Video gaming has proven to be somewhat invulnerable to the coronavirus pandemic, on the other hand where mainstream sports around the world on hold, people are increasingly turning to gaming to fill the empty hours of lockdown and isolation. Drawing the picture of the current scene of esports industry The Esports Club co-founder and head of business development, Ishaan Arya shares with AnimationXpress that, “The industry is doing quite well. Demand for products has skyrocketed as gamers want to be equipped for increased hours spent inside. Gamers are spending more hours playing games with concurrent user numbers skyrocketing; gaming content consumption is also at an all-time high on YouTube.” As physical LAN events have always been a major part of esports, the most direct negative impact of Covid 19 has been the cancellation of these events. During this period we have witnessed international esports teams entering mobile esports with Indian players to represent them off late including Fnatic and TSM. This portrays that the large global organisations are seeing huge potential in Indian esports ecosystem. Earlier this year, The Esports club has partnered with Ahmedabad’s Comic Con to create an exclusive gaming experience for the community. More recently, it launched a five-month-long league for Rainbow Six Siege, sponsored by the likes of Western Digital and ZOTAC Gaming. Also, one of the organisers of the first major Valorant tournament across Asian countries.Here is the excerpt from the interview : How is The Esports Club contributing to the esports ecosystem in India? Our entire core team has come from the gaming and esports industry. We realized that while everyone was looking at tapping into esports, nobody was actively looking to develop it at the grassroots level to help sustain and grow this boom. Our aim with The Esports Club was to fill this void by creating our tournament platform that would not only serve as an investment option for brands but provide professional, semi professional and amateur gamers a long term esports opportunity with leagues and series of tournaments spread across five to six months. Our second core value is helping spread the wealth. We want esports to provide earning opportunities across all tiers of competition; professional, semi professional and amateur. You will see our tournaments which run as leagues have multiple divisions so that teams are divided based on their skill and compete for their own prize pools, so you will see very little skill mismatch and everyone will have an opportunity to win and earn without having to worry about competing with teams of a significantly higher skill level. Our knockout tournaments also help spread the prize pool beyond the top three or four, in line with our belief that each major event we host should reward as many teams as possible. How do you see the Indian esports market different from other countries? India is currently at a very nascent stage. Our gaming market at it’s core is also very different, we have a much younger demographic. Esports isn’t just competitive gaming, it’s when there’s an entire content and entertainment ecosystem built around it. While India is certainly on the right path we still have a long way to go. Esports is evolving as a viable career option for virtual athletes and gamers. Where do you see it in the coming years? Esports as an industry is providing many opportunities beyond just playing. While the players of course form the base there are so many support services around it providing gainful employment ; producers, directors, editors, photographers, on camera hosts, commentators, organizers, admins. Just like any broadcast or entertainment industry, there are tons of support roles required to put on a great esports show so even if you aren’t a player there is most certainly still a potential role in and around the esports industry. As the scale grows with more events, so do the full time employment opportunities. How the Indian fan base for esports is different from other countries? India has a much younger esports and gaming audience than other countries. We fall mostly within the 12-18 age groups and as such a lot of the interest and fanfare is towards mobile gaming since that is the platform that is most accessible to play on for this demographic. While I expect this to spillover to PC, I see mobile continuing to be the driving force for the industry in India. What will be esports’ post-pandemic scene? Esports is going to be one of the industries that comes out on top; gaining a lot of traction thanks to increased amount of time spent by everyone playing and watching gaming content online. The lack of physical events is certainly something that will be a bit of a speed bump but it’s not something that will derail the esports growth trajectory.