Though currently emerging, esports in India is witnessing levels of interest and excitement which is similar to other markets around the world. Today a huge millennial fanbase, coupled with the adequate streaming opportunities and improved internet bandwidth can be noticed and these are the favourable factors that are driving this growth. Last year professional esports teams grew 8x and professional esports players grew 4x in 2019 and there were more than 10 prominent esports game titles according to FICCI EY report.
But recently Covid 19 pandemic has made a huge difference in the market. The market depends on favourable factors but the outbreak has disrupted every business possible with a dip in FDI, and global lockdown. Surprisingly for the gaming and esports industry it was the time for them to rise by practicing a different approach to face the market.
What is that different approach?
Initially when the pandemic spread was increasing it affected the industry the same way as gaming and esports events were shutting down. That includes postponement of Game Developer Conference (GDC), suspension of LCS and LES events, Overwatch League’s cancellation for all matches in February and March and many more. The industry figured out that if the physical lockdown continues it will affect the global gaming and esports industry drastically. Acknowledging the idea that ‘the show must go on’, the industry took a different approach to deal with it- they all went completely digital. From conferences like GDC to esports events like Overwatch League all aimed to host digital events to proceed. This approach was aimed to keep the industry unaffected from the pandemic spread, unlike other industries.
In conversation with AnimationXpress LXG director, Esports and Broadcasting, Kiran Noojibail emphasized, “The COVID-19 pandemic outbreak has changed up the game for most of the esports businesses. Certain large scale events requiring an offline presence, which includes participants, viewers, large production crew and so on, have been postponed. LAN events are also not possible until the lockdown concludes. Therefore the focus for all brands/tournament organisers has now shifted to engaging gamers purely online through smaller events and I see that being the case for at least the near future.”
Understanding the need of the hour where physical esports events are not possible “LXG is looking at providing ample opportunities for gamers to play online events while providing an excellent viewing experience to the esports audiences, from our home studios,” he added.
How phygital esports events were impacted?
On the other hand, NODWIN Gaming co-founder and MD Akshat Rathee said offline events lined up for global TOs like ESL and Dreamhack and even for Nodwin gaming, things have been difficult for the big spectacle, finale event. The booked venue, flight, and vendor contracts had to be canceled because of the pandemic spread.
“Since we haven’t started our India Premiership season as of now and the fact that the initial two months will be the online phase, I hope that we are still good to go with our schedule. Adequate manpower, expertise, and tech to take our production online and we can see the result in our current broadcasts! Post COVID, events will gather steam with a vengeance! We look forward to catching up on all the spectacular events that are currently postponed,” he added.
This definitely has affected the regular schedule of the esports season all around the world. On the brighter side, he believes that the lockdown and social distancing has given rise to innovative ways to carry out a tournament remotely, like in ESL Pro League Season 11. As they have witnessed live player interviews on a video call and everyone can observe the reactions and excitement through their webcams while they all, at the comfort of their homes, have played through a major league. He found it quite fascinating and they are planning to incorporate such options in their leagues as well.
As per the current scenario, Nodwin Gaming is looking forward to “the PUBG MOBILE Pro League South Asia, lined up for us and then our own India Premiership kicks off! We are also looking forward to the kickoff of Dew Arena, The Taiwan Cup and others soon. Our first tournament in South Africa, the Umzansi Esports League will go live too. Tough but exciting times,” he added.
How esports organisations are dealing with it?
Unlike traditional sports, esports is not reliant solely on LAN tournaments and venues where players and fans need to be physically present. Since most tournaments/ events have postponed their dates or have shifted to an online platform, the organisations and the teams remain unaffected. Taking the example of Global esports is a professional esports organization which own teams have witnessed that “with the day to day, our work has actually increased and the entire esports and gaming industry has seen almost a 30 per cent increase. With more and more people being confined to their homes during lockdown there has been a sudden spike in the amount of time and resources spent on gaming,” said Global Esports founders Dr. Rushindra Sinha and Mohit Israney in conversation with AnimationXpress.
They have closed down HQ and Bootcamps by mid of March before the lockdown orders came in, staff members have been strictly instructed to work from home and provided with necessary sanitary products, have been sent home safely where they can be with their families and continue practicing for tournaments. However, they said that they are “In constant communication with all the entire team across the globe. As gamers, we’re used to working online and have been operating remotely in various parts of the world since inception. Everything has been running smoothly so far. Being an esports organisation, we are used to such practice. As we joke around internally ‘What people are now calling social distancing is something gamers have been practicing all their life.’”Also since everyone is at home to keep everyone busy and engaged they are hosting games online which is an initiative to organise custom games in PUBG and CODM which have been received well.
GE is preparing for all of the major tournaments which includes – PMPL for PUBG: Mobile, ESL India Premiership for CSGO, including multiple tournaments coming in for India and their international teams are prepping for their local as well as online tournaments which will continue to run through the year regardless of the situation in the regions.