esports: Game on: What are the next big opportunities for Indian esports?

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India currently represents only 1% of the global gaming market, far behind the United States and China. But the sector’s rapid growth is changing the balance. The Indian esports market alone is expected to hit the Rs 11 billion mark by 2025.

growth path

You could say that esports is in the right place at the right time. Cheap data services, high-speed 4G connectivity and availability of affordable smartphones are taking the segment to the next level.

With 658 million internet users, India is home to the second largest internet user population in the world. Many of these users are young, digitally savvy and open to new forms of entertainment such as mobile games. More than 20% of iOS and Android apps are games, and those numbers are expected to grow.

Gen Z and young millennials are the main target audience for esports companies. But virtual gaming is no longer an expensive hobby for young city dwellers who can afford it. Interest in esports is expanding beyond metros to cover Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. is likely to increase in the hinterland.

Gambling in India currently generates $1.5 billion in revenue. As the user base grows, that number could more than triple to $5 billion by 2025.

Entertainment expenses

Esports in India is just starting to take off. Although virtual games have been around for over a decade, most Indian users only discovered their appeal during the COVID lockdowns. Today, Gen Z turns to gaming for 25% of their personal entertainment.

Live esports tournaments attract viewers in the same way as football, cricket and tennis matches. People who shelled out for tickets to a movie or an IPL match are now just as excited to spend on esports.

Free games will go nowhere. But the rise of professional gaming is causing even casual gamers to take esports more seriously. As a result, today’s users are embracing paid formats and in-game purchases with open arms.

The game’s social media influencers add to the excitement. A mix of gaming professionals and enthusiasts, these influencers provide subscribers with game reviews and updates while encouraging more playtime.

Monetize esports

The growing audience is attracting attention and investment from big brands. Big names like Coca-Cola, Mountain Dew, Dell, Logitech and Oppo have already joined the action by sponsoring esports tournaments and professional teams. All of this interest benefits everyone in the esports ecosystem. If things continue in this vein, the prize pool for professional players could reach Rs 1 billion by 2025.

Also interesting is the reach of esports as the biggest betting market in India. Effective regulatory measures that support fantasy league gaming could generate health revenue for the sector.

Esports is a technology-driven segment, and there is talk of using new-era titles such as non-fungible tokens (NFTs). By converting virtual avatars, in-game rewards, and streaks into NFTs, companies could create lucrative revenue streams and drive user loyalty.

Esports careers

The Indian gaming industry currently employs around 40,000 people. This number could rise to two lakhs by 2024. Moreover, a good thing for gambling jobs is gaining traction in the mainstream. Having an esports feature in the Asian Games and the Olympics has led to more interest in games-related jobs.

As the industry continues to grow, virtual gaming events will become frequent. More events would mean more jobs for players, technicians, designers and content creators. The esports segment also offers roles for data managers, event organizers, and game commentators.

Also, working in esports doesn’t limit you to gaming jobs. For example, a video game designer might also seek employment in graphic design, special effects, or animation companies.

The road ahead

The esports segment is growing rapidly, but it remains very disorganized. A tight-knit gaming community could be a solution here.

By 2025, professional esports players could reach 1.5 million and the number of esports viewers could reach 85 million. It is a rapidly developing segment with impacts on entertainment, employment and the economy. As digital users shift their focus from traditional sporting events to virtual events, the dynamic is changing and esports will be the space to watch.

The author is CBO and co-founder, EsportsXO,
a community of gamers, professional esports players, tournament organizers and esports fans. EsportsXO builds a SaaS platform connecting brands and players by facilitating the organization of esports tournaments.

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