eSports was first conducted in 1972 as a means of the tournament with the help of Artificial Intelligence. With steady growth, eSports is building its prominence in the gaming community of India. The current global pandemic has catalyzed the surge of attention and popularity for eSports. eSports involves better engagement and longer durations of participation in the gaming industry. Cricket is the most popular sport in India, with the contribution of media attention, competitive and entertaining tournaments, a large loyal fan base, and numerous sponsorship opportunities. On the other hand, although eSports is at a nascent stage, it is growing exponentially, marking a dominant presence in the Indian gaming industry. eSports has become a one billion dollar business globally and certainly has the potential of matching or surpassing the popularity of Cricket in India.
Evolution of eSports in India
The esports ecosystem involves tournament organizers, brand sponsors, players, and streaming platforms. The eSports business in India accounts for 4 percent (approximately) and an aggregate of 9.13 percent under the gaming industry for the year 2020. The period of 2016 to 2018 attracted avid players with a 123.3 percent increase in the prize money pool of eSports. The entrance of globally popularized games in the eSports market of India such as Fortnite, Valorant, Free Fire, and PUBG immensely contributed to the growth of the workforce and revenue. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic triggered the performance of the eSports segment in our country due to the restrictions from outdoor activities. The online gaming industry experienced a major boost, thereby attracting investors on eSports businesses and sponsorships. India has also entered the FIFA series, which will be organized on a global scale in the year 2021. The most popular eSports genres in India include FPS (First Person Shooter), MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena, RTS (Real-Time strategy), card games, sports games, and fighting games. Streaming platforms like Twitch and YouTube have significantly contributed to the promotion of eSports events. The evolution has also marked the introduction of various eSports applications for the easy accessibility of the users such as the Kabaddi Betting App, where users can stream and bet for the matches based on the betting odds. According to KPMG, the audience of eSports tournaments by the year 2025 has been estimated as more than 130 million. The inclusion of eSports in the Asian Games in the form of medal sports will also boost the future scope of the segment.
Brands’ Optimism towards eSports
Numerous brands including Coca-Cola, Mountain Dew, Red Bull, BMW, Mercedes Benz, Paytm, and many more have exhibited their interests in eSports in India with the goal of audience engagement and target marketing. Moreover, Brands can gain insights into the behavioral patterns and preferences of the viewers and gamers of eSports. With the growing market of eSports, brands are investing in the tournaments or online platforms as sponsors or investors for connecting with the huge customer base. eSports games are most likely to offer an evident penetration with the brand messages, especially due to the demographic concentration of the younger population. Brands are also offered the opportunity of repositioning their brand image from an ‘older brand’ to an ‘energetic and youthful’’ image. Another rationale behind brands’ optimism towards eSports can be the potential of high monetization. Along with customer engagement, brands also require conversions, which can be facilitated with the focussed approach at eSports audiences and gamers. The viewers of eSports tournaments spend a dense amount on in-game purchases, merchandise, and buying tickets, which reflects the higher purchasing power of the audience, thereby contributing significantly to the participant brands.
Brand integration strategies
Brands connect with the audiences and players through various strategies including advertising, sponsorships, and franchising. For generating ROI (Return on Investment), brands invest in advertising their offerings in tournament streams or by in-game ads. Sponsoring or collaborating with an eSport event can be another strategy for the brands to reach their target audience directly. On the other hand, franchising can be a long-term approach for generating revenue. An instance for this strategy can be Skyesports, a Chennai-based company that conducted a franchise-based model for a league tournament with the support of a paint company Nippon Paint.