E-sports in India

Rise of e-sports and its impact on traditional sports in India

Today e-sports is a phenomenon that has suddenly received a lot of attention and focus. This is because within a decade the e-sports industry has had a massive boom and now boasts of huge viewership and participation numbers. This article seeks to understand the rise of e-sports and its impact on traditional sports in India.

There are a lot of presumptions and misconceptions of what esports is and what its industry comprises of, therefore it is important to understand the term. Esports has been a part of the Gaming Industry and but has now become huge enough and is an industry itself. Techopedia defines esports as “competitive first-person shooter games, large online multiplayer role-playing games, or even primitive logic or action games, as long as there is a competitive element.”

Esports is nothing but competitive gaming and the rise of esports has brought in fans that are not just consuming gaming themselves but also viewing tournaments and leagues. In 2019, Esports viewership saw around 458.8 million viewers worldwide with a year-on-year growth of 15% (Newzoo – 2019 Global Esports Market Report, 2019). Most of these fans tuned in via streaming services like Twitch and YouTube. In comparison, the Super Bowl that same year had 100.7 million viewers across the NFL’s digital properties and CBS. (Global esports audience size by Statista, n.d.)

Up until 2018, India was not on the map of the esports landscape. The rise of PUBG Mobile brought the esports revolution to India and placed India as a huge global market for esports.  India is leading the charts of PUBG Mobile both in terms of player base and audience. India has the largest youth population in the world, a large consumption of smartphones and availability of internet at cheap rates which makes it a massive market for mobile gaming.

Since 2018 India has been hosting huge international and national e-sports events, the biggest ones being DreamHack Delhi, ESL One: Mumbai, COBX Masters and PUBG Mobile India Series. In 2019 the total prize pool reached $1.5 million which was a 180% increase from year 2017 when the prize pool was $288.3 million. (E-sports Observer, 2019)

E-sports viewership and streaming is also huge in India. Former e-sports athlete turned caster “Mortal” is a huge e-sports influencer in the country. He has about 4 million YouTube subscribers and gets up to 15 million views on each video. There are many such athletes that have managed to form their online communities and fan bases in the country.

As mobile titles grow in popularity and Indian players and teams start becoming even bigger, large money from sponsors will eventually come in significantly increasing the revenue.

As seen so far, the rate at which e-sports is growing globally as well as in India there is no doubt that it is on its way to become the next big thing in the country. What are the implications this could have on the growth of traditional sports leagues?

E-sports global fan growth chart
A chart showing rise of e-sports fans globally

A study done by DataReportal on Global E-sports Audience has shown that 32% of e-sports audience are between 16-24 while 30% of them are between 25-34. BARC report on Indian Sports Leagues shows that for most popular Indian leagues the majority audiences are between the age group of 31-50. The next big chunk of audience for traditional sports lies between 15-30. Clearly, there is a significant overlap of target audiences. Therefore, this will result in sporting properties competing for the same target audience. This could potentially pose as a threat to traditional sports in India in the long run because of the following reasons.

Rise of e-sports in the country will create additional competition for sporting properties in terms of viewership and sponsorship revenue. It will become a matter of who engages and has more impact on the target audience.

The level of engagement for fans is much more in e-sports and the rate at which the viewership is increasing is very high. Eventually, brands will see the value in these numbers and e-sports might get a larger chunk of Sponsorship Money.

Most brands are trying to target Gen Z and Millennials. For marketeers, it is becoming essentially difficult to keep these targeted audience engaged as the attention span is decreasing significantly. These target audiences form the core audience of e-sports and are highly engaged in that space. Therefore, it is likely that Brands will see much more value in supporting e-sports properties.

With the kind of strengths India possesses for mobile gaming, and the number of global e-sports players entering India we will eventually start producing world class e-sports athletes and compete at the highest of levels. After Cricket, we have the most potential to do well globally in e-sports. Therefore, providing a global audience that most traditional sports will fail to do.

Another advantage that e-sports has over other sports is the ease of building grassroots. We are definitely lacking in many areas just as other sports, but it will be much easier to build grassroots for e-sports over other sports. The reasons for this are that kids are already familiar and engaged in gaming and the reach is much larger and widespread than other sports.

While e-sports enjoys many advantages over traditional sports, the growth of e-sports may not be all that easy. The social and political acceptance of e-sports over other sports will not be an easy transition and may take years or decades. However, it is safe to say that the future is digital, and the future is e-sports.

This does not necessarily mean that it would kill the growth of traditional sports. It only means that they will now be competing for the same audience, brands and sponsorship. The rise of e-sports in the country will pose many possibilities for the future, we might even see an integration of the 2 in the long run!

Author and Credentials: – Ms Tejaswini Alkute

About the author



View all posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *