An explosion in popularity – esports in India

Along with having the fastest increasing population in the world, India is also a rising force in the world of esports. Generally speaking, Asia has seen a massive increase in both public interest and funding from various different sources, leading to an overall explosion of esports there.

India is no exception to this trend – helped by the popularization of broadband connections and a huge population below the age of 30, esports are practically a shoe in! That is despite the fact that things have not always been going smoothly – along with a number of legal and regulatory issues, existing esports events haven’t always gone as expected either.

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©Team Brutality

Like other countries, including places like Japan and China, India has struggled with laws concerning gambling, cheating and even the recognition of esports players as athletes. While some Indian players are doing incredibly well on an international stage – in fact, a player just won a Bronze medal in hearthstone at the Asian Games 2018 – the country itself still struggles.

On the other hand though, esports players face several challenges that India does not yet have a solution for, including the prevalence of cheating. Now, naturally cheating happens elsewhere as much as it does in India, but while many places already have strategies in place to keep it to an absolute minimum, an Indian CS:GO pro was recently found to be using an aimbot in a LAN-match.

That, of course, gives a very bad impression, and in a market as new and volatile as esports still are, it can spook potential investors and have ramifications for more than just the offending player. In this case, he received a 2 year competitive ban that was then reduced to just six months… after 8 months, he was caught cheating again. In traditional sports, punishment would have been more severe, and a lot more tightly regulated, which would, overall, increase the credibility of Indian esports.

In his second round of punishment, the player received a 5 year ban from all competitive esports events that are members of ESIC (the Indian esports regulation authority). It’s not just cheaters that are an issue though – match-fixing, that is to say intentionally throwing a match in order to maximise a certain bookkeeper’s earnings – is also an issue.

While countries like the UK strictly control who can bet where and on what website, there is no such law in India, meaning just about anyone can bet just about everywhere, with no protection. Events themselves have also had a rough going – ESL One Mumbai was, to date, one of the biggest esports events every held in the country, and it had five teams dropping out last minute, requiring them to change the format of the Dota 2 competition. Days later, an airline cancelled all international flights, stranding players away from the competition.

Despite this, fans and players in the country are boldly pushing ahead and issues are being addressed – just not always as quickly as would be prudent. Because of this, India’s esports likely have a somewhat troubled future ahead, but given the sheer volume of fans and players, esports will undoubtedly come out on top, and we’ll be seeing more Indian talent on international stages soon!

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