On Day 3 of the CreaTech Mission to India, Akshat Rathee, co-founder of India's leading Esports company NODWIN Gaming, joined James Dean of ESL UK for a fireside chat as part of the CreaTech Mission To India 2022. Here’s an edited summary of their discussion.
Why are Esports flourishing?
Ever since the first video game arcades opened in Japan, people have enjoyed peering over the shoulders of the best players to watch them compete.
People find Esports compelling for exactly the same reasons that they find the Olympics compelling. They find it fascinating to watch world-leading players at the very top of their game perform and compete against one another.
How are Esports monetized?
The main pillars are sponsorship, media rights and for the tournament operator, franchise fees.
What drives the popularity of a particular game in Esports?
When India won the Cricket World Cup for the first time ever in 1983, it sparked a national obsession with the sport which endures to this day. Forty years on and India is now cricket’s largest market. ‘One moment of greatness translated to a whole industry’, said Rathee.
He predicts that mobile Esports will become far more important in India than PC Esports for the same reason. Penetration of PC and console gaming is historically low in the Indian market due to hardware costs, but half the country - 400 million people - now have smartphones. It’s a platform where Indian players have the chance to excel - and excellence will fuel the sport’s popularity.
How will we see mobile gaming develop in the future?
The accessibility of the platform means it is a huge opportunity. The biggest game developers in the world in Esports have now released titles on mobile, including Riot Games’s ‘League of Legends’. The faster speeds and reduced latency of 5G will enable more innovative mobile games to be developed. Cloud gaming - which reduces the need for expensive hardware - will add another billion gamers to the world, predicts Rathee.
What opportunities open up when games cross over into other mediums?
We’ve seen The Witcher become one of Netflix’s biggest shows (although that actually started life as a book). Netflix has also made an animated series, Arcane, based on the League of Legends universe. You don’t need to have played either game to enjoy them, but if you enjoy the TV show you’ll likely go on to try the game too. This creates what Rathee describes as ‘perpetual loops’ of fan acquisition between mediums.
Rathee cites the wildy popular cross-platform game Rocket League, which is essentially ‘football with cars’, as another example of “phenomenal IP that’s transcending boundaries”. Who would have thought you could cross FIFA with NASCAR?
How will the fan experience evolve in Esports?
Technology is already enabling fans to influence the action. Take the electric car racing tournament Formula E. Spectators can vote for the driver they’d like to receive a boost to their car on each lap. In the UK, ESL led the Weavr [https://audienceofthefuture.live/weavr/] consortium which experimented with new forms of Esports fan engagement as part of the government-funded Audiences of the Future project. Weavr developed an app which enabled spectators of an Esports tournament to access extra analytics, as well as an immersive VR experience which allowed spectators to watch the game in a VIP room with friends or look around the stadium itself. Dean predicts that younger audiences will drive demand for greater interactivity - and we’ll see more innovative fan engagement in traditional sports too.
What’s the opportunity for investors in Esports?
Investment in professional Esports teams is one avenue, but there is also an opportunity to innovate and develop new ways to monetize audiences. Currently Esports fans watch for free, although they do consume advertising. “There's a bigger opportunity to provide real value, which they will be willing to pay for,” says Dean.
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