While the last few months have had adverse effects on almost all industries, one has come out stronger. Esports was already a booming industry in India, ever since the pandemic and lockdowns it has successfully pivoted to capture an otherwise unstimulated audience in the absence of other means of entertainment. There has been a considerable surge in downloads, playtime, esports participation and of course viewership. Cooped up inside their homes with little or nothing to do, people turned to online gaming in large numbers. Not only is playing games online fun, but it’s also a great way to relieve stress.
While more Indians are gamers today than at any time before, those who have the drive, intensity, and talent are moving to take the next steps in their competitive journey. Professionals, unlike amateur players, don’t just play games because it is fun; they play because it is also financially rewarding.
Gaming Is A Big Business
According to the recent report by Maple Capital Advisors said, that by next year the Indian gaming industry will be worth $1.1 Bn. By 2024, it will further expand and will generate annual revenues of $3.75 Bn according to the report published by boutique investment bank Maple Capital Advisors called “Gaming-India Story”. This is expected as there are nearly 560 Mn internet users in India. It’s also predictable because India has one of the youngest populations in the world. The most avid gamers tend to be young men between the ages of 18-24. This segment of players is a huge market. Not only are there more gamers in this age bracket than in any other but the best professional gamers also fall in this segment.
What Is Esports?
Esports is a subset of gaming. Esports is when there is competitive gaming within a formal structure supported by an entire broadcast and content ecosystem. Despite only being a subset of the gaming industry, esports is becoming a key driver of the gaming industry in India.
The reasons for this are not difficult to understand. Esports is fun and it’s also big business. Those who have the talent to play games professionally are rewarded for playing. Granted, today, esports players don’t command the astronomical salaries that professional athletes do. Still, the prize pool being disbursed to winners of gaming tournaments grows larger with each passing year. Many who are serious about gaming definitely consider becoming a professional gamer as a viable career path.
In addition to that, the viewership and excitement around esports make it one of the most viable marketing investment opportunities to reach that demographic. While Endemic brands lead the way, globally Non-Endemic brands are seizing the esports opportunities with the list ranging from the likes of KFC to Mastercard & even BMW
Across the length and breadth of India, there are lakhs of young men and women who aspire to become professional gamers. While the roots for the growth of Esports in India were certainly via PC through CS:GO & DOTA 2 today it is the mobile industry with the likes of PUBG Mobile, Free Fire & Call of Duty leading the way.
Esports At An Important Crossroads
Today the monetary rewards for top tier esports athletes run into lakhs and crores, giving millions of Indian gamers aspirations for reaching the top however the opportunities are only restricted to the upper echelons. Unlike more developed markets where there are several tiers of competition and dozens of parallel events giving teams of all calibres an opportunity to play, improve and more importantly earn; India currently only caters to the top tier.
While this certainly makes for an exciting spectacle, it isn’t a scenario that helps develop and sustain the esports ecosystem. 90% of all prize pools only stay within the top few teams with little to no rewards for most teams across a majority of the events. The influx of new teams to shake up the top of the pyramid is almost non existent for most esports games due to the lack of a competitive base and recurring opportunities outside the top teams.
Events are few and far with no brands or organizers willing to step in to create a long-term base to allow aspiring gamers to commit to esports with the assurance that there is ample opportunity to turn this into a potential career. Only when India creates a system built from the ground up will the industry reach a point where it turns into one of the largest esports ecosystems in the world.
Today we stand at the edge of something truly awesome; India as a potential global leader in esports. Greater awareness and love for gaming has led many to view this activity as more than a pastime. Among the tens of millions who play games, a small but significant number expect to make an earning as professional gamers. Just as every young cricketer fantasizes about becoming the next Virat Kohli, Indian gamers are now looking at the possibility of being the next big superstar.
Hundreds of thousands of aspiring players and the millions that watch competitive gaming are together driving the gaming industry forward at a tremendous pace; our job now is to ensure there is enough opportunity to sustain and develop this thriving esports ecosystem.