The Indian eSports Opportunity Part 1


The Indian eSports Opportunity (Graphic: The Next Level)

TNL TAKE: When I was a kid, I heard what became one of my favorite quotes:

"If you're one in a billion in China, there's a thousand people like you"

It didn't just mean that there were a lot of people in that country; you had to fight for a chance to stand out from the crowd.

You can say the same thing about India today.

With a population of 1.25 billion people currently, India is expected to surpass China by 2022 and hit 1.50 billion people by 2030. 

That's a lot of people....and wallets.

As eSports is like any industry with future potential, it will continually seek out new opportunities for growth. $63 million has been earmarked for eSports funding or prize pools in 2017 alone.

Here's a brief history of eSports in India over the past few years including the most recent investments.


ESL India Premiership with NODWIN Gaming (Photo: ESL)

ESL in conjunction with NODWIN Gaming launched the ESL India Premiership eSports league in May of 2016. The ESL IP will hold 6 online cups and 3 events in the first year with a prize pool of $64,000.

The league will feature 4 titles: Dota 2, Counter-Strike, Hearthstone - and most interesting - will also include Just Dance, which is a rhythm dancing game.

NODWIN Gaming has several Brand partnerships with the usual suspects but also a Non-Endemic that hasn't yet invested in the US: Sprite.

NODWIN is also not new to eSports having hosted the regional portion for the Paris based ESWC tournament in 2015.

[The Indian eSports Opportunity Part 2 will feature an interview with NODWIN Gaming CEO Akshat Rathee]



Flipkart Gaming Online Championship (Photo: Flipkart)

Flipkart is basically India's Amazon - until Amazon landed a few years ago and is currently ruling the market.

In June of 2016, Flipkart launched the Flipkart Gaming Online Championship (FGOC), which was a month long tournament across the country.  FGOC featured 4 games: FIFA, Counter Strike, League of Legends, and DotA 2 - while ironically being live streamed on Amazon-owned Twitch.

This makes complete sense for Flipkart as they see gaming as still a niche but a fast evolving segment and particularly in large cities. Flipkart garnered 50% growth in the Gaming category in the first 6 months of 2016.



eGamers Arena and World Cyber Arena Partnership (Photo: WCA)

This is a perfect example of how quickly eSports has grown over the past year.

ESL's $64,000 Prize Pool for the Indian Premiership was massively dwarfed by the January agreement between India's eGamers Arena and China's World Cyber Arena to the tune of $28 million.

There will be championships held across the country and feature the expected games like DOTA2, League of Legends, CS:GO, but will also include Overwatch.

eGamer Arena's deal gives them the exclusive rights to host the national WCA qualifiers in India and the winners will be able to participate in WCA region qualifications. The qualifiers will also take place on eGamer Arena's eSports Tournament platform.

In addition to this deal, eGamers Arena also runs the Indian Gaming League.

[The Indian eSports Opportunity Part 2 will also feature an interview with eGamers Arena Founder and Chief Gamer Lokesh Suji]



Indian eSports League UCypher (Photo: UCypher)

American billionaires aren't the only ones jumping into the eSports pool.

Indian businessman Ronnie Screwvala, who's net worth is just over $1 billion, will invest $15M into UCypher, another Indian eSports League. Screwvala owns a slew of companies including USports, which will broadcast the league to international audiences as well.

The key thing to note here is that UCypher is being developed for the TV audience - not live streaming. If anyone knows how to pull this off it's Screwvala who owns U Mumba, a Pro Kabaddi Sports team - I'm not even going to try to explain what it is, just watch this.

While that may look crazy, the inaugural season drew 435M viewers across India.  

Even taking Screwvala's expertise across sports, leagues, and broadcasting, it will be interesting to see the market appetite for Indian eSports outside of its home.

With the huge untapped mobile gaming audience, you can see a game like Clash Royale being included in UCypher.



Manish Agarwal, CEO of Nazara Games (Photo: Nazara Games)

Starting to see a trend?

In a twist to the slew of eSports investments and potentially the first sign of a new market for the audience, Indian mobile game publisher Nazara Games plans to invest $20M over the next 5 years to develop a national eSports league.

Nazara games eSports strategy focuses on 3 main areas: league, content platform, and a Pro Teams "supported by the community and Nazara" - which I'm curious to hear more about.

The league will have 6 teams playing in 2 seasons of which only Valve titles have been confirmed so far: Counter-Strike and Dota 2. 

A lot of activity within Indian eSports in 2017.

That's where Indian eSports has progressed over the past few years but where is it going next? Tomorrow in Part 2, Ill look at the opportunities and challenges by speaking with Indian eSports Founder's from NODWIN Gaming and eSports Arena