How ESports have gained legitimacy, alongside the real action

09th July 2023
How ESports have gained legitimacy, alongside the real action
Virtual games are big business now. Photo Credi: Egamers and Players Welfare Associations

The 3rd India Gaming Conclave  scheduled to take place  on July 12,  2023, at Aloft, AeroCity, Delhi will take stock of India’s gaming industry as the next frontier of entertainment, in the light of developments
in AI, Web3 and 5G.

By Anand Parthasarathy
July 9 2023:  Gaming is more than ‘time pass’. It is now serious business, and what was for many, a hobby, has morphed into a  profitable profession. 
Some 46 countries now recognize ESports  -- a big chunk of gaming – as regular sport, even as  some half a billion e-Sports fans in 150-plus countries are avid watchers on  Facebook, YouTube and other social media channels
According to the FICCI-EY  2023 report on India’s Media and Entertainment Industry, the number of  ESports  players in the country increased from 6 lakhs in 2021 to  10 lakhs in 2022 and is expected to top 25 lakhs this year. Says Lokesh Suji, Director, E-Sports Federation of India and Vice President  Asian e-Sports Federation (AESF): “Winning medals at prestigious events has demonstrated our potential to compete at the highest level and is a testament to the rise of India as a video-gaming powerhouse.”
India sends strong teams to annual world E-Sports events, including a first-ever women’s contingent to the International ESports Federation’s  World ESports Championship in September this year.
Among regional events, one of  the biggest gaming and esports festivals worldwide --  Gamers8: The Land of Heroes – kicked off in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on July 7 and will run till the end of August, with a mind boggling prize pool of $ 45 million( Rs 36,900 crore).  France which is to host the 2024 Olympics is expected to  include E-Sports as a facet of the Games for the first time.
From Tic-tac-toe to mobile phone gaming
Today, July 8, is observed as National Video Game Day in many countries including India. Video games have grown from crude tic-tac-toe  in pre-Personal Computer days, to Pac-Man and Super Mario Brothers on the early games consoles like Sega and Atari.
Three gaming machines – Sony’s PlayStation, Microsoft’s XBox and Nintendo’s Wii – kicked of 21st century gamings. Then the smartphone changed all that around 2007 – and has become the world’s most ubiquitous platform for virtual games.
Purists  discount  casual games like Poker, Teen Patti and Rummy  as not e-Sports, which they define as “a competitive sport where gamers use their physical and mental abilities to compete in certain genres of video games in a virtual, electronic environment.”  E-Sports are Multiplayer Games, where esports athletes compete against one another or form up teams to compete. E-sports events can be online or offline ( i.e. physical) and also embraces  Virtual Reality(VR)  and Augmented Reality (AR) video games.
Fantasy sports
Fantasy Sports, are team-selection contests where users emulate selectors or coaches by choosing a team of real-life players that competes against online teams of other users. Dream 11 or MPL  is a fantasy sports avatar of a real world IPL cricket  tournament.  
This according to an April 2023 study by Deloitte for the  Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS), engages some 300 fantasy sports platforms and has already  contributed Rs 15,000 crore to the Indian economy by way of  foreign direct investment.   Digital payments systems like UPI and the explosion in  fantasy sports in Indian languages, coupled with  the growing number of fantasy sports leagues  have been the key drivers of growth.
Sustainable income
For players too,  gaming has emerged as a viable source of Income.  A study last month by the E-gamers and Players  Welfare Association (EPWA), revealed that for 83 percent of responding players,  e-gaming contributed primary  ( 39%) or secondary  (44%)   income.   This could be by  gaming contracts, sponsorships,  content creation, streaming or coaching. Paid Competitive Gaming is expected to  reach $ 16 billion by 2024.
This explains why new entrants like JioGames are investing heavily in  cloud gaming which gives a near-console experience.  The JioGames Cloud   (in partnership with the UK -based Ubitus) is now available for all customers of  the Jio Set Top Box. 
Cloud gaming and 5G are together expected  to be the future of gaming – a development that dovetails nicely with the recognition by the Indian government, earlier this year, that ESports  was an official sport.
Lumikai, a leading Indian  gaming media venture fund in its latest  ‘State of  India Gaming FY 2022’ report finds that India  now home to  507 million gamers who  do 15 billion downloads – making this country the largest consumer of mobile games in fiscal 2022.
All this  suggests that virtual games – and their subset, ESports --  demands to be taken seriously as a new industry segment with  the potential for innovation and export, not just as a taxation milch cow.
The bulk of its practitioners are what the government  likes to categorise ‘aam aadmi’. All the more reason that  any regulatory framework  doesn’t kill what could end up as a new and sustainable  golden goose.
Additional images for this report can be found here

This article  has appeared in Swarajya