The virtual world is all set to keep pace with action on the ground, as online gaming companies – particularly fantasy sports platforms –bet big on the Indian Premier League (IPL), which has taken off in a full-fledged avatar after two years. The expansion of the league to include two new franchises and more matches is also expected to help the companies in increasing their overall rake revenue.
Says Anwar Shirpurwala, CEO of industry body Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS), “Fantasy sports have a symbiotic relationship with real-life sporting events as it allows the fans to live the action on the go and helps convert a casual sports viewer into a core sports fan,” adding, “With the 2022 edition of the Indian Premier League, millions of sports aficionados across the country are expected to be hooked on their devices to participate in fantasy sports contests.”
Expectations of gaming companies from the ongoing season are evidently high. “It’s a golden opportunity for fantasy sports platforms to boost real-time engagement and celebrate Indian cricket fans’ fervour. With two new teams joining the IPL, we will witness a diverse group of players from across the country, competing in one of cricket’s most competitive and intriguing leagues,” says Ankur Singh, CEO and founder of Witzeal Technologies, a new-age gaming technology company whose flagship, a multi-gaming platform ‘Big Cash’, offers 17 skill-based real money games (RMG) in cards, fantasy, and casual segments – all developed in-house.
According to Sumit Jha, founder of Fantasy Akhada, a fantasy sports platform backed by noted cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle, the industry is expected to see a massive growth during the two months of the IPL. “Our clear mandate is to grow more than 100% of our existing base across business metrics, whether it is registrations, contest entry fees or the average game play per user,” Jha says, adding: “Considering the number of matches have increased by around 20%, it will definitely help in increasing the overall rake revenue.” Currently, Fantasy Akhada has around 2 million users.
Just ahead of the league, on Thursday, e-sports and mobile gaming platform Mobile Premier League (MPL) launched the ‘Great Indian Gaming League (GIGL)’, a mobile gaming tournament with a total value of Rs 2,000 crore. “As part of this, we have planned exciting tournaments across all fan-favourite games like fantasy, casual games and e-sports, catering to nearly all gamers across India,” says Manish Shrivastava, VP-marketing, MPL.
MPL is expecting more than 7 million players to participate during the two-month long tournament, of which about 3.5 million can potentially be crowned as winners. “This is going to be an amazing opportunity for millions of users across the length and breadth of India to try their hand at e-sports and win exciting prizes,” Shrivastava adds.
The fervour of the IPL returning to its original form, will also be witnessed in fantasy sports where users get a chance to put their understanding of the game and actively engage with the sport. Saroj Panigrahi, president of My11Circle, an Indian fantasy sports platform launched in 2019 by gaming company Games 24×7, says: “IPL has been an instant favourite with cricket fans since its inception 14 years ago. My11Circle has struck a chord with the players leading to a 100% increase in the user base over the last year.” My11Circle is the official title sponsor of the newly inducted IPL team, Lucknow Super Giants.
To further reward the skill and passion of the users, gaming companies are also launching campaigns around IPL. My11Circle recently launched #Indiakasabsebadaprize campaign featuring its brand ambassadors that include cricketing legends as well as young and new-age cricketers. “Other than the reward, the platform will continue to offer personalised and interesting game play experiences,” adds Panigrahi.
On Friday, fantasy gaming platform PlayerzPot, too, launched the first glimpse of its campaign called #CricketkaBhoot on all its social media channels and has also collaborated with short-video platforms such as Moj, MX Taka Tak and Josh. “In this crusade #CricketkaBhoot, we have roped in comedian Kiku Sharda alongside our brand ambassador Bhuvneshwar Kumar donning an all-new avatar,” says Sunil Yadav, CEO of PlayerzPot that was started from a small garage in Airoli, Mumbai, in 2015.
The IPL has always been a revenue earner and growth driver for fantasy sports platforms. According to a report titled ‘Fantasy sports: Creating a virtuous cycle of sports development’ released by industry body FIFS and Deloitte in February this year, the user base on fantasy sports platforms in India grew by over 20 million users during IPL 2021.
“IPL, which brings in several cricket matches in a short window, drives 85% of the total fantasy sports market. The consumers’ interest and engagement levels on fantasy sports platforms are assured to rise further during IPL 2022,” adds Shirpurwala of FIFS.
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