For most video game enthusiasts, there’s no better way to spend your free time than indulging in esports. Esports is becoming a popular sport globally, with millions of gamers competing in different tournaments every year. In India, esports is also a major sports activity, recording an online gaming population of about 365 million people in 2020. Gaming experts also estimate the number will keep rising in 2021, reaching over 500 million by 2022.
2020 was a great year for India’s esports market, ranking 16th globally with an estimated total revenue of about $1.17 billion. This market growth can be traced back to the rise of esports startups in the country, paired with the rise of esports viewership -which has doubled to reach 17 million last year. The prize money pool also grew by 20-30% in 2020, attracting more talent to professional tournaments locally and internationally.
A Growing Market
While the esports industry is over a decade old, it only started getting popular in India several years ago. The industry has managed to take over the Indian market mainly because of the growth witnessed by new gaming franchises and promotions done through online streaming platforms like Twitch and YouTube. The word “esports” is also increasingly popular thanks to multiplayer games played online like Fortnite and PUBG.
Although some people are still questioning the legitimacy of esports as a sporting competition, they are now featured alongside traditional sports on sites like Betway and competitions like the Asian Games. India accounted for about 4% of the world’s online gamers population in 2020, recording about 9.13% of the aggregate revenue. Additionally, the esports money pool recorded 123.3% growth between 2016 and 2018, inspiring many gaming enthusiasts to go pro.
India’s esports market took a total overhaul in 2017 when local teams started showing signs of life in international tournaments. The country also hosted several esports tournaments, with Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2 being India’s largest competitive games in prize pools and player base. 2017 also witnessed the emergence of Clash Royale and Overwatch as serious contenders for the top positions.
The launch of PUBG Mobile in the Indian market was also a game-changing moment for the industry. Out of the 734 million downloads recorded globally, India was on top of the table, accounting for 24% market share (175 million), more than the US and China’s combined market share. Although not all these downloads are for esports competitions, most enthusiasts are transitioning to esports because of the prize money involved.
India’s Esports market During the Lockdown
The change in the way Indians socialize and consume content online acted as a catalyst for economic sectors that need man attention, like online gaming. According to a Barc and Nielson Report, the number of smartphone gamers per week grew from 60% to 68% during the lockdown. The time that a user spent on mobile games also went up from 151 minutes to 218 minutes.
In the aftermath of the lockdown, mobile eSports and streaming recorded an incredible increase in the user base since people had more time indoors. To cater to this significant audience, streaming players, telcos, and multi-gaming platforms started investing in esports tournaments to engage their consumers. Some of the major brands that have invested heavily in the market include Poco, Mountain Dew, Coca-Cola, Acer, Dell, Airtel, and Oppo.
Esports Career In India
While there isn’t a wide scope for Indian professional gamers locally, many enthusiasts are inspired to start a career in this industry. Unfortunately, the current esports ecosystem and infrastructure aren’t ready to support a lucrative career for many. As such, becoming a full-time gamer in India is a risky proposition. Fortunately, there are other avenues that esports enthusiasts can explore.
Indians can choose to become influencers where you play and comment about games or become a coder and write code for building games. Data handlers are another excellent option, which involves tracking data issues, but the biggest opportunity is voice-over artists since most developers will be looking forward to localizing their content for the Indian market.
A career in esports will easily earn you anything between Rs 50,000 to Rs 2 lakh monthly in India. Fortunately, esports is a gender-neutral career as it doesn’t require any physical strength to gain an advantage. Sasha Hostyn is a great example of that, being among the most successful female esports professionals who recently took home $50,000 after winning the 2018 Extreme Masters tournament.
With gaming startups like Nazara Technologies, WinZo, Gaming Monk, and others supporting the industry, the Indian esports market will grow tremendously in 2021. These major investments are also helping to satisfy the growing demand for competitive gaming in India. As a result, there are more career opportunities in the market, and the industry’s future on a global scale looks promising.