Gam­ing Star­tups Pull the Trig­ger as eS­ports Go Boom Now

Nazara Games com­mits .₹ 136-crore in­vest­ment for eS­ports ven­ture and Ron­nie Screw­vala ear­marks .₹ 80-100 crore for set­ting up a tour­na­ment

The Economic Times - - Disruption: Startups & Tech - Shash­wati.Shankar @times­group.com

Ben­galuru: On­line gam­ing leagues are be­com­ing big busi­ness in In­dia, with mo­bile game pub­lisher Nazara Games com­mit­ting to in­vest .₹ 136 crore in its eS­ports ven­ture and serial en­tre­pre­neur Ron­nie Screw­vala ear­mark­ing .₹ 80-100 crore for set­ting up a tour­na­ment.

On­line games that were once com­mon in neigh­bour­hood cafes and a part of lo­cal gam­ing tour­na­ments are now bring­ing in big money with win­ners eye­ing cash prize pools worth lakhs of ru­pees.

Nazara Games eS­ports league will en­able gamers hooked on on­line games such as Dota 2 and League of Leg­ends to par­tic­i­pate in tour­na­ments, catch live webtv pro­grams and chat on fo­rums. The Mum­baibased com­pany's in­vest­ment in the ven­ture will be spread over 5 years.

“The league will have two sea­sons per year and six teams will be se­lected through free on­line qual­i­fier tour­na­ments, pri­mar­ily fo­cus­ing on games like Dota, Counter Strike and League of Leg­ends,” said Man­ish Agar­wal, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Nazara Games. “For mid-core and hard-core gamers we didn’t have an of­fer­ing, so this is to meet that set of users.”

eS­ports is slowly pick­ing up in In­dia as a grow­ing num­ber of ca­sual gamers are turn­ing pro­fes­sion­als, with nearly 2,000 In­dian on­line gam­ing teams be­ing spon­sored by brands and wealthy in­di­vid­u­als. The num­ber of tour­na­ments and cash prize pools are steadily in­creas­ing.

Do­mes­tic gam­ing star­tups in­clud­ing Nova Gam­ing Ven­tures, Nod­win Gam­ing, eGamers Arena and lead­ing in­ter­na­tional play­ers such as ESL are mak­ing in­vest­ments in set­ting up na­tional-level tour­na­ments ev­ery other month, a stark con­trast from what the sit­u­a­tion was like a few years ago.

Presently, three to four on­line and off­line tour­na­ments take place once a week in In­dia, com­pared to two years ago when a tour­na­ment would take place once ev­ery few months.

Most re­cently, eGamers Arena ex­clu­sively part­nered with World Cy­ber Arena (WCA), one of the

GAME ON

largest gam­ing cham­pi­onships world­wide, to host the na­tional qual­i­fiers in In­dia for a cham­pi­onship that will be held in China at the end of 2017. At stake is a $28-mil­lion jack­pot that win­ners of on­line games like Counter Strike and Over­watch get to take home.

“In 2017 and the next two to three years we are go­ing to see both do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional gam­ing com­pa­nies eye the In­dian eS­ports gam­ing scene, which will pick up even fur­ther be­cause of the grow­ing num­ber of gamers,” said Ajay Shah, me­dia and en­ter­tain­ment, trans­ac­tion ad­vi­sory ser­vices part­ner at EY. “As far as rev­enue is con­cerned in the ini­tial stages, ad­ver­tise­ment­based rev­enue will be a ma­jor fo­cus. Com­pa­nies will look at ac­quir­ing play­ers for now to grow the scene in In­dia.” In May last year, ESL, one of the world's largest eS­ports compa- nies, part­nered with In­dian eS­ports gam­ing com­pany Nod­win to an­nounce a do­mes­tic gam­ing tour­na­ment with .₹ 42 lakh in cash prize pool. Amer­i­can gam­ing com­pany Valve has also part­nered with In­dian gam­ing com­pa­nies dur­ing tour­na­ments. Ac­cord­ing to Nod­win CEO Ak­shat Rathee, through part­ner­ships with brands such as RedBull and Moun­tain Dew as well as the Tai­wanese govern­ment, the to­tal prize pool of cash re­leased through tour­na­ments in In­dia last year was nearly .₹ 95 lakh.

Glob­ally, on­line gam­ing is touted to be a $150-bil­lion (.`10 lakh crore) in­dus­try. The eS­ports in­dus­try in In­dia amounted to over .₹ 2,000 crore in rev­enue in fis­cal 2014-15, ac­cord­ing to Nether­lands-based New­zoo, a gam­ing, eS­ports and mo­bile mar­ket in­tel­li­gence com­pany.

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