Year Ender: How has the year 2021 been for the esports and gaming content industry?

Globally esports is one of the largest sports in terms of viewership and prize money. As per experts, there is a lot of interest from stakeholders which is bringing in structure and recognition to the esport market and it’s becoming the right time for investors to enter the market and to expand with the sector.

Like 2020, this year non endemic brands enforced themselves to broaden their business expansion into the esports and content creation sector in the form of  investment, collaborations, influencer management, partnerships for merchandise or hosting esports tournaments and more. Earlier the growth of the sector was measured only with the number of  players. Now since gaming has expanded to content space, the consumption and viewership rates of contents have also become part of it. 

The rise of gaming and esports have bolstered the growth of gaming content creation. India today is churning out next-generation of gaming creators and the momentum is picking up fast not only in English and Hindi but also in vernacular languages. Every business and industry is pushing their game to reach out to these expanded audiences. In fact, the brand’s focus is to reach the common people via word of mouth itself. Like any other industry, gaming, esports and skill based games are counting on content vastly. Earlier it was just YouTube and Twitch. Now Facebook streaming is also gaining popularity and it is also tapping the non gamers as well.

From the explosion of the esports player base since the pandemic to the surge of gaming content creators to the rise of viewership and engagement,  here’s what industry experts have to say:

Esports 

Esports has been that catalytic revolution which shifted the entire Indian gaming landscape in 2020 and continued to grow bigger in 2021. From new tournaments, to players, organisers, investors, sponsors, esports has grown exponentially. In fact, according to experts, esports is one of the popular modes of entertainment in 2021.

Ernst & Young June 2021 Report titled as ‘Esports in India’ captured various manifestations of esports and determined its future potential. The report stated that the industry is expected to grow at 46 per cent CAGR which is over four-fold, from Rs 2.5 billion in 2021 to Rs 11 billion by 2025.

There are favourable factors which have bolstered the growth of esports in 2021; they are as follows:

  • Launch of popular esports games like BGMI which raised the Indian esports map notches higher
  • Casual gamers started considering gaming and playing esports tournaments as a viable career option
  • Emergence of underdog esports teams
  • Lot of interest shown by non endemic brands in esports by investing as well as sponsoring into esports
  • Streaming of esports tournaments on popular social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube 
  • Tournaments organisers showing interest towards grassroot esports or gully esports to make it as popular as gully cricket
  • Celebrity endorsements 

Here’s are the esports experts insights on how has the year been and plans for 2022:

Akshat Rathee

“Overall, the esports and gaming industry has done fabulously well in 2021 and is set to grow at a monumental pace in the next two to three years on the back of strong youth and digitization tailwinds. For NODWIN Gaming 2021 has been a fantastic year as we made several key announcements. Our funding from KRAFTON in March set the tone for the esports industry at large, making everyone sit up and take notice of the huge potential this sector offers in terms of IPs, Content, collaborations, etc. We followed this up with our partnership with PVR Cinemas in October to stream esports in theatres taking the digital gaming format to the masses. This was another first for the esports sector. Most recently, we acquired the OML content and IP business from OML and have just announced the BACARDI NH7 Weekender festival. We plan 2021 to be the springboard for 2022 for us and in a way, 2021 is just the trailer of the new decade of esports and Gaming” said NODWIN Gaming co-founder and MD Akshat Rathee.

Akash Dhangar

“House of million-dollar investments and promising returns, gaming is booming at an uncommon rate through content marketing and broadcasting. Focusing on potential entrants, it is important to understand the algorithm connected to the gaming market and its subsidiary vacancies,” added AA Gaming MD, NODWIN technical producer and The Esports Today founder Akash Dhangar.

 Lokesh Suji

Esports Federation of India director, Asian Esports Federation (AESF) vice president director Lokesh Suji “The year 2021 has laid down a decent foundation for the future of the Indian Video Games and the esports industry; 2021 can be called the ‘inflection point of Indian video games; esports Industry’. For Esports Federation of India (ESFI) our key focus is to ensure that we identify the best of the talent to represent India at Asian Games 2022 (scheduled in the month of Sept 2022 in Hangzhou, China), which have eight esports game titles to compete for and this time esports is a medal sport. We are already in the finalization stage with a lot of brands who have shown interest to partner up with ESFI for this prestigious event and for the glory of the country.”

Parth Chadha

EWar Games  founder and CEO Parth Chadha shared, “2021 has been an amazing year for the gaming industry, where we witnessed unprecedented levels of growth horizontally through the addition of new offerings in the market as well as vertically through users’ spending and increased time spent online. We at EWar too witnessed a healthy 6x rise in our user base in 2021. Furthermore, we are proud to say that EWar is, and will continue to be, a part of an ecosystem that is nurturing valuable growth of the burgeoning gaming and esports economy in our country. Going forward in 2022 and beyond, we strongly believe that the relevance of NFTs and other blockchain-powered tools in gaming is a trend that is here to stay, which will continue to transform the gaming sector in India and across the globe for the better in the years to come. Whereas we at EWar are extremely excited as we have plans to build some great gaming and esports-centered products for this ever-evolving, dynamic market in India.”

Vishwalok Nath

WEC director Vishwalok Nath mentioned, “The year 2021 has been exceptional for India Today Gaming (ITG) as the team launched two of its largest tournaments on the international stage. This includes the ESports Premier League (ESPL) and World Esports Cup (WEC). ESPL is the worlds’ first franchise-based Free Fire tournament, and WEC is the first Free Fire tournament between India, Pakistan, and Nepal from ITG. We are ecstatic by the level of support and love that the Indian Free Fire community has showered on us. This support is evident as ESPL crossed 1 million registrations in its first edition. Besides, the 3.5 month-long tournament also amassed more than 100 million video views. Following the success of ESPL, the ongoing WEC Free Fire tournament has also crossed the 1.25 million as the total player registrations. As part of the execution, ITG put its best foot forward in bringing gaming and esports to the mainstream. This includes signing Bollywood superstar Tiger Shroff as the brand ambassador for both ESPL as well as WEC. We also pushed the industry to a new level of acceptance when multiple state/city ministers endorsed gaming and esports while unveiling their respective ESPL franchise teams. Though we are still a few weeks away from the closure of 2021, we are extremely grateful and proud of our work, dedication, and success.

In 2022, we will reset the clock and focus on the second editions of ESPL and WEC with a new set of benchmarks. The team is excited to push onward in its journey to help push gaming and esports to the mainstream with the planned expansion of both the flagship tournaments. Though it is too early to comment, we plan to make ESPL a bigger affair with a more diverse set of titles and maybe even the platforms. When it comes to WEC, we will plan to look forward to including even more countries along with more options for competitive titles.” 

Godlike Esports

Godlike Esports shared, “The year 2021 has been a tremendous year. It has been a year of growth. We signed our new BGMI, Free Fire and CoDM rosters. All three rosters have performed exceptionally well this year. We are forever grateful for the constant love and support by our fans and the whole Esports community. It wouldn’t have been possible without them. We couldn’t ask for a better year. We thank everyone for backing us through our ups and downs. Onto an even better year and making India a global name in terms of Esports.”

They further shared about their plans, “We look forward to a great new year. We aim to win the BGIS and have the opportunity to represent India at a global level. We also aspire to win some of the biggest tournaments in Free Fire and CoDM as well. We aim to make GodLike Esports a global name and a pioneer for Indian Esports. We also want to do our part to increase the credibility and legitimacy of epsorts as a viable career option. The growth and development of the gaming and Esports scenario will always remain our primary objective.” 

Tarun Gupta

Ultimate Battle founder Tarun Gupta shared, The year 2021 has been the most engaging year for us in terms of product expansion and user engagement. Ultimate Battle has now 15+ exciting esports games to play, five of which are Medal Esports events inducted in Asian Games 2022. This year, the platform has gained around 2.5L users and achieved a milestone of 45k MAU. For 2022 plans Gupta added, At the product level, we’ve many exciting modules lined up to boost player engagement and provide more opportunities. We’re in the process of rolling out an Organizer Program this week where event organizers(schools, colleges, influencers, and more) will be able to use our platform and services to launch and manage their own action-packed Esports competitions. In 2022, our focus will be to expand our portfolio of services offered to gamers in India and grow Ultimate Battle in the SEA region. Simultaneously, we’re focusing on providing end-to-end event management, marketing, and production services for brands and Esports companies.”

Anissh Kapoor

Infinix Mobile CEO Anissh Kapoor shared, “2021 has been a great year for Infiinix with an overwhelming response from our customers on all our products. We did not only launch seven outstanding smartphone devices which were tagged best in the segment for their features but also officially embarked on our journey to become the best budget gaming smartphones company in India. I am proud to say that we have led the revolution of the mobile gaming industry with the launch of our indigenous DAR-LINK game boost technology which enables users to have a seamless gaming experience on their mobile devices.Since the launch, all our devices like Infinix Hot 10S, Note 10, Note 10 Pro, Hot 11S, and Hot 10 Play sport this technology. We also had a successful launch of the Inifinix X1 40-inch smart TV which even surpassed our expectations and is one of the highest-rated smart TV on Flipkart, in its segment. The upcoming launch of INBook X1 will add another feather to our hat as it is going to be our first-ever laptop in India. There has already been a lot of excitement around the laptop since its announcement and we are looking forward to a positive response from our customers on this combination of powerful and portable laptop, which will also be the lightest in its price category.”

Regarding 2022 plans, he shared, “A good closure of 2021 has filled our teams with high morale and enthusiasm. We have an even stronger pipeline for 2022 where we are planning to launch at least one product every month. As smartphones are our primary focus, we will be coming up with our first 5G smartphone next year. We are closely watching the growing gaming ecosystem and our teams are also working towards making more efficient and powerful gaming smartphones for our customers. Every year we grow stronger and bigger. Continuing that trend, we will be investing in new markets and expanding our product line next year.”

Amann Bhalla 

GMNG founder Amann Bhalla  said, “This year, we’ve barely scratched the surface of Esports in India. On sites like Discord and YouTube, there exist Esports communities with untapped monetisation possibilities. GMNG adds value to these communities by assisting them in productizing their target audiences. Achieving 3x month-on-month business growth in just three to four months is, certainly, a matter of pride for all of us. It is due to the efforts of our team and the support of the users that we have been able to grow at this speed consistently and intend to keep doing so.We are constantly working on our product and the entire customer experience and have aggressive hiring plans to keep adding the best talent from the online gaming space to the GMNG team. With this milestone in our journey, we feel all the more empowered to expand and diversify our operations. Also, this exponential growth in business and workforce strength will further motivate us to push our limits and increase our customer base by introducing more games each month. In 2022 we are expecting to reach up to 1M+ registered users.”

Sagar Nair

A happy Qlan co-founder and CEO Sagar Nair stated, 2021 has been an amazing year for Qlan as well as for the gaming industry in India. We have seen various companies entering the gaming space alongside a dramatic increase in the numbers of gamers as well. Gamers in India are more aware than ever. As for Qlan, we brought our idea into reality and the app went live later this year. With more than 15000+ responses on our survey and 25000+ pre-registrations, the response of the community for the platform has been very positive. As we wave goodbye to the year 2021, there is much more Qlan has in store for the gamers out there. 

2022 will be a very crucial year for Qlan as the platform will go out of the Beta stage and many more features will be introduced to the platform. We plan to develop the platform in a way that caters to the pain points of the community & be a one-stop solution for the gaming community. Being the only and India’s very own Gamers’ Social Network, Qlan has many first in segment features in store for the gaming community in India. While India is the primary target market for Qlan as of now, the app is currently available worldwide and we plan to cater to the worldwide audience as well. At Qlan, the team actively works on developing new and creative features to improve & make the experience smoother for our users. While the app is in the Beta stage, for now, it will soon be completely functional as promised and will soon be operating at its true potential.”

Gaming Content Creation

The gaming content creation has unlocked the next level this year in India.  There are over 14 esports broadcast platforms in 2020 which are expected to cross 20 platforms by 2025. While current viewership is 17 million, over 85 million unique viewers will watch esports tournaments in the country by 2025. This will comprise around 10 per cent of global esports viewership. Viewership across multiple streaming platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitch and other OTT platforms will collectively measure much higher.

As per YouTube’s record in 2021 gaming has leveled up emerging as a rich and diverse ground for storytelling and community building, with a notable presence across Top Creators, Top Breakout Creators, Top Women Breakout Creators and even, Top Shorts Creators. In fact, a five-hour long gaming livestream of the FreeFire World Series Final in 2021 became one of the most popular videos in India this year. 

  • Five out of the top 10 creators this year are Gaming creators (led by Total Gaming, Techno Gamerz and AS Gaming)
  • Four out of the top 10 Breakout creators are also emerging gamers
  • Payal Gaming is the only women gaming creator in the women breakout creator’s category  
  • Two gamers feature in Top Shorts Creators as well (Sanjoy Das Official and baseer gaming)
  • Five-hour long gaming livestream of the FreeFire World Series Final in 2021, became one of the most popular videos in India this year

The year has seen the rise of gaming content creators and also the rise of content management and influencer marketing businesses in India along with a rise in the number of viewers as well as gaming content creators and they are not restricted to just game streaming, but also the reviews of gaming gadgets, game development and so on. Apart from that, influencers are expanding their wings with sponsored content and expanding in other variations of content; be it ad campaigns, podcasts or original series.

Here are the content business experts insights on how has been their year been and plans for 2022:

Abhishek Aggarwal

Trinity Gaming India co-founder and CEO Abhishek Aggarwal shared, “Things were uncertain for sure, at least towards the beginning of the year. However, I would say we rather sailed through it pretty smoothly. I am glad that we have a strong team and even though challenges were there, together we made everything possible and simple. Trinity Gaming continued to support the talents while associating them with brands like Truke, CellBell, Coca-Cola, and so on. enabling them to monetise. We aim to bring more diverse talents under the Trinity Gaming banner. We are constantly doing R&D, identifying talents, even penetrating Tier II, Tier III locations, and beyond. We are even exploring the vernacular content creators as that still demands more attention and has high potential. Creators who have great command in vernacular languages and can stream in native language making their content more relatable to a classified section of the population is a great format to explore. We are on a mission to build a stronger esports community by supporting these talents. We want our creators to monetize through their passion for esports.”

Rohit Agarwal

Alpha Zegus founder and director Rohit Agarwal shared, “AlphaZegus was incorporated in April 2021, and in a span of eight months, we’ve grown into a team of 11 and a portfolio of over 25 clients. It’s been an absolutely dynamic year for us, having seen the gaming industry grow rapidly post lockdown. We’ve been honored to work with brands like KFC, MSI, boAt, and many more in the past months, and sky’s the limit point forward. In 2022, we are planning to bring in some AI and blockchain based solutions to gaming, while also stepping into the lifestyle space to develop syenergies between gaming and lifestyle.”

Jogesh Lulla

Cornerstone COO Jogesh Lulla shared, “There are very few things more exciting than launching a new business. We launched our esports vertical in October by signing some of the biggest names in Indian Esports such as Ronak, Jonathan, Kronten, Ghatak and the entire GodLike roster. The pace at which things have been moving for us has been fantastic and I hope it is a sign of how the future will look. 2022 is going to be a big year for Cornerstone Esports. We have a lineup of a few large intellectual properties that will start rolling early next year. We are also exploring the global expansion of our esports operations along with looking to collaborate with international teams that are keen to enter India. Beyond that, we are of course looking to add more professional gamers, teams, and content creators from various titles to our roster.”

Rooter founder and CEO Piyush Kumar shared, “Undoubtedly, 2021 has been a golden year for the gaming industry and now as we look to 2022, the gaming world will witness a massive influx of gamers, content creators, and developers. The Indian online gaming sector is expected to become a $2 billion industry by the year 2023. Parallelly, India will be the major gaming hub in the world flourishing with investments and exponential growth like never before. Game streaming and Esports will disrupt the gaming industry with laser-focused on increasing engagement per user. All this will drive the growth of the online gaming community and gaming content consumption. The year 2022 will be a pretty promising year for the gaming industry.”

In the coming year, we can expect to witness a larger and game changing  side of the industry. With blockchain, NFTs, metaverse and cloud the sector will take a leap of growth which might surpass all predictions.








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