Esports Expert Views
Patience and perseverance is key to a successful esports career - Siddharth Nayyar, Co-Founder and Director of AFK Gaming
With people confined to their homes, the esports industry is booming like never before. Gaming has never been more accessible especially for the youth with no requirements of a high end ultra expensive PC or the next generation of video game consoles. A simple smartphone with an internet connection will do the trick to compete with your friends or people from all over the world!
We’re delving into the world of esports with Siddharth Nayyar, Co-Founder and Director of AFK Gaming who speaks about the growth of the esports industry, streaming platforms, Indian game developers, Battlegrounds Mobile India and much more in this exclusive interview with SPOGO.
How has the Indian/Asian esports content grown and developed over the years, especially during the pandemic?
I think the one trend worth highlighting in the Asian region over the last couple of years is the growth of content consumption for mobile gaming titles, both written and video. This is also empirically proven by the increasing number of content creators on platforms like YouTube, and the growth in viewership of each of these creators. The pandemic really acted as a catalyst for an already rapidly growing gaming and gaming content industry.
In Asia, which countries are the largest consumers of esports content and occupy the largest share of the market?
I believe the answer to this is not 1 country. It’s very title specific. India is the largest consumer of PUBG Mobile content, while Philippines is big on Dota 2 and Mobile Legends. Indonesia and India have thriving FreeFire audiences. In general, India, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore lead the esports content consumption charts in Asia for different titles.
What is your view about streaming platforms such as Twitch, Smashcast, Gosu Gamers and Afreeca TV?
I think in India, YouTube is miles ahead of other streaming platforms. Twitch recently launched India servers and Facebook has been running campaigns to gain esports content creators and viewers, but it isn’t enough to get people to make the switch. In my opinion, to be able to succeed as a livestream and VOD content platform in India, organizations will have to spend quite a lot and incentivize the users (with good, unique content and engagement campaigns) to make them give up their loyalty to YouTube and switch. Loco did it very well! As for others, I honestly had to look up Smashcast and AfreecaTV to be able to answer this question. I keep track of gaming content in general but these 2 platforms missed my radar. I don’t think they are very popular in India.
What do Indian esports developers need to do to enhance their engagement amongst fans?
I assume this question relates to game developers and studios working on esports titles. First of all, they need to exist. I can’t think of any Indian game studio working on an esports title (pardon my misinformation in case I’m wrong). Indian studios usually just serve certain functions of game development for larger studios. Although we do have Nodding Heads, Nazara, Dhruva, and others working on some kickass AAA titles.
According to you, which is the most popular esports game in India and why?
For mobile, without a doubt it was PUBG Mobile before its ban. In its absence over the last few months, FreeFire took the mantle, but I’m sure BMI installs will surge as soon as it launches. On the PC, I believe CS:GO and Valorant are doing well. If you notice, the one thing that’s common in all these games is that they are gun games, and require to be played in teams. I guess India is just generally fond of playing shooting games with friends.
How much of a boost is it to have PUBG Mobile reintroduced to India in the form of Battlegrounds Mobile India?
It’s really hard to say, honestly, since there are too many things that make a successful esports ecosystem. Will Krafton invest in building a competitive platform like Tencent did? Will player organization that had let go of their squads re-acquire teams? How will the India competitive circuit interact with the international circuit, since technically the games are different? Will PUBGM content creators who switched to other games want to do BMI content? I’m confident players in India will instantly reinstall the new version and start playing (including me, I’m dying to play it again with friends), but a lot more needs to be done before it gets to where it used to be. Guess we’ll know soon
Are there any upcoming games that Indian audiences can look forward to in 2021?
Yeah so many! Other than Battlegrounds Mobile India (obviously), Apex Legends Mobile, Valorant Mobile, Battlefield. I would suggest the readers to stay tuned to afkgaming.com and our social channels for info on when these games release, and also for good quality content about these games.
What is your advice to aspiring gamers who wish to take up esports professionally?
I think getting into the gaming and esports industry is the easiest now than it has ever been. There are so many roles to choose from and so many organizations looking for talented people. If you don’t know what you’re good at, try everything, and pursue what seems to strike your interest. It’ll take patience and perseverance to make a successful career though, so give it time. If you’re in school or college right now, get a degree before you get adventurous.
How Technology, both radical and incremental determines the growth of the esports industry
Over the years the esports industry has seen tremendous growth in terms of its reach and viewership. Once considered as a subset of sports culture, esports is now evolving into a full-fledged industry. Advancements in technologies have played a very important role in keeping this industry vertical interesting and is one of the key drivers that has led to this growth.
The Mobile gaming market may hit a CAGR of 14% during 2020-2025. Experts are citing reasons such as growing smartphone penetration and increasing adoption of advanced technologies for developing games behind this rise. Futuristic technological trends like location-based games, cloud gaming, and AR/VR-powered games are also fueling the demand for esports gaming.
Technological changes over time that fueled esports growth:
Listed below are some technological adoptions that pushed the overall growth of esports worldwide.
The technological evolution of hardware spans across specialized hardware devices including processors, monitors, input devices, audio systems, mobile phones, streaming equipment etc. The growth of hardware has enhanced the overall gaming experience and taken it to the next level making gameplay more engaging and real.
High-speed internet connections:
Among many driving factors that have been accelerating esports growth is access to high-speed internet. Access to high-speed Internet connection over 3G/4G spectrum and broadband has impacted the overall gaming experience. In the past, a normal internet connection was not adequate and gamers witnessed lags during gameplay. But now fast-paced internet connections are ensuring seamless gameplay.
Easy access to blazing-fast internet helps to develop a larger gaming community of highly targeted esports audience. India has got its smartphone population covered with a high speed 4G network and the launching of 5G is underway which will further strengthen the building blocks of online esports.
Easy accessibility to smartphones:
Growing uses of smartphones have brought the esports phenomenon to a whole new level. Mobile gaming comprises 80% gamers in India. The only reason behind this growth is access to affordable smartphones.
Availability of affordable smartphones and reduced data cost fueled mobile gaming penetration further. Now gamers have a choice to buy high-end gaming mobiles under their budget without compromising the camera, display quality, and other gaming-specific features. Smartphone makers such as ASUS ROG, Xiaomi, and ZTE have started producing smartphones optimized for mobile gaming and pro-gamers. It’s expected that due to the steep rise in the quality of smartphones under budget, the total number of online mobile gamers in India will cross 510 million by FY 2022.
AR / VR Gaming:
AR and VR have set out to bring radical change to the esports industry with top-notch innovations for engrossing and enthralling gaming experiences. These new technological innovations helped in bringing 3D effects to gaming. With Augmented reality, game developers connected the digital characters with the real world in an imaginary reality environment. AR-powered games blend real and virtual environments for the captive experience.
AR and VR have changed the dimensions of gaming at scale. They help to create an imaginary setting during the gameplay, which stimulates a gamer’s physical presence. It creates a complete virtual world for the gamers. This is just the beginning as a lot more advancements are slated to come over time.
People would have never thought that AI would be integral to the gaming industry. This cutting-edge technology is now gradually making its presence felt. Artificial intelligence powered tools are making it possible to watch and analyze esports tournaments for making data-driven decisions.
Teams and players are now using AI tools to find ways to improve their gaming strategy. For instance, FalconAI introduced AI-powered tools to help esports players improve their skills in various games such as League of Legends and Valorant, etc.
Cloud Based Gaming:
Cloud gaming is all set to revolutionize the way games are played. It will reduce the dependency on local hardware for playing games. Tech giants are working on developing Cloud gaming platforms like Google Stadia to allow gamers to play games on their low-end devices with only requirement being a fast internet connection. No more expensive hardware and lengthy downloads. In cloud gaming storage and processing is done in Cloud data centers while gamers can stream graphics on their devices.
The growing penetration of technological innovations in esports has intensified the thrill and joy of playing games. Technologies like virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and gesture control are shaping the future of esports globally. We are hoping to see more high-end sophisticated technology adoptions in the esports industry. They will completely change the way we play games and consume gaming content.
About the author
Mr. Tarun Gupta is the Founder and CEO of BrainPulse Technologies, a renowned digital marketing and product development company with global footprints.
With Core Experience of over 20 years in Digital Marketing, Product Designing and Technology Mr.Gupta has carved a name for himself. He is an avid eSports enthusiast and co-founder of Ultimate Battle, a leading esports platform designed to serve the fast-growing Esports community.
Ultimate Battle provides gamers a unique platform where Esports teams and professionals can compete across a number of different game titles.
Trinity Gaming wants to act as a catalyst to uplift the esports industry
Wouldn’t it be a dream come true to play video games for a living? Streaming content for millions of viewers and getting paid for it? Sounds like a dream job, but how do we go about it? India has some very famous esports players who have represented the country internationally, yet there seems to be a lot of ambiguity to turn this passion into a profession.
In an exclusive interview, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Trinity Gaming Mr. Abhishek Aggarwal spoke to SPOGO about helping gamers pursue esports as a profession, monetizing their craft, their business strategies and plans for the future.
What inspired you to create Trinity Gaming and how important do you think it is to encourage gamers to create content and pursue their passion for gaming as a profession?
I was not always an avid gaming enthusiast. Originally from an engineering background, I got interested in gaming and the ecosystem of its working. I developed a passion to see this industry blooming in future. Therefore, Shivam and I founded Trinity Gaming to make people look at esports as a viable career option. We started Trinity Gaming with a mission, to connect brands, creators and audiences through our talent management program and aimed to guide and manage the booming creators of this industry.
With the rise of gaming and esports in India and around the world during the pandemic, how has Trinity Gaming grown since its inception?
Trinity Gaming has grown a lot; although, we can't judge in exact numbers about your growth percentage. In 2019, 2 boys entered the world of startups with a dream; now in 2021 we have supporting staff members and managing more than 200 creators.
How is Trinity Gaming paving the way for beginners to consider gaming as a concrete career option?
Trinity gaming has a separate talent scouting department which finds the potential newcomers on various platforms, then the team analyzes the type of support they require, if there are brands required, graphical assistance, media assistance etc. Based on your research, most of the newcomers don't pursue their passion for gaming further, due to lack of resources. That’s where Trinity gaming comes to the rescue, so that every new talent gets to explore their future in gaming.
How is Trinity Gaming helping gamers monetize their craft?
We are just the enablers in the ecosystem. Trinity Gaming helps famous creators connect with brands. We also scout potential creators and help them grow by providing media expertise, graphical assistance and also funding based on the potential and the passion of the creator. We show them the path to success, walking on it will lead them to a successful future indeed, which will not only help in monetizing their craft but also lead them to becoming influencers and make a name in the industry.
What are some of the largest channels and brands that Trinity Gaming has been associated with?
Trinity has collaborated with a lot of brands some of which are India Today Group, Network 18, ASUS, Red Bull etc.
What are some of the strategies that Trinity Gaming has helped brands implement using creators and influencers in the gaming ecosystem?
Trinity Gaming makes strategies but all are somewhat different from each other. It totally depends on the creator on what strategies he/she requires, thus providing them a personalized experience. We let the creators grow with us and then connect them with the brands based on the requirements, which not only helps uplift Trinity Gaming but also the creator, the brands, and in the entire whole gaming industry. We have brand managers and graphic designers who help your creators with implementing the strategies.
What does Trinity Gaming envision the future of gaming and esports in India?
Trinity Gaming has seen the potential of young content creators and gamers. If this industry is driven with full guidance and support, the gaming industry can be the profit yielding source for the nation. Gaming industry has full potential to emerge as a young minds driven industry. Trinity just wants to act as a catalyst in uplifting the industry.
Exploring the journey of esports athlete Simar Sethi
Delhi based gamer Simar Sethi, a.k.a ‘Psy’ is a prominent figure in the growing esports industry in India. At 22, he has already represented India at the International stage and is setting his sights higher to achieve more with a combination of grit, talent, hard work and passion.
We reached out to Simar to know more about his journey so far and get his insights about the esports industry that is constantly evolving in India and around the world.
How did your gaming career begin? Did you ever think you could make a career from your passion?
I used to play a lot of counter-strike 1.6 and then I switched to CS:GO. I started watching a lot of professional players of the time which made me question that if i was putting so many hours in, why not become a professional myself and definitely gaming is not a small part of my life it's my passion and what better way to live than waking up every morning and doing what you love so passionately.
What made you interested in Counter Strike: Global Offensive?
I used to watch top players in India who were getting opportunities to represent India internationally on so many platforms, my competitiveness and not gonna lie skins :P
How was your experience at Team Brutality?
I used to be a big fan of Team Brutality before I was given an opportunity to represent it. I learned a lot as a professional player because it was my first professional team at the age of 16.
What motivated you to join Team Entity?
I was at the peak of my career when I got a call from Entity to join their all star lineup in December 2016 which by the way dominated the whole CS:GO scene in India for 2017. My sole motivation was to play in a team with the best of the best in my country.
You were diagnosed with Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). How did you think it would impact your performance?
I was diagnosed with RSI in June 2017. When the doctors first brought in the reports and broke the news, I thought my whole career was gonna end here. The one chance I got to play and to represent my country in front of an international audience will just be left a dream.
You were awarded the best player in India back in 2016. How much of a motivation was that to become even better?
Once I got the feel of being even above 9th cloud I knew I wanted to stay here forever no matter what it took out of me.
What was it like to represent India at the Zowie tournament in China?
I had lost a Zowie tournament before back in 2018 against forsaken and we couldn't go, but to win it back in 2019 was out of the world. It felt like all those sleepless nights and practice had finally answered.
How do you prepare yourself physically and mentally before a big tournament?
I am a very confident player and I take every professional match as just a regular game. I do listen to songs to keep my mind from wandering.
How much dedication does it require to become an esports athlete?
It's just like following a schedule for any physical sports. Maintain a proper sleeping schedule, diet and practice while also giving yourself some space to relax.
What’s your current rig?
• Cabinet - Antec NX800
• Processor - Ryzen 5 3600X
• Motherboard - Aorus B450 Elite
• Graphic Card - MSI Gaming-X RTX 2060 Super
• RAM - HyperX 16GB DDR4
• Power Supply - Antec NeoEco 650M-80 Plus Bronze
Why has there been a shift in preference from CS:GO to Valorant?
My own opinion is that CS:GO had become very stagnant, didn't make any changes in favor of community and professional players whereas Riot listens to their player base and the viewership is off the charts for Valorant.
Should aspiring esports athletes choose Valorant over other games? If yes, why?
It totally depends on the preferences and likeness of a player and what suits them. I have personally always believed to do what makes you happy, so playing a game professionally which you wouldn't love spending a majority of your time with sounds illogical to me.
What do you think is the reason behind Valorant’s popularity?
As i've mentioned before Riot actively listens to their player base and keeps making changes for balancing the game as much as possible.
You played for the Noble eSports roster after switching to Valorant. What was that like?
It was a very good run with Noble. We won a couple of tournaments and I think I grew as a leader in Valorant.
Who is your IGL (In Game Leader) in your Valorant roster?
I used to call the shots however after the recent roster changes I gave that position to Whimp.
Do you think big, offline Valorant events will happen in India in the future despite Indian Valorant servers solving the ping complaints of the players?
Yes, I do think that there will be a lot of offline Valorant tournaments with big prize pools in India.
What do you think is in the future for Valorant?
I think Valorant is going to evolve into a full blown mixture of communities coming from Mobile, PC and console with a lot of tournaments and lots of exposure for upcoming new players.
What would be your advice to young gamers who want to be esports athletes one day?
Never stop trying to better yourself, stay loyal to your passion and stay focused on your growth as a player because your hardwork will be recognized. I was once too, only a dreamer with a passion.
‘India will be the next power house for esports’ - Mr Lokesh Suji, Director of Esports Federation of India
Esports has evolved into an industry of itself and has undergone a steady and meteoric rise all over the world. While India has still not recognized esports as an official ‘sport’ Esports Federation of India’s director Mr. Lokesh Suji is optimistic that this is going to change soon.
In an exclusive interview with SPOGO, Mr. Suji talks about the rise of esports during the lockdown, potential for Indian game developers, various initiatives taken by the ESFI to promote esports in the country and the important difference between esports and igaming.
How has esports grown in the last year, especially with the pandemic and more people confined to their homes?
In India, over the course of 2020 with Covid-19 lockdown in place, we saw a boom in digital entertainment and esports is one of them. The ongoing COVID situation has propelled the penetration of esports to more and more people. The esports industry witnessed the highest spike in player participation and watch time viewership in the last year. While business sectors across the world have been virtually brought to a grinding halt by the stay-at-home mandate to prevent the spread of the contagious Covid-19, the esports or electronic sports industry, on the contrary, is on a roll. The current pandemic, for the most part, has shifted the entire esports set-up online. The overall growth of the esports industry was phenomenal last year and it’s going to be onward & upward in future.
How do you think #AtmanirbharBharat can be a part of the gaming sector?
India has a huge video gaming population, but when you look at the app/play store, you will find none of the Indian games in that list and that’s where the potential for Indian game developers lies. With the strong push from our Hon’ble PM to build video games built on Indian culture and ethos, this is the opportune time for the Indian Game development ecosystem. When we say “games” we mean video games not rummy, fantasy, poker, teen patti, online gaming and or betting/gambling or igaming. Video games like Hitwicket, Raji, WCC are already doing well and sky's the limit for others.
India is a market which has enormous potential for esports. What is your view about the market size, opportunities, growth trends and challenges in the online gaming market in India?
Biggest challenge is the misconception which prevails in India that playing fantasy, teen patti, rummy, poker, real money gaming, gambling and or betting is esports. These are everything and anything but “esports” and/or even “video games”. Unfortunately, they have been included & misunderstood as part of online gaming. These ventures are trying hard to be considered so and that’s unfortunate. This is detrimental to our sport. All the reports and numbers which you have seen recently during the Covid times are the cumulative numbers including such igaming etc. apps, and these numbers are bloated because of these apps, hence there are no real numbers for pure “video games” and or “esports” for India; esports industry is still very nascent in India. With esports as the future and future is now, inclusion in Asian Games 22 opens up the whole market with immense opportunities just like our traditional sports; pro players, academies, streaming, casting, player rights management, esports journalism and so on. While the community does what it needs to be done, government recognition of esports as a sport is must. We are very optimistic it will happen soon as the government is also opening up and it was in 2019 that SEPC (unit of Ministry of Industry & Commerce) along with ESFI did the “Nations Cup” an International esports championship, which was India’s first esports championship fully backed by the Government. Recently esports was also part of the starred questions in parliament on 4th Feb 2021 and the Ministry of Sports tabled its reply in which they said “esports is an emerging platform for the youth population in the country. There are large numbers of esports enthusiasts in our country. It is included in Asian Games 2022 as a medal sport discipline but not yet included in the Olympics. Esports is different from gaming or igaming and gambling, etc. as former is skill based while latters are chance based”; these are good signs for our esports ecosystem.
The path to becoming an esports athlete, especially in India is unclear. How important do you think is it to promote, encourage, organize, educate, train and control the esports industry to make India competitive on the international stage?
Currently, all of our sports are unstructured, which leads to loss of talent and many times a lot of underdogs players lose out on the opportunity. ESFI is working on the lines of structuring the same and is open to any suggestions and feedback in this regard. We need to act and work like any other sports.
What is the role of the Esports Federation of India in the development of esports in India and what are the initiatives they have taken or intend to take in the near future?
ESFI will promote, encourage, organize, educate, train and control the esports in India. We have started with the rankings system and will keep adding more game titles. This will help in giving visibility to the underdog players/teams and help us in building a good talent pool. Recently we have also started with Female Ranking scrims; we are already working on training and collegiate programs which will be released soon. Esports have now been included in Asian Games 2022 and once the game titles are announced, we will start getting our teams ready; last time we got bronze and this time we have to get gold. Other than this, our primary focus is to expand in coaching and training for which we are already in discussions with some leading agencies. You will also find certified referees this year which will be India’s first.
What is your view on those who say that esports isn’t really ‘sports’?
Esports is a sport and is recognized by International Olympic Committee (IOC), which is the apex body for sports and Olympic Council of Asia (OCA); instead, we have serious concerns when playing fantasy, teen patti, rummy, poker, real money gaming, gambling and or betting is considered as esports; it horrendous. Esports is a sport, it is competitive video game playing, coordinated by different leagues, where players participate in group gaming competitions. Viewers can watch professional gamers compete against each other in a variety of games. We are a sport because the physicality of responses of our participants leads to the result of a winner. And esports is essentially a speed competition. The business model of esports depends majorly on three aspects – media rights, sponsorship and merchandising. There is no space for gambling or betting involvement in the esports sector. Mostly esports companies never charge their players to play their tournaments; instead, they give them massive prize money on winning the tournament.
How has esports evolved in India in the last few years?
With easy access to smartphones and internet, esports has grown leaps and bounds, earlier we hardly used to viewership numbers crossing a couple of thousands, today we are talking in millions. Smartphones & mobile game titles (esports ones) have made esports accessible to the mass youth population of India. India will be the next power house for esports, we have approximately 300 million esports enthusiasts, and its growth is clearly visible during the Covid times, be it in terms of online events or streaming, player participations and its viewership.
How would you differentiate esports with gaming and real money gaming?
This should not be the question at all; this question exists because people in India along with the media have wrongly portrayed fantasy, teen patti, rummy, poker, real money gaming, gambling and or betting as esports. We are wondering why these apps need to disguise themselves as “esports”; we as India have become a laughing stock because of this and our sport is in danger. These games are “igaming” not “esports”. If esports is “igaming”, then so should be cricket also, isn’t it? Can you win a cricket match by chance or by luck, the answer is “no” and same happens in esports too, you cannot win a FIFA 21 (video game based on football) match by chance; you need to have the skill to beat your opponent. We are talking about video games like “FIFA 21, PES, Counter Strike, DOTA 2, Valorant, Need for speed etc.” and our audience is 14-22 years, these games don’t come with a statutory warning that “if you play these games you may lose money”, you don’t have to pay to play our esports game titles and most importantly people don’t play these games to make money, they play these games for fun & entertainment and now of course as a sport.
This will help in understanding what esports is and what’s not:
1. Playing teen patti, poker, gambling, betting, fantasy is *not* esports, it’s “igaming”
2. Competing with each other for casual or hyper casual games is not esports.
3. Playing video games is not esports; there are only select genres of video games which fall under the category of esports. These genres are
a. Real-time Strategy (RTS): Clash Royale etc.
b. Fighting: Tekken7
c. First-person Shooter (FPS): Counter Strike, Call of Duty etc.
d. Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA): League of Legends, Arena of Valor, DOTA2 etc.
e. Sports: FIFA, PES, Asphalt etc.
4. Esports can be online and offline (LAN Events) both.
5. Similarly playing video games online or multiplayer is not esports, example if you are playing ludo online (offline) with you friends, it's "not" esports
6. You can have fantasy for esports
7. Its spelt as "Esports or esports or ESPORTS" not "eSports, e-sports, egaming etc"
What is your view on esports becoming a medal event at the 2022 Asian Games?
ESFI got a Bronze Medal for India during Asian Games’18 where it was a demonstration title and we were placed 4th in another games title (clash royale). It’s a welcome move as now whatever medals our esports athletes win, they will be counted in India’s medal tally.
When do you think India will recognize esports as an official sport?
There are four major factors that make any sport mainstream -
1. There has to be enough people who want to play
2. An ecosystem comprising infrastructure and grassroots development that facilitates the same
3. Mass popularity of the particular sport in terms of viewership
4. Not just national but an opportunity to have global recognition.
When we put esports through these parameters we get favourable results and we can infer that esports is on its way to becoming a regular sports affair.
1. There are enough people who want to play.
2. Mobile is the platform of choice in India and from mobiles costing $150 to the high-end ones, there are different esports worthy games popular amongst the masses.
3. Viewership on just YouTube & Facebook has significantly increased over time.
4. ESFI & other esports companies give esports athletes a global stage to compete with the world's best and have a shot at global recognition and fame. We are in regular touch with the concerned people, the response from the Government has been very encouraging and we will soon see esports recognized as a sport in India. All the signs are positive and ESFI is trying to get this done very soon.