Guest Column| Evolution of esports scenario in India in 2020; how did the global changes impact the esports industry?

The Indian esports industry in the year 2020 experienced some of the most unexpected, though exciting events that led to an exponentially increased audience coming in the fold of esports. The first quarter of the year saw the unprecedented lockdown that overwhelmed the entire nation. While almost every industry experienced instability, denting the economy immensely, the esports industry witnessed an upward sloping curve in terms of participation, social engagement and online viewership. 

Nodwin Gaming group CEO Sidharth Kedia

Lockdown laid the foundation for the rapid growth of esports in the country. Video games became the new place to socialize. If there is one thing that esports did exceptionally well – that would be – encouraging people to follow social distancing. The global campaign #PlayApartTogether is a great example. The campaign (also endorsed by WHO) ran globally and witnessed tremendous success as it was extremely well-timed. It not only served the primary purpose of social distancing among the communities but also brought them togetherstronger and better! NODWIN Gaming spearheaded this campaign in India by introducing a wide variety of games to the Indian populace to stay connected and entertained in tough times. 

To ensure that a sufficient variety of events are available to the audience at a time when no other sport was happening at all, esports and gaming companies kept introducing tournaments all across the country. ESL India Premiership, Valorant Agni Series and Call of Duty Mobile India Challenge being some of them. The numbers across gamer registrations and viewership went beyond projections; India’s longest-running esports league – ESL India Premiership’s Summer Season witnessed ~19X increase in registrations, the highest spike in the history of the tournament. Talking about the viewership, a massive 3X increase in watch-time of esports content was recorded on the OTT platform Disney+Hotstar for this season.

The year 2020 has been good for the esports industry because not only did it penetrate the largest chunk of casual gamers, but also broke the linguistic barrier when it comes to viewership. Hindi, Tamil and Bangla streams did exceptionally well for a number of major esports tournaments, like PMCO, PMPL, Skyesports championship 2.0 and many more. Esports viewership is a lag indicator of the penetration and popularity of any game. The Hindi streams of PMPL South Asia Season One contributed up to 91 per cent of the overall viewership. Mobile games made sure that gaming and esports are as much of a ‘Bharat’ phenomenon as it is ‘India’.

The biggest takeaway of 2020, personally for us was the resurrection of PC esports in India with Valorant. At a time when Valve lost 200 of its top CS:GO players in a single year, Valorant mounted a strong stance in the global esports circuit with activations in multiple regions like South Asia, Middle-East, Russia and Europe. Valorant tournaments in India are aplenty with Global Esports, NODWIN Gaming and Skyesports, being in the forefront for some of India’s best Valorant tournaments. This led to the return of PC esports at the best time possible. A decent gaming laptop costs a little more than what it costs for a high-end smartphone. The general gaming population is now seriously looking at making the upgrade to PC as they see infinite possibilities in terms of content creation around multiple popular titles like Among Us and Fall Guys.

Overall, this growth trajectory is not only promising but also inspiring. esports industry in India is pushing its boundaries and is on its way to becoming a mainstream choice for entertainment in one of the fastest-growing media & entertainment markets in the world.

(This article is contributed by Nodwin Gaming group CEO Sidharth Kedia, and AnimationXpress does not necessarily subscribe to these views)