Indian is on the brink of an e Sports revolution

India will stand witness to major investments in the esports scene. Three major investments are trying to strengthen the esports market in a ´young´ country

India is the one of the fastest growing country in the world in terms of population and economy. However for a country which boasts a massive ‘young’ demographic, esports is still at a nascent stage in the country.

Recently there has been a spurt in esports related announcements in India. Several organisations have come forth to invest and take a leap in Indian esports. 

India is one of the biggest countries in the world. In terms of economy and population it is one of the fastest growing countries. Despite the big numbers, eSports in India is still at a very early stage. There are very few professional esports organisations / players who have made their mark in the global competitive scene.

There are 462,124,989 internet users in India.[1] However despite having such a high number of users, the internet penetration is very low in India. As of December 2016, Internet Penetration was only 34% in the world’s largest democracy. Comprising 13.5% of the world’s internet population, India is yet to see large scale penetration in terms of internet speeds.

The average Internet Speed in India is 2.5 Mbps.[2] While the average internet speed is not always a benchmark for esports in general, it definitely forms one of the main reasons for esports not being as widespread. The very low speeds definitely are just on the threshold of a good experience in online gaming. 

India has a decent casual gaming population. However despite boasting good numbers in Gaming, India has never seen itself as being a strong contender to the global esports scenario. Small brands and gaming cafes do host tournaments in India, but they are spread all over the country without a any semblance of a national circuit. 

A lot of this is changing as we speak. Some of the bigger ISPś are offering lucrative Internet plans. With high speed and lower costs, Internet usage is taking off in a big way in India. The impending entry of Reliance JIO into Broadband will further boost the adoption of high speed internet in India.

 

Any talk about Indian esports is not complete without the mention of the infamous Indian Gaming Carnival. The IGC was announced in early 2012 and was set to change the face of Indian esports. It had a prize money of 1.5 crores which is a big leap from the numbers we have been used to seeing in India.

A few highlights from the announcement :

The IGC was initially announced with a large prize pool. While that was big news for the industry, the lack of a single transparent  sponsor was a definite red flag. Despite repeated attempts to get clarification from the event organisers, WTF Eventz were extremely evasive and refused to divulge more details about the source of the money[3] . The company which was formed early in 2012, was not even worth a tenth of the prize money. The claims made by the company were unrealistic for the Indian market and there were several eminent people within the industry raising questions about the legitimacy of the entire event.[4]

Despite the initial doubts, there were several teams which did attend the tournament. We saw the participation of well known brands such as Moscow Five in the IGC. However the tournament was doomed to failure from the start.

Reports just days before the event was scheduled to kick off even said the event had been cancelled, checks had bounced and later on, during the event, computer tournaments had been called off.

The woes did not end at that for the visiting teams. M5 were unable to proceed further from the semifinals since the event organisers abruptly shut down the electricity to the venue. Ultimately they were told that the venue shut off the power and it was not in the hands of the organisers.[6]

The organisers just shut down the place and there was simply no one to contact for the teams suddenly one day. It was a huge blot on Indian esports, something that set the country’s esports scene back by several years.

Indian esports however has built itself up from the debacle that was the Indian Gaming Carnival. Organisations, brands are much more careful about investments and sponsorships. The continuous growth of Indian esports has defintiely caught the eye of esports organisations as well as non endemic brands and companies.

The past year has seen a spurt in growth of Indian esports. Thanks mainly to ESL and the IeSC ( Indian eSports Championship); we are seeing a renewed interest in esports in India.The ESL India Premiership started it with their involvement in Indian esports in 2016.

Indian esports has learnt to put the IGC behind them. Similar to how the CGS is a story long forgotten brand in the west,  organisers are slowly turning to the fast growing esports section in one of the biggest potential markets in the world. 

All in all,  it was a mixture of lies and deceit by the company which gave Indian esports a bad name. The tournament which was supposed to propel Indian esports to the big stage dug a deeper hole, one from which India is still recovering.

The IESC with it’s Rs. 20 lakh prize pool is one of the biggest prize pools that we have seen implemented in Indian esports.

Indian eSports championship is the brainchild of Neon Gaming Studio and Essence Transmedia as a whole. It is here to carve a niche for itself & take the nation by storm. A deadly mixture of both online and offline events. IeSC accentuates on expansion of the ‘Gaming Community’ in the country and strengthening it from within its roots. IeSC is going to be all about bloody encounters during fierce engagements in CS: GO and grueling strategic skirmishes &item optimization in Dota 2. With the involvement of Cosplay, and CS 1.6, IeSC aims to broaden the horizon for the Magnus Opus – ‘Ground Zero.’

We have seen renewed interest in India from ESL, the world leader in esports. They (ESL India Championship) which was launched in India in 2016 saw a ladder system being created to filter out the best talent in India. With a prize pool of Rs. 42 lakhs, it is easily the biggest prize in Indian esports.[7]

The future of Indian esports however is very promising. In the past few months, we have seen big announcements by billionaires investing in esports in India. These investments, if carried out fruitfully will truly open up the Indian market to the international esports scene. There are plans to televise certain tournaments live which will gather more mainstream attention. The following three tournaments will determine the course of Indian esports, an untapped lucrative market.

Ronnie Screwvala and Usports were the first to announce a big investment into Indian esports. They named the league Ucypher. It will see an investment of up to $15 million in the country from billionaire, Ronnie Screwvala. The tournament will see ten teams taking part in PC, Console and Mobile.

eSports fits very well in the DNA of USports. We want something out of the box, something disruptive, and something that creates an impact. First we got associated with Kabaddi (Pro Kabaddi League), and now we are going to launch eSports league,

While Indian esports has had an increasing online presence on live streaming websites such as Twitch, the real challenge for Ronnie Screwvala lies in making the transition to television. MTV India will broadcast the tournament[12] on television and it will serve as the focal point for all things Ucypher.

NazaraTM has largely been known for it’s mobile games. Following the Ucypher announcement, Nazara announced their investment to the tune of $20 million into setting up an esports league in India.Nazara Technologies Pvt. Ltd will fully own Nazara GamesTM

eSports has become a cultural phenomenon in the last few years. Countries in Europe, Korea, China, and the US have seen massive growth in the number of players and spectators. Asia-Pacific accounts for 44 percent of the audience and is the fastest growing region globally. Given, improving internet connectivity in India today, launching an eSports league seemed the perfect way to reach out to the large group of eSports enthusiasts in India.

Nitish, Founder and MD of Nazara Games

This league will feature two seasons a year and will have sixt teams in the league. It will comprise of the most popular esports such as Dota2, CSGO . The website is not fully functional as of yet, but will be live soon. [13]

At the same time, Nazara will work on the development of esports in the country. This can be implemented via three steps. Nazara gaming will work around the following three pillars to develop the Indian community : 

COBX Gaming has plans to launch an esports tournament later in the year. With a prize pool of $300,000 this tournament is all set to feature the best talent from around the world. While National qualifiers will determine the two Indian teams at the tournament, the event organisers will be inviting International teams to fill the remaining 14 slots. 

If you see our talent in games such as CS GO and Dota 2, they are not bad, the major problem is that they don’t get that exposure,” he told sportskeeda.com.[14]

Our goal is to make India a fixed destination on the international esports calendar.

So young teams are exposed to experienced players, that is the only way we can have teams playing at majors and high level tournaments across the world.

Professional players and team captains such as Fallen from SK Gaming are enthusiastic about their prospects to travel to India. According to sources, this tournament is slated to be held in Mumbai, the financial capital of India.

Im looking forward to participate on a tournament in INDIA! This would be awesome.

— Gabriel Toledo (@FalleNCS) March 28, 2017

Why is India a falling behind in esports?

India’s inferiority in a competitive scene in esports is a result of a variety of reasons. The biggest reason is the cultural mindset of the Indian community. Parents at large do not believe that esports is a viable career opportunity. However there are several other reasons which when accumulated together present a very good description of the low esports penetration in India. 

We have already mentioned the numbers about India’s low internet penetration. The average speed of Internet is usually much slower for gaming at a better ping. We can see India, in 2012 was way below the curve at almost 10% internet penetration. While the numbers have improved to almost 31% in 2017[17], it is still very low for a country of the magnitude of India. 

Indians have traditionally refrained from spending a decent amount of good gaming hardware. Lack of a good hardware definitely affects the performance of gaming computers. People are slowly turning over a new leaf. With more and more gamers in the country, we are seeing better hardware being released in the country at comparable prices. 

Indiaś hardware sales have been increasing incredibly fast in 2016. This does not seem to show any signs of slowing down especially due to the economic boom in India.

 Indian Parents still do not encourage neither support students and youngsters spending large amounts of time in gaming. While this corroborates with the parents of several professional EU players, it corroborates with a time 10-15 years ago in the west. Many parents and gamers themselves do not consider esports as a viable life opportunity. While it isnt without reason ( mainly due to the non-existent esports scene), that perception is slowly changing. 

We are witnessing stories of parents encouraging children to pursue a career in esports. While this is still very rare, its slowly developing into an accepted profession.

Esports in India is taking off in a big way. We are standing witness to several companies investing and announcing esports tournaments and circuits. Some of these companies have plans to televise esports as early as April 2017 while others have announced $300,000 tournaments in late 2017.[8]

There are two distinct possibilities of an esports boom in India :

India has a large population and proportionately large esports community. Growth of esports in the country will result in more exposure for an industry largely considered as a pastime. We will see more people getting into esports as a profession and playing at a very high level.

The world’s second largest population is by far one of the most lucrative markets for brands and organisations in 2017. We are already witnessing the announcements of big tournaments, leagues and investments into Indian esports.  This is bound to formalise and organise the sector which has largely comprised of minor events and casual gamers.

The first option does not really seem to be an immediate possibility simply cause of how much Indian esports talent lags behind other countries. We have never seen an Indian CS GO team qualify for a major CS GO event. While some Dota2 teams have made it to smaller Dota2 tournaments in SEA, the pinnacle of Indian Dota2 has been when Beyond Infinity reached the Grand finals of TI6[9] where they lost to TNC Pro Team. The Overwatch website does not even lists India in the top 50 ranks.[10]

However the industry and its surrounding financial details might see a huge spurt simply cause of the large number of casual gamers within the country. Viewing esports is catching up in a big way and we are witnessing the growth of Indian Youtube Gaming channels and Twitch livestreams.

We might expect to see a ladder system soon in the country. We are already seeing sports gaining a large acceptance in the country with the advent of IPL[11], Kabaddi and ISL. Esports appeals to the younger generation and is increasingly becoming popular with the millennials.

Esports in India is at the very beginning. A very low baseline for investment in the country points to huge growth oppurtunities. Investing in esports and various activities related to esports would result in a huge growth opportunity for interested parties. With the large fanbase and the extremely low penetration, this presents a chance to establish oneself as the local industry leader.

While the bigger picture involves sales of brand apparel and merchandise, it also involves building a loyal fanbase. Indian esports fans do not have many local teams to support or cheer for. Such tournaments and investments will determine the future of esports in the country. The initial response to these events will ensure repeated investments in esports.

This will put a huge investment market on the global market for esports. India has the demographic and the interest necessary. However a lot rides on the next few months to determine how far companies and organisations are willing to forget the IGC fiasco and focus on the future.

A local company can be best suited to cater to the region specific needs of a business. Most of the big companies such as Amazon, Uber and even Google have changed their business model depending on the demands of the local industry. However it is equally important to learn from the mistakes of Industry leaders such as ESL, Dreamhack etc. A tie-up and collaboration would be the best way forward for Indian exports. Right now we can only sit and watch as India witnesses its first esports revolution.