Over 300 million people could take up online gaming in India over the next 4 years, driven by the availability of high-speed broadband. In 2017, Indian gamers spent $818 billion, making us the 17th largest market in the world. Investors are also waking up to the potential of a well-organised professional gaming ecosystem.
Companies such as Nodwin Gaming and Nazara Technologies have partnered with global eSports giant ESL to organise professional championships in the country. Viewership is rising too. The Ronnie Screwvala-backed U Cypher league had an audience of 91 million at its halfway point.
Competitions in India had a collective prize pool of more than $300,000 last year. Globally popular games Dota 2 and Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) are attracting the most players and money; their pools increased by roughly 50% in the last year. Corporates such as Dell and ASUS have even started sponsoring local ‘teams’ for these games.
Gaming in India Not A Full-Time Career Yet
Although professional gaming in India is gaining support, there are significant challenges that must be overcome. Like any other sport, grassroot investment is required. Dedicated eSports cafes like the Arknemesis in Chennai could be used to identify and train talent. For instance, China has government-sponsored gaming zones where people upto 10 hours honing their skills.
The second major issue for professional gaming in India is our psyche. Many parents look at gaming as an expensive hobby in direct opposition to education or a career. Indian gamers find themselves juggling between their day jobs and the long hours of practice that eSports demands. Moreover, high equipment prices mean that professional gaming is limited to wealthy urban families.
The path to becoming a gamer in India will be easier with a little corporate help. Globally, sports teams from football to rugby sponsor teams for specific games. This gives them the opportunity to reach out to untapped audiences. Indian companies could also look at setting up eSports academies and grooming promising players.
Last month in Switzerland, officials from the International Olympic Committee were exploring the possibility of making eSports an Olympic sport. It is already set to be a medal event at the 2022 Asian Games after being ‘exhibited’ at this year’s event. Although our professional gaming ecosystem is still developing, we rose to 20 in the International eSports Federation rankings. India could be winning medals in a new sport soon.