Esports are not new, although they’ve been garnering a lot more attention in recent years thanks to heavy investment from gaming and technology companies and more coverage on streaming platforms.
India was a little late to the metaphorical game, with esports leagues in North America, Europe and Southeast Asia getting a head start. But with a population of more than 1.3 billion people, India is a huge market that developers and hardware manufacturers want to tap into. This is leading to huge investments in Indian esports leagues and competitions and helping to grow the numbers.
In April 2020, the Esports Players Leagues and Garena Partners both announced tournaments in India, while several startups that focus on esports have been founded in the country, these include Nodwin Gaming, Cobx Gaming, and FanMojo.
A report produced by KPMG in 2019 stated that esports was worth INR 43.8 billion and was expected to grow to INR 118.8 billion by the end of 2023. This makes it the 17th largest esports market in the world.
What Are Esports?
Esports are competitive video game events, played using retail versions of video games across most genres, including first-person shooters, RPGs and racing simulators. They sometimes take place online, with each player taking part remotely. However, most take place in an arena or other similar venue, just like a traditional sports game.
Millions of people watch the biggest events, some attending in person, with many more watching on streaming platforms like Twitch and YouTube.
Esports are not limited to major console titles like Call of Duty and PUBG. Online poker tournaments have been taking place for a long time, often several years before other organisers. For example, the World Championship of Online Poker was first run in 2002 and is still held today. This is true for the Indian market as well as elsewhere in the world, with online poker games played on many platforms are also streamed online through services like Twitch, just like other esports.
While a lot of esports competitions are based around PC on console games, mobile games are growing in adoption by organisers. This is one of the key drivers for the growth of Indian esports since the country has the world’s second-largest number of smartphone users in the world.
Since smartphones are useful in other areas of life, people are much more likely to have them than games consoles. They’re also more likely to have a high-speed internet connection with a smartphone than a computer thanks to existing 4G infrastructure and the rollout of 5G.
Downloads of mobile games from app stores grew 165% between 2016 and 2018, a bigger increase than in any other country.
Booming Local Industry
Between 2010 and 2018, the number of Indian online gamers increased from 20 million to 250 million. This figure reached 300 million in 2019 and is expected to exceed 440 million in the next two years.
This has helped domestic game developers thrive. In 2010, there were just 25 companies developing online games in the whole of India. By 2018, this has grown tenfold to approximately 250.
The popularity of esports has been helped by the 2018 Asian Games. An esports demonstration tournament was held, with several different games being used. Indian player, Tirth Mehta from Gujarat won the country’s only medal in the event when he picked up bronze in the Hearthstone competition.
His success has been attributed to the acceleration of video game sales and esports participation in the last year.
Major international brands have seen the opportunities that the Indian market is presenting and have moved quickly to take advantage. Peripheral manufacturer, Acer, has been holding some of its Predator Gaming League events in the country, including the final of the PUBG competition in 2019.
The outlook for Indian esports is looking promising. Growth is expected for the foreseeable future, thanks to better access to mobile games and local heroes creating more interest. With a comparable population size, India may be the only country that can rival China for esports viewers.