Nazara Games to invest $20 million in eSports; league planned

With the advent of higher internet speeds coming into play and India  making a digital push, industry biggies are betting that 2017 will be the game changer for eSports and are making large investments.  What’s luring them is the fast expanding $892 million eSports global market and the fact that 2016 saw over Rs 75 lakh being plonked down in prize money in India.

Manish Agarwal

Amongst the first to announce its intentions was  serial media investor Ronnie Screwval’s Usports which rolled out UCypher, a Rs. 100 crore eSports tournament. Now another mega player in the game publishing space, the Rs 220 crore  Nazara Games,  has unveiled a plan to invest around $20 million over the next few years. Included in this is its own eSports league.

“We wanted to target a specific segment which comprises of hardcore gamers. Nazara Games did not have an offering in the segment of hardcore gamers and we saw a gap in the market where there  are no organised, large scale players which would really create an ecosystem, building activity and this is why we decided an offering here in a meaningful manner so that as the gamers start from bottom to top, we are having a community in each segment and we are going with a very relevant proposition to them,” says  Nazara Games, CEO, Manish Agarwal in a conversation with AnimationXpress.

The relative paucity of awareness about eSports in India – which is emerging as a digital first nation – is not deterring Agarwal at all.  Says Agarwal: “We are not looking at masses or someone who has just started playing games. Like, we are not targeting people who are playing our Chhota Bheem Jungle Run. We are only looking at four to five million people who understand eSports. Either they are players or spectators or both.”

For now, only two of the more traditional (read: popular) titles have been named for the tournament, Dota: 2 and Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). More games will be  revealed going forward. Agarwal confirms that mobile game/games would be a part of this tournament; however the titles have  yet to be decided.

The mobile sector is spearheading the gaming industry, popularity and revenue-wise. Hence, its inclusion in eSports events will not be surprising, which is traditionally dominated by PC games and consoles sometimes. To testify this fact, one of the world’s leading eSports organisations, Fnatic has recently launched its mobile eSports team as well.

So, what mobile games would be played in Nazara Games’ tournament?

Nothing has been revealed as of yet, but our best bet would include the likes of Clash Royale.

UCypher, which also plans to begin operations in 2017 like Nazara Games’ tournament is picking the first batch of participants manually.  More precisely, UCypher will be inviting the best local teams/individuals for its first edition.

Nazara Games, on its part, plans to hold an open online qualifier for the tournament, wherein anyone can participate and make his or her  way into the top and claim their spot in the event. For the future editions of the event however, both the events will adhere to the leader-board system wherein participants  can track their progress and that of others as well.

“We are very clear on that. We do not want to handpick anyone. There will be an open, transparent selection process which will be happening on the platform. Everybody would start at an equal level and based on their skills, they will make the cut,” informs Agarwal.

Representational image
Representational image

The publishing company would be creating a completely new company which will handle the event and will be completely dedicated to it.

As Agarwal asserts: “The new company would be a 100 per cent subsidiary of Nazara Games, with a new consumer brand name for this venture which is more in line with the target audience which we are looking at and the whole investment which we are doing will predominantly go in four areas in my opinion.”

Among these he reveals will be “marketing which is to build the consumer brand. But marketing can only happen when you have a product ready. So we are looking at a very strong content plus community platform where you can have live content as well as on-the-go content. Then we are looking at investing a lot of time and money on training the teams. We are very simply committed to say that this whole ecosystem will be managed by professionals of eSports for creating professionals of eSports. The last but not the least thing would be to invest on the league itself, making it a spectator’s delight with global production values. We would be leaning heavily to bring in a lot of international experts to help us.”

He adds: “Our approach is very simple. As I said, the selection process will let you get into the six teams, but there are a lot of people who will not be in the team and for them there would be continuous tournaments happening on the platform so that they can continue to hone their skills and get into the next season of the league. So, this is a platform for the community, where they are constantly interacting, honing their skills, watching others playing and improving themselves and tracking the progress of people.”

The games would be web-casted live on the upcoming website and it is from there that players can register and track the progress of the tournament.

With two mega eSports ventures going online in the same year, will they get into a head on collision and impact each other’s propsects?

“eSports is going to be very big, so the more  the players that invest in eSports, the better it is for the overall participation,” says Agarwal. “So I really don’t see it as a competition or clash. I think whatever we are going to do will help UCypher and vice versa because both of us would like to create something which is a great experience and market it. Then, if you see the history of any sports in India, first there is a lot of awareness creation and then the money comes in;  the talent pool emerges and the quality rises.”

E-loquently stated, we might state.