Esports In India - 2016

Nishant Patel

9th, Sep, 2016
Ten years ago, if someone told you that professional competitive gaming in India would pay lakhs of Rupees in prize pools every year you’d probably point them in the direction of the nearest psychiatric clinic. However as the world’s idea of entertainment has evolved over the years so too has the global eSports landscape. While India might be late to the party, growth has been steady and the potential to springboard off an inflection point still looms large.

Through this article, I aim to break down how 2016 is shaping up to be for Indian pro gaming while providing opinions and suggestions on what’s going on and what we should be doing next. Discussion points include prize pools, participation, stream viewership, teams and some of your questions that were posted to me on my Facebook page.

Please note, this article focuses solely on Dota 2 and Counter Strike Global Offensive which in my opinion (and I’m fairly certain you will agree) are the two most popular competitive gaming titles in India. As such, any data and / or references made in this article are relevant ONLY to these two game titles.

THIS IS NOT AN UNBIASED / UNOPINIONATED RESEARCH REPORT. This is my personal opinion on Indian eSports with data compiled from AFK Gaming’s website. You are free to agree / disagree with me but if you do have a different point of view, I’d love to hear about it. Feel free to use the comments section or even the forum if you need more words to get your point across.

Methodology : Announced tournaments with a fixed cash prize pool have been included. Value of goodies etc. paid as prizes has been excluded. Data includes all publicly announced tournaments for the year 2016. This includes complete as well as on-going tournaments. 1 USD = 66.53 INR at the time of writing this.

Assuming all of the announced tournaments pay up, the total amount of prize money to be won in Indian eSports in 2016 is INR 76,95,000 / USD 115,674.

52% of this (INR 40,25,000 / USD 60,505) comes from Dota 2 tournaments while the remaining 48% (INR 36,70,000 / USD 55,168) is courtesy CS:GO.

A whopping 69.66% (INR 53,60,000 / USD 80,695) of all prize money paid in 2016 will have come from events organized by NODWIN Gaming – the organization behind events such as the ESL India Premiership, the Dew Arena tournament and SuperNova.
Participation in these tournaments has grown hand in hand with prize pool. Most tournament structures reward upto eight winning teams. This has served as ample encouragement for Indian eSports teams as the average registrations per tournament has exceeded 100 participants (500 gamers). Dota 2 participation is slightly higher than CS:GO presumably because the former is free to play and because of cultural differences between both audiences (more on this in the next section).
Streams and Viewership

There is an absolute dearth of professional Indian streamers and commentators. The reasons for this are many.
While Twitch is undoubtedly the platform of choice for the gamers and eSports enthusiasts all over the world, it is a widely known fact that Indian ISPs don’t route too well to their servers.

A snapshot of my routing to Twitch's ingest servers from Mumbai

This makes watching Twitch streams from India quite a volatile affair. Couple this with the fact that most high speed bandwidth providers cap the upload speed for residential consumers and the aforementioned nightmare gets amplified multi-fold! 2 to 4 mbps upload speeds are a dream if you don’t live in a tier 1 city. Considering that pan India Reliance Jio Fiber Internet (FTTH) is still atleast a year away, the only reliable alternatives for aspiring streamers is to purchase a 1:1 leased line – an extremely unrealistic expectation from your average everyday consumer.

YouTube on the other hand performs much better than one would expect and if you somehow manage to find the required upload speed / bandwidth to stream, you will almost certainly never have a problem streaming to YouTube from India. According to, 9.4% of YouTube’s visitors are from India – second only to visitors from the USA (14.7%). Perhaps therein lays an opportunity for Indian gamers and electronic sports enthusiasts to build a sizeable livestream / video content viewerbase.

Technology and internet infra aside, aspiring Indian streamers have a real attitude problem. Most of today’s streamers and casters with the exception of a few noteworthy ones spend more time giving interviews and gas about being professional streamers than actually getting down to it! To make matters worse, their primary motive is that of earning money while playing video games which seems like a terrible reason to start streaming or shoutcasting in the first place. You get paid to be a streamer / caster because you are good at it. You do NOT get paid to become good at streaming / casting.

Competitive Gaming Viewership – Dota 2 vs CS GO
Viewership for Indian Dota 2 has dropped drastically to the point where it is straight up non-existent for matches between lesser known teams. Let’s face it; we’re all tired of watching two Indian teams slaughter each other in a subpar skill slugfest. The only times when this gets remotely interesting is when it’s a match between the top two teams of Indian Dota for a chance to go represent the country OR when an Indian team is facing off against a mid to high tier international one. An Indian Dota 2 stream would be lucky to garner even a 100 viewers for an all desi match up.

Viewership for Indian Counter Strike however has been looking rock solid. I believe this boils down to the fact that the Indian CSGO community is a lot more mature and closely knit than that of Indian Dota. Reactions to news, updates, announcement and dare I say even drama are a lot more passionate by the Indian CS:GO community. It’s not uncommon to see over 200 spectators tuning in for an India vs India showmatch featuring the top two teams. Sadly, unlike Dota 2, our CS GO teams are far behind the skill curve when pitted against the rest of Asia and as such, opportunities to be featured on the livestream for an international game are few and far apart. Perhaps Team Invictus’ participation at the Zowie Extremesland Main Event in Shanghai this month will change that.
To summarize my rant on Streams and Viewership :
  • Twitch is potato in India. YouTube performs well. Either Twitch fixes Indian infra issues or streamers targeting the Indian audience will consider switching over to YouTube
  • Indian streamers have a major attitude problem that leaves them craving the limelight and money instead of working on their craft
  • Dota 2 viewership is on the decline. The community is fed up of watching Indian teams slaughter each other and are no longer as supportive of intermediaries’ efforts.
  • CS:GO viewership is on the rise as a relatively more mature, closely knit community does what they can to support indigenous events, teams and streamers

Indian professional gamers possess the raw talent to compete at a global stage. Gaming Infrastructure is no longer a problem for the best players and teams on account of private investors taking them under their wing. Cultural barriers are being lifted on account of increased mainstream media interest coupled with players now earning modest salaries for playing full time.

Roster shuffles and consolidations are commonplace (check out our coverage of the Beyond Infinity + Invisible Wings merger if you haven’t already) and although they leave fans disoriented in the short term, those same fans will jump right back on the band wagon if any these new teams perform well internationally. 

While total prize pools are fairly large, winning Indian Dota2 tournaments alone is not very lucrative for team owners. Most tournaments award prizes to multiple winners – usually the top eight teams, in order to encourage larger participation across the country. Some tournaments have caps on how much a single team could win owing to a structure that consists of multiple online eliminations, each with its own prize pool that culminate into a LAN finale.

The maximum amount of money that any single Indian Dota2 team could win in 2016 is INR 17,20,000 / USD 25,855. The maximum amount that a single Indian Dota2 player could win this year is INR 3,44,000 / USD 5,171.

The maximum amount of money that any single Indian CS:GO team could win in 2016 is INR 16,35,000 / USD 24,577. The maximum amount that a single Indian CS:GO player could win this year is INR 3,27,000 / USD 4,915.

The above calculation for player winnings does not account for taxes or share of prize pool retained by the team’s organization.

Despite the existence of a sizeable chunk of money to be won in India, it is not nearly enough money to run a sustainable Indian professional gaming house. Teams have to find additional ways to monetize – either by building their brand value and monetizing via sponsors OR by improving their performance and earning from the massive global eSports prize pot that’s only getting larger every year! 

Earlier in February when Team Elunes’ parted ways with its Dota2 squad, I mentioned a chicken and egg scenario that could be broken either via Sponsors or Investors. It looks like our squads have chosen the latter route and we are now at a point where the entire Indian professional teams' eco system could soar spectacularly or crumble horribly depending on the performance of Entity Esports’ Dota2 and CS GO squads over the next year. Needless to say I’ll be rooting for them to do well at the international stage. Simultaneously, I’ll be rooting for the hundreds of other aspiring pro teams that sign up for every large tournament. I’m sure they’re all pouring their hearts and souls into this game and they deserve your support and appreciation.
Community Questions
It came as a pleasant surprise that a few of you had some inputs and questions on your mind when I announced I'd be working on this article. I've done my best to give you guys an answer however if you aren't satisfied with the response, feel free to follow up. I'm reachable on forumsfacebooktwitter etc.

Vignesh Raghuram – Growth in viewership relative to past years?

Thanks for being active in the community Vignesh! I’ve touched upon the trends of Dota2 and CS:GO viewership in the above ‘Streams and Viewership’ section. Indian Dota2 viewership has been on a steady decline because everyone is fed up of watching the same players under different names slaughtering each other for relatively small (when compared to the world) prize pools. Indian CS:GO  viewership has been on the rise because of a mature and more closely knit community that’s committed to growing their game and their scene.
David H Singson – “The support which it has managed to get or lacks, the positive achievements made over the past few months and how we can actually grow the scene (not through the number of ‘likes’ on dota meme pages.)You should sign it off with some things which you feel can help the community in a more sturdy way” 

Let me start by saying you’re a total boss because I see you around in most Indian eSports discussions. It’s important that community members such as yourself speak up when you see something you like or dislike in the scene. Every like, comment, share, tweet, retweet and favourite that one person makes allows content to be viewed by many more in your immediate circle. Things that every single person can and should do to take things forward:
  • Have an opinion and be vocal about it online
  • Support the top Indian eSports teams. Support the upcoming Indian eSports teams as much!
  • Start and / or be a part of discussions about the scene
  • Volunteer to help create content, admin events etc. (seriously we could all use folks to help keep the wheels turning)
  • Attend LAN tournaments and tune in for streams – both competitive and casual.
  • Provide constructive feedback on content you consume.
  • Don’t flame teams when they lose tournaments. Encourage them to do better.
Tanmay Nandurdikar – “How the attitude towards eSports has changed – globally vs what’s happening in India. Something I’d definitely be interested in.”

Briefly mentioned cultural barriers being lifted under the ‘teams’ section of this write up. Two really cool things have happened in 2016. One - the mainstream media has used eSports as a ‘niche’ to create some really good content. Two – sponsorships, investments and prize pools in India have grown in frequency and quantity. Both one and two are to a certain extent interconnected and as one improves so too does the other. Fortunately, both help in appeasing the minds of urban, educated parents allowing them to see this as a possible new generation career path. After all, competitive gaming is nothing but a form of entertainment and if our mainstream compatriots in the sports industry get little to no flak about their efforts it’s only a matter of time before we hit the limelight too! As the current generation gets older (and dare I say spawn little gamers of our own) we won’t be as averse to our young ones looking at eSports as more than a hobby. Professionals and personalities like Pyrion Flax and Loda are already daddies so we’re really not that far off haha.
Aman Chandila – “You can write about why there are no strims to watch DansGame”

Your comment is what prompted me to go on the rant under the streams and viewership section so thank you for that! To reinforce my points made above, I’d say it’s a combination of multiple factors including routing to twitch, poor internet infrastructure, streamer mindset and RNG! The ones with the passion to stream don’t have the infra / necessary routing for it. The ones with the infra to stream don’t have the right mindset (ez money / fame). The ones with both the mindset and the infra don’t receive as much viewership (because of the audience’s infra issues) or support (audience mindset) from their fellow community members which is why they prioritize international gigs over Indian ones.

I hope I’ve done justice to this article and to all your questions. If you’ve enjoyed please share this article with your friends. If you have something to add about this feel free to leave a comment or start a thread on the forums! See ya around. 1share=1prayerforharambe


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