It’s been a busy year for Indian esports and one that has been packed with big arrivals, big announcements, and industry-changing policies. 2019 laid some solid groundwork to establish India as one of the newest emerging esports markets, built on the back of the popularity of mobile titles. But few were prepared for what was to come in 2020. The pandemic affected everyone including the esports industry, putting an end to LANs globally for a period of over six months. In the long term, the pandemic is expected to change the way in which many industries operate and we are yet to fully understand the effects on society, the economy, and people’s lifestyles.
Sidharth Kedia, the CEO of India’s largest tournament organizer, NODWIN Gaming (an investor in AFK Gaming), explains how his company had to switch things up in light of the new normal. “The biggest challenge for the company was, of course, facing the lockdown and shifting the work online. Every team devised a set of drills to be done every day while working from home so that every single person was aligned with the day’s work. This helped us in monitoring workload, distributing manpower, and maintaining hygiene in all of the tournaments we did during the lockdown, and we carried that habit going forward as well. Even though there were no LAN events in 2020, a mammoth number of online tournaments took their place and since every tournament is 70% online anyways, going fully online was a walk in the park. But working from home was definitely a challenge for everyone.”
Another really important moment for the Indian esports landscape was the blocking of PUBG Mobile - the region’s biggest esport title which accounted for nearly 40% of the prize pool paid out by various tournament organizers (TO) in 2019. With Tencent applying a more structured approach with increased prize money to their esports ecosystem, India was set to receive a big boost in terms of a payout. However, the Indian government’s decision to block the title following a period of increased crackdowns on Chinese products and companies operating in the region is no doubt the biggest story from Indian esports in the year.
With publishers, investors, organizations and tournament organizers having put in the money and human resources to try and become the next big name in the region, the ban was a big blow as the Indian esport ecosystem was largely centered around the title. The suddenness of the ban caught many unprepared, with organizations shutting shop and TOs losing big contracts in a short span. While the game’s potential return has remained on the cards, PUBG Mobile eventually decided to go ahead with its 2020 season without Indian teams.
But how has the pandemic and the ban affected prize pools in the region? What were the emerging trends of 2020 and what do the industry stakeholders make of the year? We look to answer some of these questions as we analyze what the past year looked like for esports in India.
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