Last week, we brought you news that Great Britain is taking steps to improve esports participation and understanding with the British Esports Championships.
Britain is not alone in these efforts. Now, India is waking up to a vibrant and growing market. A new partnership with MTV could bring esports to the billion-strong Indian audience for the first time. Although many populous countries in Asia — South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Macau, Hong Kong, Singapore, and China — are titans or upstarts in esports, India is lagging behind. With a population of over a billion (and rising), India’s potential for growth in this developing nation is absolutely massive.
So what’s the move?
Kickstarting that growth is precisely what U Sports, a company based in Mumbai, aims to inspire with its U Cypher Championship. Twitter has provided the company with plenty of advertising opportunities for some time using the #HumGamerHain hashtag. A promotional video (produced in association with MTV) garnered over 320,000 views on YouTube, as well as 30,000 additional views on Twitter.
As far as broadcasting, an Indian television channel is set to broadcast the matches live for the first time. MTV India will show all the games via 35 one-hour episodes. Furthermore, Twitch streams all games live, and you can also view videos of past matches on YouTube.
The tournament has already started and is due to finish on Feb. 22.
What is U Sports?
U Sports is famous for owning a professional kabaddi team and for its involvement in motorsports and soccer. Its aim for the U Cypher Championships is to raise the profile of esports gaming throughout India.
The tournament itself features six different esports teams, all based in India. Over the weeks of the competition, they compete against each other across three platforms — PC, console, and mobile. The actual titles include esports staples such as CS:GO and Dota 2, as well as a number of lesser known esports games such as Tekken 7 and Real Cricket 17.
Each team consists of 14 players, who have their own particular strengths across the full range of different esports disciplines. A prize pool of around $80,000 is also up for grabs.
U Sports Assistant Manager of Esports Amar Ratnam says this new tournament could well be the catalyst for sweeping changes across India.
“This would perhaps be a game-changer in the way esports is perceived in our country,” he explained. “For the first time, it is being broadcast on television, which will bring not only scale, but also educate the young generation of aspiring or casual gamers to take up the sport professionally.”
Tapping the untapped population
The scale of potential growth in India is staggering. KPMG conducted a study of the Indian gaming industry back in May and projected 190 million additional gamers and $1 billion in new revenue by 2021. Currently, the national industry generates just a quarter of that amount ($290 million).
It’s also worth note this study shows Indian gamers engage with esports in a different way than the rest of the global community. Traditionally, gamers play via a PC or gaming console. (Think Xbox or PlayStation.) However, in India, the driving force behind esports participation comes from the proliferation of smartphones and tablets. This certainly explains why U Sports included a mobile games category in its U Cypher Championships.
Other social factors allowing for rapid esports growth include rising levels of disposable income and the affordability of gaming devices. India is also undergoing a period of rapid growth and improvement in its internet facilities. The nation aims to reach every part of the country with the web. All these factors combine to allow experts to predict a boom in esports gaming.
Could India compete on a global level?
One factor to consider is whether a boom in Indian gamers will equal success in global esports contests. This is especially pertinent considering the vast majority of Indian gamers play from smaller, mobile devices.
That said, the KPMG found that as gamers gain experience, they tend to move away from mobile devices and toward playing on a larger screen. That usually means a PC or console. If that trend continues, it is likely the established esports games will also see a large influx of talented Indian players in years to come.
Now, the U Cypher Championships are not the first Indian esports event. The Indian Gaming League began in 2016, but a lack of media coverage hampered its progress and appeal. That is something that the U Cypher Championships will hope to avoid.
What is certainly true is that the world of esports is ever-changing. While at the moment, players from Europe, North America, China, Japan, and South Korea tend to dominate, there is every chance that in the future, other emerging countries will start to see players break through into this elite level of gaming.
Editorial credit: Don Mammoser / Shutterstock.com