There’s a new force in the esports world and it wants to challenge China: India
Several Asian countries are esports-superpowers already – First and foremost, South Korea, but also Japan, China, even Taipei and Indonesia produce some extremely skilled players. Now there might be a new kid on the block – India. One of the most densely populated countries in the world, large parts of the Indian population live in extreme poverty and without access to basic amenities like clean water or toilets.
As is often the case with poorer countries, there is a rift between the extremely poor and the wealthy. As such, the middle class in India is a section of the country’s population that often goes overlooked. This applies to all sorts of areas…and most recently, esports as well.
The Indian middle-class is catching up to the West in terms of owning smart devices and having access to high-quality and high-performance technology. While it seems pretty standard that just about anyone over the age of five owns some kind of smart device in the west, this is far from true in countries like India.
This is changing, and rather rapidly at that. While India has had an esports community for a while, lack of access and affordability stopped most people from participating. While this is still sadly true for most, things are changing.
An example of this is the Arknemesis cafe. Last year, it opened in Chennai. Spanning a spectacular 6.500 sq ft, it quickly became the talking point of the Indian esports community. The cafe featured state of the art equipment, sleek surroundings and before long, the owner of the cafe even created India’s first fully sponsored Overwatch team.
Harish Suri is his name, and he made esports history with this giant cafe. He is, however, not the only one that has been making waves. Companies like AFK Gaming, Nodwin Gaming and Nazara Technologies have been jumping the newest bandwagon as well.
Currently a burgeoning industry in India, it is the ideal opportunity for investors to step in early and help the country in its speedy rise to glory. Still, it seems like a long shot to compare India to China, doesn’t it?
Well, no. While yes, China’s current esports revenue is higher than that of India, this may not stay that way for much longer. At the moment, China’s revenue is 1.4 billion USD. In comparison, India’s is ‘only’ 800 million USD. Projections see that change very quickly. The Indian revenue is expected to quintuple by 2021. In other words – it is expected to increase five-fold.
This includes things like media rights, advertising, sponsorships and merch as well as publisher fees, but it is nevertheless a staggering increase, especially given how new esports are in India. Riad Chikhani, CEO of India’s leading esports company GAMURS has his own views on catching up with China:
“China is a unique circumstance in esports. Although India’s esports scene is growing at a rapid pace, China is already a hub for some of the largest companies involved in the entire industry. Conglomerates like Tencent have been investing heavily into esports for the past five years, and have helped create and maintain several large-scale leagues and organisational bodies to manage them,” he explained, further adding:
“China’s gaming industry is already the largest in terms of revenue in the entire world, so competing with China in the future will be hard. India will need to realise rapid growth while China’s stagnates to become neck-in-neck.”
This possibility doesn’t seem all that far-fetched. At the moment, Indian as well as international companies are investing, and investing big. Even Chinese giant Alibaba is investing in the Indian gaming market, and that is in addition to the 100 million USD the company made into Chinese esports alone.
China is the second largest esports market going by revenue alone, following the US who is the market leader. The fact that India is already close to competing with China is remarkable – while there aren’t too many notable esports players and teams at the moment, that is likely to change soon, as a direct consequence of the explosive growth the sector has experienced.
It’s not all sunshine and roses yet though – in no small part because of its rapid growth, the esports sector in India isn’t yet quite stable. This has much to do because of the lack of available infrastructure. There is also not much support from the country itself – government grants and support leave much to be desired.
This is especially true for support for esports athletes. Grass-roots-support is essentially non-existent and the few professional athletes the country already has often lack substantial funding and sponsor-backing, making it difficult (though not impossible) for them to compete with other teams that have more in the way of resources.
Whether this will change in the future remains to be seen, however the odds are in India’s favour – after all, the first step is more than taken, and all-Indian teams already exist – China better be ready, because India is primed and ready to really upset the esports world!