Girish Menon, chief strategy officer, JetSynthesys, details the crucial events of 2023 that have led to a significant uptick in the relevance of eSports in India.
(This story was originally published on December 28, 2023.)
The year that just went by can be hailed as one of the more remarkable years for the growing industry of eSports and gaming in India. The reinstatement of India’s most popular competitive game Krafton’s Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI) acted as a direct shot of adrenaline in the seemingly declining relevance of competitive gaming in India in the earlier part of the year. Post the reinstatement, multiple stakeholders in the business, the event organisers, the streaming platforms and the broadcasters, and the athletes that partake in these tournaments, have gained substantially in the past year.
In an interaction with afaqs!, Girish Menon, chief strategy officer, JetSynthesys, shares that the viewership for eSports events has undergone remarkable growth and diversification in recent years. He asserts that from an audience of 9 million in FY19, it's projected to reach 85 million by FY25 (~9x Growth) reflecting its broad appeal across diverse demographics including a significant Gen Z population, 41% female gamers, and a large segment from non-metro cities. This expansion is also supported by India's growing digital infrastructure, with 881 million internet users and 821 million smartphone users, enhancing accessibility and engagement.
Menon also highlights that the growing genre of entertainment has made significant inroads into mainstream platforms, evidenced by events attracting millions of views on streaming platforms and channels. “The broadcasting of events in multiple regional languages, and the organisation of grassroots tournaments further amplify its reach and awareness, paving the way for a more inclusive and widely recognized eSports landscape.”
Government recognition and growing brand interest
Another major contributing factor to the surge is the official recognition of esports as a sport by the government. “This acknowledgement has led to an increased interest in the sector for all stakeholders as well as opened up various career options, creating a robust ecosystem for game developers, players, and the entire gaming community. Hence, the numbers tell a compelling story of how esports has become an integral part of the digital entertainment landscape, with viewers actively participating in and contributing to the vibrant esports community,” he says.
The past year also witnessed a significant evolution in brand response as the brand investments have grown. Menon details that there has been a notable increase in the innovative marketing strategies that brands have been employing in the space, reflecting a growing recognition of the sector's potential. These strategies include creating gamer-specific products and services, collaborating with influencers and tournament organisers, and engaging in cross-collaborative marketing efforts. These strategies are particularly effective given the significant Gen Z base within the gaming community.
“This change is seen in the surge of brand advertising within the gaming sector, involving both well-established brands such as Microsoft, OnePlus, AMD, Logitech, and Intel, as well as non-endemic brands. The involvement of around 80 brands in 2022, in a market valued at $65-70 million, highlights the broad spectrum of interest in gaming,” he adds.
For events like the Skyesports Champions Series, drawing sponsors like Flipkart, illustrate the expanding appeal of eSports beyond traditional gaming-centric companies. This diversification in brand participation underscores the sector's growing allure, Menon asserts.
Successful IPs for JetSynthesys
Key IPs that saw significant traction this year include Skyesports Masters (Counter Strike league), GEPL (The world's first e-cricket league), Skyesports Championship 5.0, Skyesports Skirmish Series, Skyesports Champions Series, and Skyesports LUNA.
“Skyesports Masters emerged as a groundbreaking initiative in the Indian esports landscape. Boasting a whopping prize pool of more than Rs 2 crores, this franchise-based league on CS:GO set new standards for gaming tournaments in India. Our latest IP ‘Global e-Cricket Premier League (GEPL)’ which is built around JetSynthesys gaming ecosystems - RealCricket (our mobile gaming IP) and Skyesports (esports tournament operator) - also gained significant traction. The prize pool of Rs 2.51 crore was the biggest for an esports tournament in Asia. The league not only showcased top-tier gaming talent but also provided a platform for brands to connect with a diverse and engaged audience.”
In a bid to reach out to newer sets of audiences, Jetsynthesys has also changed its approach towards marketing its events, adapting to new platforms and strategies to reach a broader audience. Previously, eSports tournaments were primarily streamed on dedicated platforms like Rooter, YouTube Gaming, and Facebook Gaming. However, there's a notable shift toward OTT and TV platforms.
“For instance, JetSynthesys' GEPL was telecasted on Sports 18 and JioCinema, indicating a move towards mainstream recognition for eSports. This transition not only reaches a broader audience but also attracts increased business for platforms involved in eSports, marking a significant evolution in how these events are marketed and perceived,” he says.
Despite these changes in platform use, the role of gaming influencers in eSports marketing remains pivotal. Influencers, with their strong community ties and audience engagement skills, continue to be key to promoting eSports, he adds.
“Their ability to connect with and engage audiences is unmatched. Skyesports, for example, leverages its network of influencers to promote events and create engaging experiences for its audiences. These influencers play a crucial role in maintaining the vibrancy and relevance of the eSports community, ensuring that events resonate with the target demographic,” he adds.