E-sports 2.0

Brands partner with game publishers and streaming platforms to sponsor tournaments and reach audiences below 25 years.Brands partner with game publishers and streaming platforms to sponsor tournaments and reach audiences below 25 years.

The pandemic has propelled India’s online gaming industry to the next level. This market, which had been growing steadily for the past few years, raked in Rs 13,600 crore in revenue (up from Rs 8,990 crore in FY20), according to a 2021 KPMG study. India is home to the second largest base of online gamers with 433 million users; in 2018, this number was 250 million.

There has been a spike in the number of e-sports tournaments and multiplayer competitions with substantial prize money and brand sponsorships over the past 18 months. In FY21, India’s e-sports industry was worth Rs 170 crore; KPMG estimates this could reach Rs 570 crore by 2025.

Playing to the gallery

Watching online games is a trend that is on an upswing. According to a KPMG study, around 17 million people watched e-sports in CY20; this is expected to grow to 130 million by 2025. Kanishka Mohan, associate partner, RedSeer, says, “One big indicator of the mainstreaming of gaming and e-sports is YouTube’s move to add a ‘gaming’ section in its drop-down menu. This prime real estate is afforded to a select few categories.”

Broadcasters, OTT platforms, and film exhibitors are evaluating the demand for e-sports content. In 2020, Disney+ Hotstar exclusively broadcast the ESL India Premiership Fall Season 2020, and in 2021, the Esports Premier League 2021 organised by India Today Gaming. Nodwin Gaming has partnered with MTV to create a show called Esports Mania.

PVR Cinemas, too, has joined the bandwagon. For Rs 150-200, audiences can watch a packaged 3.5-4.5 hour show of the Battlegrounds Mobile India tournament with commentary, analysis, and cinematic audio at PVR. Kamal Gianchandani, chief of strategy, PVR, says the ticket prices are modest “as the idea of this pilot is to create excitement and gain knowledge on the sort of product features audiences want.” The pilot has debuted in Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Indore.

In another development, Cornerstone Sport, a talent management agency that manages sports celebrities like Virat Kohli, Sania Mirza and Dipika Pallikal, is now representing e-sports gamers Jonathan Amaral and Chetan ‘Kronten’ Chandgude.

Jogesh Lulla, COO, Cornerstone Sport, says, “We want to bring in FMCG and beverage brands to sponsor these gamers; right now, they are sponsored by PC manufacturers and mobile handset makers.”

Money matters

Brands partner with game publishers and streaming platforms to sponsor tournaments and reach audiences below 25 years. Gamers earn revenue from the prize money, sponsorship deals, streaming live online, and if they are part of teams, they could also earn a monthly salary. “A top-tier gamer could make upwards of Rs 50 lakh per annum,” says Mohan of RedSeer. A recent IAMAI report on India’s gaming industry estimates that the pool of prize money in 2025 will be $14.3 million, up from $3.6 million in 2020.

“The title sponsorship for a championship with a prize money of Rs 25 lakh could range from Rs 30 lakh to Rs 40 lakh. This could be as high as Rs 1 crore if the prize money is bigger,” says Piyush Kumar, founder and CEO, Rooter Technologies, an e-sports streaming platform. A 15-day tournament attracts 25-30 million viewers, he adds. The sponsor of an e-sports league gets everything from logo rights to ad inventory on the streaming platform.

Mohan says that the potential for monetisation exists, particularly among hardcore gamers who tend to spend more money on in-app purchases, devices, accessories, apparel, and attending events or watching live streams. IAMAI’s study on the gaming industry has found that about 25% of hardcore gamers spend more than Rs 500 on extra features.

Read Also: Mamaearth launches ‘Beautiful InDeed’ campaign to redefine the meaning of beauty

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Playing to the gallery


Donovan Larsen

Donovan is a columnist and associate editor at the Dark News. He has written on everything from the politics to diversity issues in the workplace.

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