"India was a sleeping giant till COVID, and now we have established ourselves as a market that cannot be ignored. Stakeholders like the brands, investors, authorities etc were just sitting on the fence and observing. But with a market of at least 450 million online gamers, the potential of video games and esports cannot be ignored,” said Lokesh Suji, Director, Esports Federation of India and Vice President of the Asian Esports Federation (AESF).
According to recent EY reports, the online gaming industry was the fourth-largest subsector in media and entertainment in 2020 with a CAGR of 27 percent. Reports also say that the esports market size in India has quickly scaled to Rs 3 billion in FY2021 and the expectation is that it'd reach Rs 11 billion by FY2025. According to the same EY report, the segment is also expected to generate an economic value of around Rs 100 billion between FY2021 and FY2025.
"Brand participation in our own platforms have grown by 40 percent over last year,” said Rajan R. Navani, founder and CEO of digital entertainment and tech firm JetSynthesys.
JetSynthesys, which has a 50 percent founding stake in Nodwin Gaming, also owns 100 percent of cricket simulation games like Real Cricket and Sachin Saga, engaging over 100 million gamers worldwide. JetSynthesys recently acquired Chennai-based Skyesports to form Jet Skyesports Gaming Pvt. Alongside working with ecommerce and FMCG brands they have also onboarded new entrants in 2021 mostly from the technology sector like AMB Technologies and Western Digital.
Players spending more time gaming, higher engagement
“The average time spent on the gaming and esports platforms were close to 40 mins a day last year. The number is almost an hour now. The engagements have gone up and so have viewership of live gaming events. Our Youtube channel Skyesports for instance saw 3X growth in viewership for certain tournaments and this is the kind of reach advertisers catering to millenial and Gen-Z crowd are looking for,” Navani added.
Similar audience profiles are another reason why brands are looking at the segment, Navani said.
Gaurav Agarwal, founder of Gamezop, a plug-and-play game center that apps and websites can use to bring casual gaming to their users explains why advertising in the segment makes sense for brands and marketers.
“Gaming amounts to interactive engagement and commands higher attention from the users. But that’s not the only reason why brands and agencies are growing focus on gaming. Casual gamers are the most diverse group on the internet, allowing for the highest degree of granular targeting,” he said.
According to Agarwal, within the broad gaming universe, brands can utilise inventory on banners, interstitials, videos (pre-rolls, mid-rolls, and rewarded), native units (such as in-game billboards or jerseys), or even sponsor an esports team that has millions of followers.
Agarwal’s Gamezop has also worked with a host of popular brands such as Amazon, Sony LIV, Paytm, Samsung Internet, Goibibo, and Airtel Thanks.
Interestingly, dentsu also recently launched dentsu gaming this year, a solution to dedicatedly support brands looking to advertise to 3 billion gamers worldwide.
The move clearly indicates the interest marketers are taking in the segment.
Gamers and brands want variety
Tarun Gupta, founder at esports platform Ultimate Battle said they have witnessed an increase of 31 percent in new user engagement in 2021. Similarly, Sunil Yadav, CEO, at fantasy cricket platform PlayerzPot told Storyboard18 that variety in content is also one of the reasons driving growth in the segment.
“Players are also open to exploring gaming content trends like short video, live streaming, new genres of gaming, GENZ-focused games, etc and this has pushed the envelope,” he said. Riding on this trend, PlayerzPot is expecting to reach 10M users by the end of FY 2021-22.
With the growth in top lines, the platforms are also attracting international brands and investments, venture capital and IPOs are opening up for this sector. There are now specific funds being launched for this sector. The likes of Eximius Ventures and Kalaari Capital are all adding gaming to their portfolio.
As for international brands, Thailand-based esports company Ampverse recently entered the Indian market by acquiring 7Sea Esports.
Charlie Baillie CSO and Co-Founder of Ampverse said they are planning a multi-million-dollar investment into India to enable the growth of the industry and establish a solid foundation.
“India has one of the biggest economies in the world and also a huge untapped market for gaming. Our mission is to accelerate the future of the esports industry and that’s what we’re planning to do with our Indian team 7Sea. With India expected to have over 900 million active internet users by 2025, a huge chunk of those users will turn into mobile gamers and that’s what organizations are betting on,” Baillie said.
Playing the long-game: Finding and nurturing talent and new users
Association with brands is also helping promote talent and healthy competition in the sector.
Pranav Panpalia, founder, OpraahFx and OP Gaming that manages close to 30 gamers says there is no dearth of talent management companies in the segment but still there isn’t any struggle to onboard new clients. “There are talent management firms for the sector that handles gamers based on followings, games, platforms, wins etc and there are so many of them in each category there is no cut-throat competition amid agencies,” Panpalia said.
Similarly, Abhishek Aggarwal, co-Founder and CEO at gaming talent management company Trinity Gaming, said that supporting talents and enabling them to monetize has become easier while associating brands like Truke, CellBell, Coca-Cola and others.
“With the help of brands, we aim to bring more diverse talents under the Trinity Gaming banner. We are constantly doing R&D and identifying talents, even penetrating the Tier II and Tier III markets for vernacular content,” Agarwal said.
For brands the focus is not just on gaming but also taking gaming and esports to native language markets which is the new big source for millennial and Gen-Z customers.