A strong growth in viewership, increased commercialization of the sector, more acceptance by sports authorities, and larger prize pools for players were some of the highlights of 2022
This year saw the gaming industry in India reach new heights, with the country picking up its first bronze medal in the first esports tournament hosted by this year’s Commonwealth Games, and this is merely the beginning, experts say.
“2022 indeed has been a game changing year for our industry. The culture and the community grew beyond players and included spectators to the mix as well. The whole upward tick has led to widespread acknowledgement of the industry. In fact, esports becoming a part of the Commonwealth Games this year and the Olympic committee announcing the Olympic Esports Week is a push the industry and, more importantly, the players needed to be recognized,” asserts Rajan Navani, Founder and CEO, JetSynthesys.
Indeed, a recent Dentsu report said that the number of Indian gamers is expanding at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12% and is expected to jump to 700 million in FY25 compared with 507 million in 2021. Then a FICCI-EY media and entertainment 2022 report on the esports segment ‘Tuning into consumer’ notes that the online gaming segment is expected to reach Rs 153 billion by 2024 at a CAGR of 15% to become the fourth largest segment of the Indian M&E sector, driven by innovations across NFTs, the metaverse and esports.
“As the industry continues to grow at an accelerated pace, some key takeaways from this year in esports and gaming include a strong and continued growth in viewership, increased commercialization of the industry, increased acceptance by traditional sports authorities, and larger prize pools for top players,” says Anirudh Pandita, Founder, Loco, adding that simultaneously, with India projected to become the world’s largest gaming market, there is clearly a rising trend in online gaming. “Indian gamers are increasingly looking for immersive mobile gaming experiences. There has also been increased investment in the Indian gaming industry, with investors recognising the potential of the market.”
Aditya Pandit, Associate Director- Media, Carat India firmly believes that penetration is on an upward trend and that engagement is at scale: “There are about a million pro esports players in the country and that number is still growing, not to forget 20% of them are women. About 52% of the gamers agreed that they played once a week at least and 32% said they played daily (Source: Dentsu Gaming Report- For the Game). The frequency of gaming matters, and immersion is growing. Gamers today are a community among themselves and they co-exist with the larger society.”
Ayush Wadhwa, Founder of Owled Media notes that gaming, on a macro level, is bigger than Hollywood and the music industry combined. “It was only a matter of time before that kind of impact would seep into the masses, considering how powerful budget phones are getting,” he says. Piyush Kumar, Co-founder and CEO, Rooter, believes that 2022 was perhaps one of the biggest years so far for the Indian esports and gaming industry, with publishers, streaming platforms, esports organizers, and teams coming together to create a very healthy ecosystem.
“For one, the increasing receptivity to esports has made it a mainstream source of entertainment. Inclusion of esports in Commonwealth Games and India winning a medal has definitely added to the audience interest. With more professional teams training to compete and win in global tournaments, 2023 may well be a breakout year for esports. At the grassroots levels as well, early signs of the growth of esports are visible, with many schools and colleges adopting it at competitive levels,” he says.
Rohit Agarwal, Founder & Director, Alpha Zegus, a marketing agency specializing in the domains of gaming and lifestyle, observes that the content was, is, and shall remain king. “Creator economy has boomed multifold, with well over 5000 more creators taking on gaming as a content option. This has created many more brand collaborations, monetization tools, streaming opportunities, and more,” he says, adding, “Also, we have seen a great rise in physical/on-ground events, which is getting fans, players, content creators & brands at scale to finally interact with each other on a more personal basis. So far we have already seen over 15 big-scale events. Lastly, in 2022, we have seen more Web3 brands take interest in the space and create a whole new form of gaming.”
Wadhwa adds, “There’s also a really interesting uptick in the number of in-app purchases. People are more open to purchasing digital goods than ever, and this will only grow. We can see a similar uptick in startups that are enabling a better digital goods purchasing ecosystem.”
Alin Choubey, Business Head North- FoxyMoron, Zoo Media, points out that gaming is not restricted to a particular group of people anymore. “May it be a 50-year-old stuck on Candy Crush level 77 or a 17-year-old old winning the season on Free Fire, there is a game for everyone. Gaming has shifted from being a solitary play to a spectator sport. With cheaper internet, better devices, and faster adaptability of technology the sport has reached places never imagined.”
With India being the second largest market of gaming and esports, experts say we will see more India-centric strategies from global software and hardware developers. The Indian advertising industry is already seeing a lot of brand integration, collaboration, and campaigns catering to this large audience. And the games have only just begun.