Mainstream media attention to eSports should boost the sector

NEW DELHI : Mumbai-based Naman Mathur, 25, a gamer who goes by the moniker Soul Mortal, is excited about the future of eSports in India. When Mathur and his friends started their careers five years ago, they struggled to explain to family and friends what they were doing. In the past year the situation has changed dramatically.

Although gaming’s popularity has skyrocketed, it’s still limited to the internet-savvy, young audience. But now, with Nodwin Gaming and Star Sports teaming up to broadcast a mega eSports event, the Battlegrounds Mobile India Masters Series, in India for the first time, the gaming industry is expected to see the next stage of growth.

“The move of eSports into mainstream media is significant because it creates a space for gamers and keeps the space growing,” Mathur said, adding that such initiatives will help reach new audiences and the Earning opportunities increase career players.

Until now, eSports events have been streamed on online platforms such as SonyLIV, Hotstar and YouTube. The BGMI Masters Series is a tournament for which players compete 1.5 crore prize money.

In another first for India, Nodwin partnered with PVR Cinemas last October to live stream eSports events at theaters in Gurugram, Hyderabad, Indore and Mumbai.

Kamal Gianchandani, chief strategy officer at PVR, had said at the time PVR wanted to make it an annual affair to help it grow “along the lines of the Indian Premier League (IPL)”.

“Think of this as the IPL of esports in India. Think of theaters as venues, much like stadiums where games are played,” Gianchandani had said.

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Multiplex chain INOX also partnered with the eSports Federation of India (ESFI) in February to broadcast Road to Asian Games, an event organized to finalize the team representing India at the Asian Games after the game committee had decided to recognize eSports as a medal event for the first time.

Certainly, eSports still has a long way to go in India, but revenue from the industry is increasing. According to a March report by EY-FICCI, industry revenues grew by 29% while the number of players in 2021 doubled year-on-year to 600,000 7.5 billion 9.7 billion in the same period.

Experts said that smaller cities could contribute a large part of the eSports target audience, which usually consumes content on TV instead of subscribing to OTT platforms, and that connections with TV broadcasters will increase the reach of eSports in far-flung areas of India.

Lokesh Suji, Director, ESFI and Vice President of the Asian Esports Federation said eSports is still misunderstood by the people of India and TV will make more people realize that it is a competitive sport where players can challenge their physical and mental Use skills to compete in specific video game genres.

“This will bring eSports into the mainstream and give it the credibility, legitimacy and fan base most often associated with traditional sports. People can enjoy eSports through a TV and DTH service, similar to cricket or football,” said Akshat Rathee, Managing Director and Co-Founder of NODWIN Gaming.

Access to television and other traditional media could boost foreign investment and open up new advertising and branding options, experts said. “Unlike digital television, in television no crucial moment is interrupted by an ad blocker, and who wouldn’t want that,” added Suji.

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