The Growth of Esports in India

The mobile revolution in India in the recent years characterised by a growing internet penetration has fueled the growth of mobile gaming and Esports in the country. The gaming industry is witnessing a boom with investments from big players such as Tencent, Alibaba, Youzou, and Nazara. League of Legends, FIFA 20, PUBG : Mobile, DotA, Counter Strike : Global Offensive are some of the popular titles of the Indian Esports scene.

From a growth perspective, India’s population and a fast growing economy are major factors in pushing the Esports envelope further. A country with a population of 1.3 billion and millions of potential gamers is likely to attract many investors and as a result has seen several eSport startups such as FanMojo, Nodwin Gaming, JetSynthesys, and Cobx Gaming in the recent years.

In addition to the increased internet penetration, the increase in purchasing power of the consumers is also responsible for the improved gaming infrastructure. The attitude of gamers has seen a shift in the recent years. From indulging in gaming as a hobby a few years ago, gamers have now moved to considering it as a professional career choice. There has also been a significant rise in betting on eSport games & tournaments. In the billion-dollar industry of eSports, India ranked number 17 globally in 2019.

Growing market size – Over 600 million gamers

While India might still have a long way to go in the Esports arena in terms of the infrastructure, the market size is what will attract investors in the coming years. It would take only one Indian city to get an audience larger than what super-saturated markets of China and Europe have to offer.

To put things in perspective, Germany has 37 million gamers while in 2019, India was predicted to have 620 million gamers by 2020.

So, if a company manages to capture just 7% of the Indian gaming market, that would be 43.4 million gamers – 6 million more than the total number of gamers in Germany.

Moreover, PC Gaming has reached India’s tier II and tier III cities as well. The demand from these cities is a reason for initiatives such as Friday store for gaming PCs from Flipkart (e-commerce portal) being paid off. And these gamers aren’t mere hobbyists looking at PC gaming as a leisure activity. They’ve gone beyond entry-level gaming rigs and are opting for a minimum 8 GB RAM and mid-range graphics cards.

The market in tier II/III cities of India accounts for almost 20 percent of Flipkart’s gaming PC business.

Also, the growth in gaming and Esports isn’t all about gamers taking up Esports as a profession and going for the glory. With the growing interest in gaming, the country can witness an increase in the number of job opportunities for writers, developers, game designers, artists, influencers and a number of other avenues will present themselves as career choices in the industry.

While the gaming industry projected to grow 2-5 times in the next few years would seem far behind China, India definitely shows great potential.

Esports & Gaming – Noticing the Difference

In a panel discussion monitored by Intel back in April 2019, one of the most interesting points discussed was the difference between Esports and gaming.

Gaming can be considered as entertainment where friends team up in squads and claim a few kills in PUBG. Whereas, a professional Esports player would spend dozens of hours practicing skills, tactics, and coming up with the most optimal attack vectors.

Akshat Rathee, co-founder of Nodwin Gaming affirms that Esports is about skill and once you stop playing, you lose the edge. In the Intel-monitored panel, Rathee claimed that Esports was more intensive than cricket.

Here is an example to understand why the Nodwin co-founder feels so –

The average APM (actions per minute) of an average South Korean StarCraft II player is 400 – that is keypresses and mouse clicks alone. This number doesn’t account for the number of times the player would glance at the map, talk to his teammates, etc.

An average gamer’s APM is 50. That’s right, 50!

As Akshat Rathee suggests, there are only 2,000 to 3,000 gamers in the world who can manage an average APM of 400.

Challenges to Esports in India

To reach such a skill level, Indian players need a push. There are many challenges Indian players face when it comes to Esports – from mindsets to investments. As of 2016, 66 percent of heavy gamers in India were below 24 years of age.

Even if the Indian gamers have started to consider Esports as a career choice, the same cannot be said of the Indian parents. Companies like ASUS have stepped in to help Indian gamers sort this out.

ASUS has now fully sponsored an Esports team in India. The full-sponsorship includes paying salaries, covering travel expenses when gamers participate in foriegn tournaments, and most importantly, convincing gamers’ parents of eSports as a career path.

The attitude of parents towards gaming is one of the big challenges for growth of Esports in India. They’re happy if their kids stick to gaming as a hobby and not considering it as a career path.

Considering the example of ASUS, this seems a problem that can be solved with consolidated efforts. However, according to Intel India MD Prakash Mallya, building an ecosystem from scratch is not an easy thing to do.

COVID-19 impact and the way ahead

India arrived on the international scene of Esports in 2017 when the popular gaming tournament DreamHack was launched in Mumbai. The price pools of the gaming tournaments have seen a steady rise since then with 2019 being the best year for Esports in India.

While the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent lockdown affected many businesses, Esports witnessed a continued rise in demand. In a recent interview to The Week, Nodwin Gaming’s co-founder Akshat Rathee claimed that he’s looking at a huge double-digit growth for the company while the rest of the world talked about recession and reduction.

There was an 80 per cent jump in the traffic for titles in Nodwin Gaming in April 2020. The company that boasts of exclusive partnerships with Electronic Sports League and the eSports World Convention, expanded its operations in March 2020, to South Africa.

Another online gaming platform, Paytm First Games recently organized the largest Clash Royale eSports tournament in the country. Around 11,000 gamers participated with over 70,000 users tuning in to see live streaming on Youtube.

In 2019, the market value of the gaming Industry in India stood at INR 62 billion and by 2024, is estimated to cross INR 250 billion. There are challenges ahead for India in the eSports industry, building an ecosystem being one. However, given the market value, size and the potential to create new job opportunities is likely to drive investments and efforts in solving problems and setting up a robust gaming ecosystem.

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