The rise of eSports in India

eSports is no longer just a popular pastime for many players and video game enthusiasts. It’s starting to dominate the betting industry that was once defined by traditional sports like football, cricket, tennis, and basketball.

This is the case in many countries including India where eSports is driving the growth of the regulated betting industry. When you check out some of the leading sports betting sites for Indian punters, there’s a big chance that you’ll find a wide variety of betting markets that cover popular eSports like PUBG Mobile, Dota 2. League of Legends, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. But what exactly is eSports and what are the drivers of growth in the Indian market?

A Look at eSports

If you have played a few video games in the past, then surely eSports is already familiar to you. eSports is described as the world of organized and competitive video gaming where professional players play individually or in a team. As the hottest new market in the betting and gaming business, eSports allow players to compete within the games to rule the tournament and provide punters the opportunity to bet on outcomes. Some of the best eSports that are played right now are League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Call of Duty, and PUBG Mobile.

In India, PUBG Mobile takes the lead in terms of popularity and the participation of players. The games are played in arenas and halls and these are streamed live online. In terms of viewership, eSports are often bigger than traditional sports. For example, the 2017 League of Legends World Championship attracted more than 80 million viewers. This makes the competition the most popular ever in the business. This popularity is spread in different countries, with India as one of the brightest spots for eSports.

Steady Growth of eSports in India

The popularity of eSports in India is not just anecdotal, it’s based on solid numbers from reputable organizations. Currently, the country is ranked number 17 in the $1.5 billion eSports industry. Although the Indian eSports market is largely unstructured, it’s still worth $818 million, and it’s growing rapidly. There are several reasons why eSports is growing. According to many surveys and studies, fun and excitement are the primary motivators for playing the games. Also, the ability to manage teams virtually and utilization of sports knowledge is the other factors of engagement.

In the growing Indian eSports market, there are specific factors that drive the growth of eSports. Here’s a look at some of these factors:

  • Rise of mobile games like PUBG Mobile. India isn’t the first country that comes to mind when it comes to eSports. But in recent years, the country is making strides in the industry thanks to the introduction of mobile games like PUBG Mobile. Initially, the main issue in the country is latency problems or the lack of high-end computer software programs that can run popular video games. The mobile format changed this and allowed smartphone users to play and compete in mobile games. Right now, there are more than 50 million PUBG mobile players in India.
  • Increasing prize pools for eSports tournaments. There was a time when India wasn’t a top destination for eSports tournaments. But starting in 2017, it started hosting events like DreamHack Mumbai (2017), ESL One Mumbai, COBX Masters, and DreamHack Delhi in 2018. These tournaments offered combined prize money of $500,000. In 2019, the prize pool grew 180% with tournaments offering $1.5 million in the prize pool. And the biggest tournament in terms of cash prize was PUBG Mobile. The increase in the prize pool tells several stories. For one, it goes to show that there is a swelling of support from partners. Also, a huge payout means eSports players are more motivated to play and participate.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic. Yes, the pandemic upended several industries and led to the closure of many businesses and stores. But there are a few markets that thrived under challenging times, and one example of this is the eSports segment. Since stadiums and arenas are under lockdown, players and punters are left to enjoy games and entertainment that are streamed online. eSports benefited from these since eSports games and tournaments are played and streamed online. There were even a few eSports tournaments that are played completely online and teams play and compete remotely for the prize and the bragging rights.

eSports in India is here to stay and it’s still at its ‘infancy stage’. But with the current support of players and industry stakeholders and the growing popularity of mobile games, there’s a big chance that the Indian eSports will become one of the best in the region, if not, the world.

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