Namah Chawla
Media

PVR and NODWIN team up to turn cinema halls into esports stadiums

A chat with Akshat Rathee, MD and co-founder, NODWIN Gaming, on this in-cinema esports launch.

The e-sports segment steadily gained popularity amongst the youth during the COVID-induced lockdowns in 2020 and 2021. It is accessible indoors and on one’s mobile phone. No wonder, it became the preferred entertainment mode.

Now, just imagine experiencing ‘Battlegrounds Mobile India’ (‘BGMI’), ‘League of Legends’, ‘Clash of Clans’, or any of your favourite game, on the big screen with high-definition sound system. Well, PVR Cinemas and NODWIN Gaming have come together to provide this entertainment experience with the launch of India’s first in-cinema e-sports live tournaments.

Gamers and gaming enthusiasts across the country will now be able to participate in online e-sports cups and in-cinema tournaments. The initiative attempts to fast-track e-sports entertainment’s growth trajectory in the country, by combining the appeal of gaming with the magic of the big screen experience.

Speaking to afaqs!, Akshat Rathee, MD and co-founder, NODWIN, points out that gaming is a very personal and limited activity. You play on your mobile phone, or computer, or with a few friends.

“We want to go ahead and find out that as gaming becomes bigger in our country, is it something that ignites the passion of people who have common interests? And, because of this passion among people, (we hope) they will come and support, or cheer the local teams playing at the e-sports tournament.”

Akshat Rathee
Akshat Rathee

Commenting on the partnering with PVR, Rathee informs that the leading multiplex chain was the obvious choice to associate with. “PVR has got the biggest distribution, and is one of the largest content companies in the country that also understands technology well. In gaming, you need not only a playground, but also the right kind of technology backing it. In that sense, PVR is the perfect choice.”

Before the pandemic, people used to go out to consume content in different genres like comedy, action, romance, thriller, to name a few. However, after the pandemic struck, gaming started trending, or becoming popular. Just look at all those gaming-centric shows on OTT platforms like Netflix. A recent example of the same is the South Korean show 'Sqid Game' that has become popular in India as well.

Though gaming, as a choice of entertainment, has evolved over the last few months, what makes PVR foray into the e-sports segment now? Especially when many production houses have recently announced release dates for movies that were stuck for over a year due to the pandemic.

Rathee informs, “Unlike theatrical releases, we don’t require eight or 10 (or multiple) screens for gaming. We require just one (screen) because it is a niche product."

To start with, the popular game ‘BGMI’ will hit the big screen, followed by games from different genres.

For ‘BGMI’, 16 years is the self-declared age limit. Keeping this in mind, the typical target group for in-cinema tournaments will be people aged between 16 and 45 years. The two brands (PVR and NODWIN) also foresee gamers bringing their friends and family to cheer for them.

The first few cities to get this offering include Gurugram, Indore, Hyderabad and Mumbai. The initial trials were done in PVR properties located in these four cities. The brand’s team informs that each of these cities has an auditorium designated for gaming entertainment.

The first tournaments will be held on October 7, 14 and 21 in Gurugram, Indore and Hyderabad, respectively. The theatres in Maharashtra will open only after October 22. So, the Mumbai tournament’s date will be announced later.

As far as the pricing goes, PVR and NODWIN will arrive at a decision within the next few days. Rathee mentions that the pricing won’t be high.

By partnering with PVR, NODWIN gets a ready-made playing field. Rathee says, “We don’t have to modify anything, as PVR already has 95 per cent of the infrastructure. For example, we need great Wi-Fi and fibre connection, a physical place, food and beverage condiments and their licensing, the ability to do ticketing, the big screen to show the content and projectors that can do this live in high resolution. All these are already present in PVR theatres. So, in terms of infrastructure, we aren’t required to do too much.”

"We don’t have to modify anything, as PVR already has 95 per cent of the infrastructure."
Akshat Rathee, NODWIN Gaming

There is a trend overseas of luxury and high-end brands associating themselves with the gaming experience on the silver screen. We asked Rathee about the kind of brands he sees coming on board, here in India.

“We didn’t want to go ahead and bring a brand on day one, as we wish to build this product, first. As soon as the offering is finalised, every brand that has the same target group, will be interested in partnering with us.”

Expert opinions

Ashish Pherwani, partner, media & entertainment, EY, says, “It is similar to watching a match in a stadium, versus on TV at home. The crowd, food and electric atmosphere make it different from watching sports at home. It will be a fun outing for sports enthusiasts and gaming fans.”

Ashish Pherwani
Ashish Pherwani

According to Siddharth Nayyar, co-founder and director, AFK Gaming (an e-sports content platform that focuses on Asian content for global audiences), it is a fantastic move by PVR and NODWIN. “Watching an e-sports event in theatres will be fun. It will also give gamers a reason to finally start getting out and attending e-sports events (as the health and safety situation is slowly becoming better now).”

Siddharth Nayyar
Siddharth Nayyar

“I can’t wait to buy tickets to watch ‘BGMI’ in a movie hall with my friends,” Nayyar signs off.