Opinion

eSports could be the next big thing in entertainment

Biren Ghose | Updated on May 26, 2021

eSports was the fastest-growing media and entertainment segment in 2020

The 1990s was a tumultuous period for the media and entertainment sector in India. There was an immense growth of entertainment, led by the proliferation of cable TV. This boom led to the creation of hundreds of thousands of new jobs. The advent of cable television also marked the beginning of sports as a luxuriant fragment of entertainment.

Twenty-four hour sports channels resulted in a hunger for live sport that was almost insatiable. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) tried to cater to this hunger by adding a number of international series at home and abroad that pandered the appetite of fans and gave athletes the stature of real-life heroes. Decades later, the OTT renaissance has beckoned another revolution in the world of entertainment, and eSports could well be the poster boy of this transformation.

The advent of OTT content and the rise of over 100 unique channels convey an unambiguous story of growth. Today, India is one of fastest-growing OTT markets in the world. A recent BCG report estimates OTT to be worth $5 billion by 2023. The dark horse of the media and entertainment world, eSports, grew rapidly during last year; its viewership doubled to 17 million. Audiences embraced it as a key source of their leisure needs.

So while eSports is primarily meant for athletes who’ve acquired a certain skill-set with training and practice, there are many more still watching live streams of the best athletes, just as in other sports. Further, the emerging eSports landscape will grow at a CAGR of 36 per cent in the next three years and certain aspects of this growth are unique.

Many pluses

To begin with, eSports is enabling opportunities for audiences to become players While there were only 50 million eSports players two years ago, there are over 300 million players now. Secondly, India’s 5G trajectory coincides with that of eSports and may well propel this growth manifold. eSports was the fastest-growing M&E segment in 2020, and is expected to reach ₹15,500 crore by 2023 to become the third-largest segment of the Indian M&E sector.

eSports will become ubiquitous and will touch all lives across demographic lines in India. The segment is growing across all verticals — eSports, fantasy sport, casual gaming, and other skill games. Revenue growth is said to be led by mobile-based real-money gaming.

Lastly, it underscores the feat India has achieved in the realm of imagery and simulation, creating distinct experiences for players and viewers alike. Beyond the players there is a large market for eSports streamers with an ever-increasing fan following each day. The ability to monetise your skills on an eSport and create a community of fans is akin to international sport and celebrities.

This will draw in more skilled eSport players to the segment and help create quality content for viewers to enjoy. The cycle will perpetuate itself just like it has done innumerable times before in every other form of entertainment and spectator sport — from Rome's Gladiators to the IPL in modern times. We are not far from a future where eSports will emerge as a thriving ecosystem creating a mine of opportunities for people employed in various sectors — artists, coders, players, marketers and all other enablers — at a pace similar to what the feature film industry achieved over 100 years. This a niche yet all-encompassing roadmap that and will lead India on the path of self-reliance.

While self-regulation has brought eSports to its current stage, some regulation and a national level nodal agency would help level the playing field for continued momentum.

The clarity of code and implementation of responsible gaming guidelines would protect the eSports players, the platforms, and the game developers. Monitoring areas such as gameplay, security, data security, content guidelines will go a long way towards maturing this space. The day is not far where we all will have our favourite eSports player whom future generations will idolise and aspire to level up to.

The writer is the Vice-Chair of National Media & Entertainment Committee, CII

Published on May 26, 2021

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