E-sports are gaining users as companies ready themselves with strategies after coronavirus
By Dev C
In April, NBC Sports acquired the broadcasting rights (US) to ePremier League Invitational Tournament. Earlier in March, Fox Sports announced that it would broadcast the remainder of the eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series. At a time when sports is no longer available to audiences, e-sports seems to have gained followers; sports channels are now airing the content. India too seems to have caught onto the trend – the only difference being here a host of online games have found its share of takers right from skilled based games such as Rummy, Poker to e-sports. “The social gaming tended to be competitive gaming and to mobile e-sports from thereon. That’s why, games like PUBG Mobile are tremendously successful in India and SEA, while games like Counter-Strike in Europe, Dota 2 in China, Overwatch and Starcraft in Korea and Fortnite in the US do extremely well,” Sidharth Kedia, CEO, Nodwin Gaming, said.
Interestingly, online gaming in India is projected to grow faster than the global online gaming segment, as per the latest Ficci-EY 2020 report on ‘Media and Entertainment’. The online gaming segment which grew 40% to Rs 6,500 crore in CY2019 is projected to grow at 43% to Rs 18,700 crore by CY2022. Much of the growth is on the back of an increase in the number of online gamers to 365 million in 2019, besides an incentive to win money in transaction-based games. As per, Abhishek Madhavan, VP, growth and marketing, Mobile Premier League (MPL), the platform has witnessed a surge in users across the board. “Titles such as the World Cricket Championship, Pool, Fruit Chop are doing exceptionally well. Our WCC gameplays alone saw a 400% increase over a month’s time,” he added. Indeed, the rising popularity of online games has led to firms such as Paytm joining the bandwagon. PayTM First Games, which announced its first e-sports league last month claims that it saw participation from 70,000 users.
Even as online gaming has found its place among consumers, a stable source of revenue still remains a challenge. As per the Ficci-EY 2020 report, transaction-based games grew 50% in 2019, led by fantasy sports games which grew by 118%. However currently, with live sports being unavailable, fantasy sports have taken a backseat. Other transaction-based games like Rummy, Poker, among others, grew at around 30% in 2019. Further, average revenue per customer grew 41% in 2019. One of the key issues is in-app purchase and subscription model is yet to find takers in India. This is also a reason why online gaming firms are eyeing sponsorship deals. “In the absence of live sports brands can look at online games including e-sports as a viable proposition to connect with consumers,” Ashish Pherwani Partner – Media and Entertainment, EY India, said. While PayTM First Games claims to have raked revenue from sponsorship from its very first e-sports league. Both Nodwin Gaming and MPL claim that surge in usage has led to an increase in revenue.
But the uptake in usage may not last post the end of lockdown. Online gaming firms claim that a plan has already been created given how the scenario may change going forward. “Post the end of the lockdown Nodwin would like to fill that gap between sporting and e-sports with interactive esports. We will continue to support the sports league with its esports version for the popular sport games and try to bridge the two landscapes,” Kedia added. Other players such as MPL plan to better its products and offerings. “We expect to hold our user acquisition and retention numbers even post lockdown as sports may slowly ease back, which will only help strengthen our platform even more as fantasy sports will return and give our users one more way to engage with our platform,” Madhavan noted. With lockdown extended for another two-weeks online gaming firms will continue to see a surge in usage resulting in revenue. The real test will, however, lie post lockdown. Gaming, nevertheless, is here to stay.