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The coming-of-age of e-gaming ecosystem in India

The coming-of-age of e-gaming ecosystem in India

South Korean video games giant Krafton's Battle Ground Mobile India, earlier called PUBG, has garnered 40 million downloads within 3 months of its launch

The theme of the panel discussion was "King Kong: The multibillion-dollar world of gaming. And why India is still playing catch-up" (Photo: Chandradeep Kumar) The theme of the panel discussion was "King Kong: The multibillion-dollar world of gaming. And why India is still playing catch-up" (Photo: Chandradeep Kumar)

South Korean video games giant Krafton's Battle Ground Mobile India (BGMI), a multi-player mobile game, which was earlier known as PUBG, has garnered 40 million downloads in India and 60 million Daily Active users (DAUs) within three months of its release in India, Aneesh Aravind, Head of publishing, India, Krafton informed a panel at the 19th edition of the India Today Conclave on Friday. The theme of the panel discussion was "King Kong: The multibillion-dollar world of gaming. And why India is still playing catch-up"

The panel was deliberating on the coming-of age of e-gaming industry in India at a time when globally the sector is twice the size of the box office and record label industries combined. Aravind said that BGMI game -- which was known as PUBG in its earlier avatar -- has fostered new relationships among the gamers, thereby, creating a whole new e-gaming ecosystem in India.  Krafton had decided to publish BGMI in July this year, with the pre-registrations for Android users beginning in May.

PUBG, which had become a household name several years back, had topped the download charts in India, with the country becoming the top overseas market for the app outside China. It accounted for 28.8% of the total 644 million downloads, as of September last year, according to data from the app research firm, Sensor Tower. It was then banned by the Indian government in September 2020, along with other Chinese apps over data privacy issues. The free-to-play game also brought many content creators and streamers to limelight, who later pivoted towards e-gaming as a career.

One such name is Naman Mathur, an e-sports athlete nicknamed as 'Mortal' in the industry, who initially played PUBG and soon transitioned to a full-time player. Mathur, who has over 6 million YouTube subscribers, on being asked if e-sports can be taken as a career, said that it depends on the inclination and the discipline an aspirant is able to maintain. "When it comes to money making, it depends on the size of tournament e-gamers play. For someone, who plays a tournament worth $30,000, a player can make Rs 3 lakh upwards," Mathur, who was also the first Indian mobile gamer to lift a trophy in an e-sports championship, said.

While e-gaming is usually perceived to be heavy duty which involves usage of pricey consoles or gaming computers, a lot of innovation is happening in Indian markets to make the sector appealing to the masses. Anish Kapoor, CEO, Infinix Mobiles India told the panel at the India Today Conclave that his company is aiming to manufacture budget gaming mobile phones in India with a price range between Rs 8,000-Rs 20,000.

"We have seen 200 million users downloading mobile games since the pandemic onset in India and now the focus of the industry should be to introduce affordable gaming phones with specs like bigger battery, fast charging for a smooth gaming experience. With the introduction of 5G technology, the e-gaming is going to be the future, especially on mobiles which contributes to 45 per cent of the overall e-gamers," Kapoor said.

Vishwalok Nath, Business Head, Gaming and E-sports, India Today Group, said that the country's first e-gaming franchise tournament, e-sports Premier league (ESPL) has already received traction and has onboarded the first team -- Hyderabad Hydras.  

"The takeaway is that e-gaming is now considered a serious sport especially with the Olympics and Asian Games Federation committees contemplating incorporation of online games in the tournaments as medal events and which could further open the opportunities to invest in the sector and attract a large number of players. We have seen the viewership of ESPL also increase ever since its launch in 2019 to 1 million this year," Nath pointed out.

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