The pandemic-induced nationwide lockdown injected an unexpected shot in the arm of esports in India
By Ishaan Arya
When Indians think of sports, the first images that come to mind are probably of cricket, football and a range of other physical games which require exceptional skills and athletic ability for playing well. However, the realm of esports is fast becoming one of the most popular forms of entertainment and competition in the country! Though the esports sector is still in a nascent stage in India, emerging trends point to the fact that this industry is poised to grow by leaps and bounds and will rival the traditional sports leagues in India.
Globally Esports and Gaming are the largest entertainment sector, dwarfing revenue of traditional industries like movies and music. Now with a successful IPO of David Beckham’s Guild Esports and entry of other sports stars like Sergio Aguero it really is shaping up to be the biggest investment sector in entertainment and content!
India too is following the trend with an increase in number of tournaments, viewers and engagement around esports activities in the country. Owing to our much younger gaming demographic and relatively late arrival into the world of gaming, India is touted to be one of the largest potential markets for the coming decade.
Esports as a Career Option in India
The pandemic-induced nationwide lockdown injected an unexpected shot in the arm of esports in India. With a complete lack of outdoor facilities and other means of entertainment, gaming was the natural option providing more stimulation and engagement compared to binge watching Netflix.
As esports platforms registered greater traction and increased viewership, it was closely followed by an increase in revenue for both organizers and players. With sports leagues initially halted, most turned to esports in an effort to keep engaging with their fans, introducing a completely new audience to the world of gaming and esports.
The Affordability of smartphones and inexpensive data has resulted in millions of Indians playing games on their personal devices and craving for more content, designing the perfect conditions for a thriving esports ecosystem. Today these enthusiastic gamers are turning into fans of various esports titles and teams across the country. Currently, those who are a part of this ecosystem as players in India are earning modest salaries than their counterparts in countries like US, EU, Japan, and Korea. This is majorly due to the decentralised structure and unorganised nature of the esports industry in India as very few game publishers are working with organisers to develop and establish more lasting competitive opportunities to these teams and players. However, the esports opportunities don’t stop at those who play!
While the players are certainly the superstars that makes esports the exciting entertainment option that it is, there’s a lot that goes into producing and running and esports league! These on and off camera opportunities are tremendous and are actually more in number than professional salaried player opportunities. There’s a whole team of people that need to come together to successfully put together an esports event ranging from producers, editors, designers, videographers, make up artists, casters, analysts and even statisticians!
While there are certainly many opportunities, due to the short-term vision of most organizers there are very few salaried and secure options in the world of Indian Esports. This trend however is slowly changing with few organizations investing in long term projects to help develop the esports ecosystem, making it a more inviting proposition for aspiring teams and players while also providing a great platform for brands looking to invest in the space. This in turn creates long term job opportunities around esports. Having interest and knowledge of video games and esports gives anyone applying for a job a massive leg up on the competition who may struggle to grasp the complexities of esports games despite being proficient in their craft.
Currently, there is a dire need for a better understanding of gaming and esports in India so that more people can take up esports as a career option, which as we have seen isn’t just for players. While Indian parents are still slowly adjusting to sports outside cricket; esports still has a long way to go. The confusion caused by media bye equating fantasy sports, card games and gambling with esports under the banner of ‘e-gaming’ hurts the perception of esports. There are genuine opportunities within esports, similar to those who organize and broadcast sporting events; a domain distinctly different from that of fantasy sports and online gambling.
India is witnessing the dawn of a riveting new era of entertainment. An era which is driven by highly competitive video games and an ever-growing millennial workforce that is remarkably breaking barriers of an age-old broadcast segment with unmatched gusto and energy and opportunities are plenty!
The author is co-founder of The Esports Club