Indian Esports Stakeholders Reflect on Lessons Learned in 2022 and Outline Plans for 2023
2022 was one of the biggest years for Indian esports but 2023 might reach even bigger heights. India-based streaming platform Loco estimates that the country now has over 400 Million gamers of which 100 Million are actively playing FPS titles. The entire esports community saw massive brand partnerships, the inclusion of esports in multi-sports events, 5G’s entry into the Indian market, and more. 2023 could be one of the biggest years the Indian esports community has ever seen and here’s what stakeholders have to say about it.
Animesh Agarwal - Founder and CEO, 8bit Creatives
Animesh ‘8bit Thug’ Agarwal confers 2022 as a milestone year for the esports industry. 5G has penetrated the market and once it is fully implemented, it will bring better internet connectivity to the masses. The return of on-site events was also a major highlight of the year according to Agarwal.
He said, “This year, we also watched the rise of the metaverse, which has been a prominent topic of conversation even while receiving conflicting reviews. Whether or not it has a significant impact on the Indian gaming sector remains to be seen, but as far as trends are concerned, it has unquestionably garnered attention from the community and companies alike. Assuming these tendencies continue to gain traction, I believe the Esports industry will reap significant benefits. Obviously, one of the most popular games in the country, BGMI, was banned during the second half of the year, which was a major setback.”
One thing is for certain, the Indian esports community is not dependent on one game. Whether it is BGMI (Battlegrounds Mobile India) or Valorant or the next big title, esports has penetrated the country and there is no stopping it. Agarwal is very optimistic about 2023 following the inclusion of esports by the International Olympic Committee (IOS) to host the Olympic Esports Week in 2023.
Brands are also more willing to partner with gaming and esports organizations in India. Agarwal revealed, “we have witnessed an increase in large sponsorships from non-endemic brands seeking to capitalize on the Esports industry. In order to interact with their key demographic - Gen Z & Millennials, gaming influencers have become their go-to source. Gamers have a target demographic that is very digitally savvy and fiercely loyal. Combining this highly engaged fanbase with their capacity to curate intriguing material and not just conduct brand plugs will make gamers the most sought-after influencers in the coming year.”
Finally, Agarwal also expects play-to-earn games and blockchain games to have an impact on the industry. As the industry continues to grow, he expects more players to delve into these types of games.
Ashwin Suresh, Founder of Loco
The massive growth which the Indian esports industry has seen has resonated with Loco as well, Suresh revealed that Loco reached heights “multiple streams crossing the 100K concurrent mark followed by a record-breaking 100 million views for the BGMI Master Series 2022 with over 258,000 concurrent live views for a single esports broadcast. This event saw higher viewership on Loco than on TV broadcast, marking the highest live sports viewership after cricket in India.”
Like many other industry stakeholders have pointed out in their responses to AFK Gaming, Loco too believes that 5G will revolutionize gaming and esports. Livestreams will become even more accessible with high-speed internet and he expects the Indian esports industry to feature “bigger events, larger prize pools, more advanced technology, and an even stronger audience interest.”
In 2023, Loco intends to enhance interactivity on the platform with new features as well as new monetization methods. The platform wants to deploy AI and machine learning to boost its infrastructure and improve the streaming platform in a way that benefits both the streamers and their audience.
Shiva Nandy, Founder and CEO, Skyesports
Nandy talked about how 2022 was a complicated year for esports. He revealed, “We started the year off on a high with a record-breaking media rights deal with Rooter. The bans on Free Fire and PUBG Mobile definitely derailed our initial plans, however. Being versatile is something we pride ourselves on here at Skyesports so we had to return to the drawing board and plan the year out accordingly. We looked into diversification and also regional expansion as our next areas of focus.”
The biggest learning for Skyesports was diversification and the tournament organizer is looking forward to expanding its CS:GO, Dota 2 and Pokemon UNITE portfolio. The company wants to bring back the love for Dota 2 and CS:GO in the country in 2023 by developing the tournament scene from the grassroots level.
Skyesports is also looking to expand to Southeast Asia with its local partners at Ampverse. A massive PUBG Mobile tournament is coming soon and there are games that the brand wants to expand to.
Dr Rushindra Sinha, Founder and CEO of Global Esports
Sinha feels that 2022 was one of the most important years for not just GE but Indian esports as a whole. He stated, "We saw the unfortunate ban on BGMI and Free Fire but also saw the absolute stellar growth of Valorant and PC esports as a whole. We have the entire community, Riot Games, our players, team, management, interns and everyone that helped Global Esports become one of the 30 teams from the hundreds that applied to the Valorant Partnership Program making us the only representation from South Asia at the Pacific League with our teams global debut happening at São Paulo, Brazil in Feb 2023 at the VCT Lock In event."
From esports stars reaching new heights to some of the biggest events in Indian esports historytaking place, 2022 had it all according to Sinha. In 2023, Global Esports is going to "break all records and raise that bar to a level very few thought possible and we’ll ensure that India is at the forefront of it with GE leading that charge and focusing on the region which will be home to the next billion gamers" according to Sinha."
Global Esports will kick things off next year with multiple roster announcements and content creator partnerships. The team will also participate in Valorant's franchised league throughout the 2023 season.
Rohit N Jagasia, Founder and CEO of Revenant Esports
Jagasia feels that 2022 was one of the biggest but most surprising years in Indian esports history. He shared his thoughts on how “the most loved game in India (BGMI) received a prime time slot on Star Sports. Seeing it get temporarily suspended took the entire esports industry by a surprise. In 2022, we have also seen titles like Valorant, Pokémon Unite, New State getting attention, and organizations in India have started following a more holistic approach towards esports & gaming.”
He feels that 2023 is going to be a good year for esports with the Pokémon Unite Asia Championship followed by a potential World Championship again. This shall also be supplemented by Brawl Stars seeing a solid esports plan for the year and it shall pan out well considering both the titles are non-violent games. Valorant Challengers League 2023 will also be a big IP in 2023 along with the CS:GO IP by Sky Esports which is still under wraps. He concluded, “I think 2023 will be exceptional for India with the diversification and growth we have seen in India this year.”
Manoj Kashyap, Owner of Velocity Gaming
Kashyap said that the most impactful moment of 2022 for his organization was Velocity Gaming's Valorant team winning VCT South Asia which set the tone for the rest of the year. However, things did not go as planned. He revealed, "the road after was tough for me personally and the team as well as we tried many things to achieve our results but ended up falling short on many occasions. We have managed to stabilize now, though, after all the trials."
In 2023, Velocity Gaming will focus on more opportunities in esports and also in content creation. Kashyap revealed, "We are also exploring a lot of other opportunities in esports, which I can’t reveal right now, but our main focus is on the VALORANT Ascension League and winning it and also performing well in the APAC Ascension."
Lokesh Suji, Director, Esports Federation of India & Vice President of the Asian Esports Federation
Suji revealed that the Indian esports industry has surpassed all expectations. He stated, “mainstream media such as television, OTT platforms, and INOX have telecasted and promoted Esports tournaments, consequently contributing to spreading awareness about gaming all around the country. We have witnessed non-endemic brands and popular personalities from numerous industries taking a keen interest to explore the gaming industry and leverage it through collaboration. There has also been a tremendous rise in video gaming influencers and streamers who have been thriving in the industry and become a key medium for brands to enter the industry.”
But the biggest development of the year according to him is the inclusion of esports in multi-esports events by the government. India has performed admirably in the Commonwealth Games and he is looking forward to the players’ participation in Asian Games, Olympic Esports Week, and potentially AIMAG 2025.
He feels that the three biggest drivers of the Indian esports industry are the metaverse, Web 3.0, and 5G. He revealed, “we will also be seeing a lot more physical LAN tournaments in 2023 being conducted on a large scale across various Esports titles. Last but not least we have the Asian Games to look forward to where India is going to compete in five Esports titles for an official medal.”
Rohit Agarwal, Founder & Director, Alpha Zegus
Agarwal talked about how the content creator economy boomed in India this year. He revealed that over 5000 creators took on gaming content as a career option, leading to more brand endorsements, monetization, streaming opportunities, and more. He added, “since COVID is finally out of the picture, we have seen a tremendous rise in physical/on-ground events, which is getting fans, players, content creators & brands to finally engage face-to-face after a big gap. 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.”
He expects more Web3 and metaverse-related innovations to have an impact on the Indian gaming and esports industry. He also expects more tournaments and events in the region next year and the adoption of 5G will propel the industry forward by making mobile gaming even more accessible to the masses.
Jai Shah, Co-Founder, Orangutan Gaming
It was Orangutan Gaming’s first year in the industry. Shah revealed that “the year had a lot of ups and downs not just for us but the industry as a whole. Two of the major games we played competitively throughout the year were banned, which resulted in significant setbacks for our organization. The timing of the ban came at a very wrong time for the industry as it was just getting recognised by people outside the industry and the country was seeing a positive acceptance towards esports.”
Orangutan was able to overcome the situation by diversifying to other games and has expanded to women’s teams and content creation. Its talent management will grow next year and he is positive about Indian esports’ growth in 2023. Orangutan is positive about the recognition that esports has received from the Indian government. Shah feels “it is one of the biggest wins for the industry.”
In 2023 Orangutan plans to expand even further. Shah revealed, “we are launching some interesting campaigns to assist ‘Too Yumm’ to get into the esports market. Along with this, we also introduced our Talent Management vertical, which we intend to develop further in the upcoming year.”
Anuj Tandon, Chief Executive Officer - Gaming Division, JetSynthesys
Tandon talked about how the Indian esports industry grew this year and despite the setbacks it was a “stellar’ year for the industry. He said, “with the world witnessing the first Commonwealth Esports Championship, esports becoming a medal sport at the Asian games, the Olympic committee announcing the esports week in the upcoming year, mainstream media streaming esports events, among other highlights, has given the sector much-needed respect and a shot in the arm. 2022 not only encouraged people to start playing and participating in esports tournaments but also brought in additional revenue streams via viewers of the sport.”
He feels that 2023 will be the year of resilience for the esports industry. Stakeholders are willing to dip their toes into more esports titles and JetSynthesys expects the community and the stakeholders to work together with the market and large companies for growth opportunities moving forward.