2019: The Rise of Esports in India

by January 4, 2019 0 comments

By Rajan R. Navani, Vice Chairman & Managing Director, Jetline Group of Companies, India & USA

Esports is a major buzzword that you might have already heard. But, it isn’t a fad that is about to go away. The landscape of sports is changing and the global economics around this phenomenon continues to grow at a massive scale in terms of both popularity among players, fans and revenue for businesses. Esports has been forecasted to have the potential to be bigger than any sport that has ever been played!

It has the skill, variety, thrill, practice, following and a lot more to enter the big league of entertainment. With the digital age peaking at new highs, ESports is a business that is ready to come of age and companies in India are taking all efforts and measures to ensure India is all set to scale up and meet its potential.

The eSports Explosion

Since the Korean eSports Association was founded in 2000, eSports have exploded into a $906 million (60 billion rupees) worldwide industry that’s expected to reach $1.5 billion (98.6 billion rupees) by 2020. This growth and explosion are driven by none other than the young people of today.

With an estimated two million enthusiasts and two million ‘occasional viewers’, the Indian audience for esports is small compared to the global average but is expected to grow more than fivefold by 2021, according to a report titled, ‘Industry Insights for Online and Mobile Gaming in India’ by Frost and Sullivan, January 2018.

In India, a country where the internet and mobile adoption is increasing, several companies have identified the potential that a massively populated country holds for eSports, both talent market and revenue streams. The 1.3 billion population holds massive potential not only because of its volumes but because of its median age of 28, compared to 38 in America.

With the Olympics in sight, Companies and event organizers have gotten together to provide the right platform for potential gamers to compete in local tournaments in major cities to identify, train, form teams to be ready for representing them in major gaming leagues as well as the Olympics.

The Key to fulfilling the potential

The key to continuing the growth of this industry are two very important aspects: Viewership and Legitimacy.

By the numbers, India already holds enough and more potential with viewership. Streaming services like Twitch, the world’s leading online game streaming service and YouTube are paving the way for the future of viewership where they allow fans to live stream games.

Both Twitch and YouTube are already very popular among gamers and the following on both platforms only seems to grow with the increasing popularity of gaming as a means of entertainment both to play and watch. The average age of Twitch’s audience for eSports is between 18-34, a coveted age group for advertisers and retailers and India fits perfectly into the radar.

Legitimacy in India is a very important aspect in a country like India because Gaming for a living has been a challenge and a risk for individuals in most parts of the country. Legitimacy on a larger scale could fix that to an extent as the pride at the Olympics is something that is very close to India.

Last year, the Paris 2024 bid team expressed interest in including esports as a medal event. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) acknowledged the rapid growth of competitive gaming and released a statement that said, “competitive esports could be considered as a sporting activity, and the player’s involved prepare and train with an intensity which may be comparable to athletes in traditional sports.”

International and national fame and recognition in sports like cricket, football, hockey, athletics is a common aspiration that they desire to fulfil and achieve. For which a countless number of hours of practice, a cool head and belief is required before one makes it to the top leagues to have a respectable career.

E-sport needs the same formula to come together. Esports fits right into that! If you had the impression that gaming was extremely casual, you would find yourself wrong when you find an Indian competing at the Olympics because nobody goes to the Olympics just like that.

Rising Popularity

MOBA (Massive Online Battle Arena) games such as Dota2 and League of Legends have been most successful in popularizing esports, though tournaments and leagues which are being streamed online by millions of potential gamers. Battle Games such as Counter-Strike continue to draw millions of viewers to watch the best esports athletes compete against each other online.

While it might seem that some countries are already ahead and are a hub for some of the largest companies involved in the entire industry, India’s esports scene is not far behind and is growing at a rapid pace. Conglomerates like Tencent have been investing heavily into eSports for the past five years and have helped create and maintain several large-scale leagues and organizational bodies to manage them.

In the coming years, India will need to realize the rapid growth to play on par with the global market and such a reality is already here with eSports being the major buzzword among the next generation of gamers from India.

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