Since its modest beginnings in the 1950s, when basic games and simulations were played on minicomputers and mainframes, the video game industry has undergone tremendous growth. Today, the Indian Esports industry flourishes as a multi-billion-dollar sector, thanks to advancements in high-speed internet, improved technology, the increasing popularity of gaming among the younger generation, and official recognition as a multi-sport event from the government of India.
According to the recent “Windows of Opportunity” report on India’s Media and Entertainment industry by FICCI-EY, the number of Esports players across all competitive level games in India increased from 600,000 in 2021 to 1 million in 2022, and is expected to reach 2.5 million in 2023.
From winning the bronze in Hearthstone at the 2018 Asian Games to clinching bronze in DOTA 2 at the inaugural Commonwealth Games in Birmingham last year, the prowess of Indian Esports has been highlighted multiple times in major international tournaments.
Now, India is not only sending its first-ever female contingent in CS:GO at the World Esports Championships but is also set to participate in the upcoming Asian Games 2022 where Esports is debuting as an official medal sport. As per the FICCI-EY report, the number of international Esports teams in India grew from 6 in 2021 to 7 in 2022 and is expected to rise to 10 in 2023.
Mr. Lokesh Suji, Director of Esports Federation of India (ESFI) & Vice President of the Asian Esports Federation (AESF) is confident that by supporting and nurturing the Esports ecosystem, India will continue to make its mark on the global Esports stage. “What started with competitive gaming that was only visible in college fests or local tournaments in the late 2000s is now a Rs 250-crore industry. While we have witnessed significant growth and improvement in recent years, winning medals at prestigious events has demonstrated our potential to compete at the highest level and is a testament to the rise of India as a video-gaming powerhouse,” he says.
The rise of gamers and gaming content creators in the country has transformed the entertainment landscape. Many gamers have built large fan bases and have become influential figures within the gaming community through live streaming, video content creation, and social media platforms.
Recognizing the potential of these content creators, brands have started to forge partnerships with them through brand deals and sponsorships which has not only opened up new revenue streams for creators but has also contributed to the entry of non-endemic brands in the sector. This is further supported by the findings of the FICCI-EY report, which states that the number of brands investing in Esports rose from 72 in 2021 to 80 in 2022, and it is projected to reach 100 by 2023.
Animesh Agarwal better known as Thug, Founder, and CEO of 8bit Creatives and S8ul esports says, “In recent years, the perception of gaming has undergone a remarkable shift, with individuals and brands both recognizing its immense potential as a lucrative revenue stream. At 8Bit Creatives, our creators have successfully curated numerous campaigns with brands from diverse sectors. This allows me to assert that both endemic and non-endemic brands are actively seeking ways to engage with gamers today.“
The recent return of the game as Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI) has revitalized the Esports community and is expected to accelerate the growth of competitive gaming. According to the estimates from app intelligence firm Sensor Tower, the game clocked about $33 million in in-app spending from July 2021 to July 2022 and also made history by becoming the first Esports event to be broadcasted on mainstream television (Star Sports).
ParvSingh aka soul_regaltos is a professional gamer as well as gaming content creator with over 2.3 million subscribers on YouTube. Speaking on the importance of BGMI he says, “BGMI has played a pivotal role in contributing to the rise of in-game spending within the Indian gaming community. By also causing an upsurge of Esports tournaments in the country, the game has attracted brands through numerous lucrative mediums such as in-game advertisement, sponsorships, and content creation opportunities. It has single-handedly elevated the competitive landscape, giving emerging players the opportunity to showcase their skill and become stars within the community.”
The evolution of Esports in India has been further accelerated by the emergence of new technology and platforms catering specifically to the gaming community. New-age technology such as Web3, AR and VR, gesture-controlled gaming as well as exclusive gamers’ social network platforms are all enabling a technological revolution to radically transform the Esports industry in India.
Qlan, an exclusive social networking app designed for gamers and esports enthusiasts, recently secured pre-seed funding to fuel its expansion and enhance gamer networking, discovery, and content creation capabilities. Sagar Nair, Co-founder, and CEO of Qlan commented, “The burgeoning global Esports industry is witnessing an influx of technologies poised to revolutionize the sector. Our own app QLAN has successfully been able to elevate gamers’ social networking to new horizons and empower the ever-expanding community of gamers. We firmly believe that India will adopt further next-gen tech in video gaming to not only relish its immersive experience but to change how gaming is perceived in the coming years, allowing the industry to scale bigger heights.”
All in all, the video game industry in India has experienced remarkable growth, diversification, and recognition. It has become a significant cultural and economic force, offering entertainment, job opportunities, and a platform for creative expression.