one of the biggest mobile esports, easily surpassing PUBG Mobile

Free Fire is shattering viewership records for mobile esports.

Image via Garena

PUBG Mobile is one of the biggest mobile esports right now. It has a structured league and had a relatively large prize pool of $600,000 at the PUBG Mobile Star Challenge Finals 2018. The mobile version of the hit PC battle royale has had a number of live esports events with wide media coverage and is a regular title on the top grossing charts of the Google Play Store in almost all countries.

Despite this, there’s another mobile battle royale that’s shattering viewership records in its esports events. Free Fire, developed by Garena, is a 50-player battle royale game for Android and iOS. The game has over 100 million downloads and was released on Dec. 4, 2017, three months before PUBG Mobile’s global release.

The Free Fire World Cup 2019 had more viewers than the PUBG Mobile Star Challenge Finals held between Nov. 29 to Dec. 1, 2018, according to Esports Charts.

The Free Fire World Cup averaged 630,931 viewers in its five hours of streaming live. It peaked at 1,003,946 viewers. The PUBG Mobile Star Challenge Finals had an average view count of 174,992 which peaked at 418,340 viewers.  

What makes Free Fire so popular is its ability to run on almost every device. The game can be played in high graphics with a decent FPS even on low-end devices. PUBG Mobile, on the other hand, has very high demands. The game only runs in full graphics on high-end phones and even then may cause heating problems.

This is why Free Fire is immensely popular in regions of Southeast Asia and South America. Furthermore, the matches in Free Fire are short (10 minutes long) which makes them fast-paced and exciting. Unlike PUBG, in Free Fire players don’t die after being hit with a few bullets. You need to fire at them for a while to take them down. All this makes the game a spectator-friendly esport title.

The Free Fire World Cup 2019 was the first international esports tournament for the game and was held in Bangkok, Thailand on April 7, 2019. Crossing one million peak viewers was impressive for the $100K tournament. The BLAST Pro Series Miami (CS:GO), held a week after the Free Fire World Cup managed a peak viewership of only 311,521 viewers ( of course, it’s important to note that BLAST Pro Series is not a premier CS:GO event).

The PUBG Mobile Star Challenge Finals was preceded by numerous offline events for different regions which led to qualification to the finals. It was a heavily promoted hyped event and received widespread coverage by the media. The $600,000 prize pool is perhaps the biggest for a single mobile esports tournament. In spite of this, the event could not even come close to the number of spectators the Free Fire World Cup attracted.

The Free Fire World Cup’s viewers were restricted to a few regions. Around 90 percent of viewers were from Portugal, Spain, Vietnam, and Indonesia alone. This may be why the viewership stats may come as a surprise for people in other regions where the game is not as popular. It’s overshadowed by PUBG Mobile in most of Europe, North America, Middle East, and Africa. 

PUBG’s Mobile’s esports events for 2019 are already underway, with the spring split of the PUBG Mobile Club Open 2019 (PMCO) going on now. The PMCO has a prize pool of $2.5 million for the entire year which is divided into two splits. Free Fire has yet to announce its esports plans for 2019.