Namah Chawla

Here’s why Loco's founder Ashwin Suresh feels gaming will offer better value to marketers than short video apps

FICCI-EY M&E report 2022 predicts that the online gaming segment will reach Rs 153 billion by 2024, to become the fourth-largest segment of the Indian M&E sector.

India’s homegrown online games streaming platform, Loco is almost similar to YouTube. Except that Loco is just focussed on gaming. It is a platform for two types of people. Those who want to create content around live streaming, competitive e-sports, casual gaming or commentary, and then those who consume this type of content.

Ashwin Suresh, founder of Loco, spoke to afaqs! on what has worked well for his platform, the need for central rules, the categories that are bullish on gaming, and more.

Edited excerpts:

As per a recent media report, the number of e-sports players doubled from three lakh in 2020 to six lakh in 2021. What has worked well for Loco?

In 2018 and 2019, people got access to faster and cheaper Internet and better hardware. This led gaming to take off and create a cultural revolution. During the COVID pandemic, when people were indoors, they had even more time and the engagement levels just shot through the roof. That’s when our execution came into place. We seized that opportunity and built a user-friendly product.

We were quick enough to spot key stakeholders of the industry and partner with them. We also invested in on-ground teams, streamers and tournament organisers, and spent a lot of time building these relationships and helping them grow.

How can marketers add gaming to their media mix? What kind of brands target audiences on your platform?

Earlier, only endemic brands like headphone manufacturers and gaming-related electronic companies, added gaming to their marketing mix. Today, as gaming has become quite popular, many other brands that may not share any synergy with gaming, are also looking at it as a part of their marketing campaigns. Brands like Gillette, Chupa Chups and Swiggy have all done campaigns on Loco.

"The platforms that will struggle to monetise, will be short video apps because their audience is very generic and there is no real USP."

In future, we may see gaming platforms attract larger ad spends than general entertainment destinations. The platforms that will struggle to monetise, will be short video apps because their audience is very generic and there is no real USP. Gaming attracts an intent-driven audience that comes to the platform to watch a certain type of content.

Recently, Rajasthan’s draft bill was released to legislate online gaming. In the past, there have been many state regulations that specify different rules for e-sports and online gaming platforms. Is there a need to have central regulations for e-sports and online gaming?

Online gaming can be a very confusing term, as people sometimes use it to describe real money gaming, betting platforms or e-sports. Loco serves the world of video games, be it professional or casual. These games are published by those who market and regulate them.

There is no need to regulate these games at this point, because it is too small an ecosystem to be regulated. We need to let it grow freely before any kind of regulations are imposed. However, there is a different point of view around real money and fantasy gaming.

"There is no need to regulate these games at this point, because it is too small an ecosystem to be regulated."

As a platform, we try to promote responsible gaming. Players should take frequent breaks and engage in other activities, because there is an assumption that e-sports athletes need not be fit. But the reality is that to compete well in e-sports, the mind as well as the body of the player, also needs to be fit.

What role do regional languages play in e-sports and gaming content?

The gameplay happens in a neutral language. But when a user is playing with multiple players, then they tend to play with those they can communicate easily. So, there ends up being different teams and clans from regional communities. But, as a platform, we let our users communicate in the language they want to.

There is a perception that e-sports or online gaming is inferior to outdoor sports. Is this a concern for the growth of your platform?

Outdoor games and online gaming are not mutually exclusive. I endorse the perception that outdoor games are necessary. However, that doesn’t mean that a person can’t play online games. From a career perspective, e-sports offers a unique advantage. There are many more jobs available in e-sports than any outdoor sport.

It is an inexpensive sport to practice (apart from the hardware requirement). A player doesn’t need (physical) real estate. Forming a team isn’t very difficult and there are immense revenue opportunities too.

Have news to share? Write to us