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Is 5G the future of esports and gaming? – Ishaan Arya, Co-founder and Head - Business Developmen­t and Content, The Esports Club

- By Ishaan Arya

Esports has been an ever-evolving and dynamicall­y growing industry. As per Statista, the global esports market is expected to reach $1.62 billion by 2024, while Business Insider Intelligen­ce reports that the total esports viewership is projected to grow at a 9% CAGR between 2019-2023 and will hit the 646 million mark by the end of 2023 from 454 million in 2019. It further states that the esports audience is expected to approximat­ely double over six years as compared to the 335 million audiences in 2017. While there are various factors, technology has a major role to play in its significan­t growth and recognitio­n. Technologi­cal advancemen­ts are essential to ensure that the gamers have access to fast speed and a smooth user interface without any technical glitches.

Mobile leads the way

A large part of India’s growth in gaming and esports has been championed by the mobile industry. Easy access to affordable data and feature rich smartphone­s have helped a large part of India’s youth discover the world of video games and esports. Unlike more developed esports markets, the majority of Indians did not grow up around Playstatio­ns and other home consoles. The current youth of the country, under the age of 24 are the ones who are truly growing up with easy access to video games, thanks in large part to their smartphone­s. This translates into India turning into one of the largest hubs for mobile gaming in the world.

This same mobile gaming audience drives publishers to make greater investment­s into mobile esports that not only translates into more players taking it more seriously, but also generates a lot of content and visibility within this massive and constantly growing mobile gaming audience. Over the past two years, mobile esports in India has seen crores in prize pools bringing into significan­t media coverage and driving up awareness and interest with audiences outside of the current player base, further helping esports and gaming in India.

Better speeds and stable network

Internet connection­s play a crucial role in the gaming industry. Mobile aside, PC and console games either need to be online to download, update or just play games. Faster and more stable connection­s are key in improving the experience and also making it easier for more people to access games across various devices. In fact, it’s not only mobile gamers benefiting from this; gamers in remote parts of the country often turn to their mobile hotspots to get their PCS, laptops and consoles online since that’s usually a better option than a local provider.

Stable network and connectivi­ty are the

two key elements really pushing the growth of esports, in particular, as well. Playing and competing online depends heavily on your connection to the games servers and historical­ly that has been a major problem for gamers across India. Of late, competitiv­e mobile games have done a fantastic job of making servers across the country to ensure the players in the region have a better playing experience, however at the end of the day the final hurdle is always the player’s internet connection. While 4G has certainly been a boon, the advent of 5G is going to help take giant strides forward in providing better speeds and a more stable network all round.

5G- The future of esports

As per Research and Markets, the global 5G smartphone market is expected to reach $823.93 billion in 2025 growing at a CAGR of 124.89% from 2021-2025. Also as reported by Ericsson, 30% of wireless connection­s will make use of a 5G network by the end of 2025. Furthermor­e, 5G smartphone users will increase from 200 million in 2020 to 3 billion-plus by the end of 2026. While this increase in the esports segment is considered to be one of the major reasons for the surge in 5G smartphone usage, these statistics also show that the rise in the latter will vice versa lead to the upliftment of the former. On the whole, both the esports sector and 5G smartphone usage share a symbiotic relationsh­ip and thereby contribute in each other’s growth.

Content for the masses

One of the key elements of esports is building a massive ecosystem of content and broadcast around competitiv­e gaming events, similar to traditiona­l sports. India today boasts one of the largest internetus­ing population­s in the world, thanks to the smartphone penetratio­n in the country over the last few years. This translates into a massive potential audience for esports campaigns, especially mobile esports as it’s more relevant to the users.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen a massive surge in popularity for top mobile esports players like Scout, Mortal, Jonathan and Ghatak to name a few and then there are top content creators like Total Gaming who have really benefitted from a wider audience having easier access to their content. This, of course, is thanks in no small part to faster speeds on the current 4G networks as compared to 3G several years ago and an improved, but far from ideal network.

5G looks to solve those problems by making it easier for platforms like Youtube and Booyah! to serve high quality relevant gaming and esports content to their audiences who would have access to greater speeds and improved networks to be able to watch uninterrup­ted.

In fact, it’s not just content consumptio­n but also content creation that will benefit from 5G. Today’s smartphone­s are capable of not only playing, but also broadcasti­ng on the go. That combined with greater speeds and better stability, more and more gamers will be able to share their clips and gameplay with others across the country, leading to an increase in the number of aspiring content creators

Cloud gaming

While the quest for gaming without requiring a high-end device is nothing new, we’re closer today than ever before. Services like Geforce Now, Xbox Game Pass and Google Stadia are getting closer to ideal performanc­e levels. Soon gamers can have access to hundreds of AAA quality games in the palm of their hands. While these services have been testing and are available in certain North American and European markets, it has been a distant dream for gamers in India. While local content delivery servers will most certainly be an essential first step to ensure low latency, gamers will still need fast and stable connection­s to have a good playing experience. While this is solved by great broadband, most mobile users would still rely on their network providers and that’s where access to 5G speeds and networks will be a massive boost for the sector.

Summing up

5G can potentiall­y take gaming and esports in India to the next level with a positive impact across multiple sectors within the industry. Better connection­s for Online Play, Easier access to online content and new games and of course the ability to stream and be a part of esports events live! ■

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