In 2-3 years, 30-35% of global e-sports audience will come from India: Sai Srinivas, MPL
On first day of e4m Game On: Gaming Summit, exchange4media Chairman & Editor-in-Chief Dr. Annurag Batra spoke to Mobile Premier League (MPL) Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder Sai Srinivas
The first day of e4m Game On: Gaming Summit, which kicked off on Thursday, saw an interesting conversation between exchange4media Group Chairman & Editor-in-Chief Dr. Annurag Batra and Mobile Premier League (MPL) Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder Sai Srinivas. The theme of the fireside chat was 'Indian Gaming Companies Going Global'.
How have the last 12 months been for you, both personally and professionally?
The last 12 months have been quite a roller-coaster. The gaming industry has leaped forward by a couple of years. On a personal front, it has not been easy to stay indoors for such a long time. But with the vaccine rolling out and more people getting vaccinated, hopefully, we can all get back to offices in full strength and take it from where we stopped.
Gaming has become a mainstream activity and is no longer a leisure activity. Give us a sense of where it is headed in the next 3-5 years?
Gaming has always been mainstream. It is just that now, thanks to the internet and mobile phone penetration, it is becoming more and more accessible. Also, gaming is the only format of content that does not have a language. You can't say that about any other format of content, be it movie, video, audio, or text. Gaming is a universal language and that is why it is so easy for anyone to pick it up. That is one of the reasons why gaming is growing so fast compared to other formats of content.
What's going to happen in a couple of years from now is that there is going to be a platform, whether it is MPL or someone else only time will tell, where massive global tournaments will be held. Take a simple game like chess. It is not far-fetched to think that one to one and half years from now, a player playing from New York can compete with a player from Sao Paulo or Delhi in India. There will be massive online tournaments where there are a million-odd people playing. Not only is the scale of this tournament immense, but imagine the situation where you and I play the quarter-final of the tournament and reasonably certain that a significant bunch of folks from across the world would also want to see the live broadcast of how the game between you and me is going on because a lot of people got eliminated. That is the future of e-sports. It is going to mobile-driven because most people can access computing only from mobile.
Of course, PC and console led the e-sport revolution, but as and when it gets into developing markets and gets into more people's hands, it is going to be mobile that is going to lead that revolution and that is the only way you are going to get competitive e-sports into the hands of 3-4 billion people across the world. That is how I look at the future. That 1 million is just a placeholder. These tournaments can be as high as 5 million, 10 million, or 12 million. The limitation is just to imagine it. Practically, everyone who understands chess can play a tournament of chess online using that milestone. If a similar tournament was to be held offline, it is impossible to accommodate even 10,000 people offline, and that's the beauty of online digital sports.
What is the potential you see for home-grown games?
Firstly, there are a lot of home-grown developers who have been doing pretty well. There are lots of home-grown developers who are making games for global audiences and who focus on making games for Western markets out of India. It is a different ball game that we have still not have or had a Triple-A level game come out of India. I think it is just a matter of time. The closest analogy I can think of is that to make a high-budget movie you need the market to grow. The domestic market has to grow. To make a high-budget movie, the person must be confident of breaking even on the investment. So as the market grows the appetite of local game developers will also grow and you will have large Triple-A level titles come out of India. But one thing is for certain which is that most Indian game developers or Indian games will be mobile-driven. I am not saying there won't be console or PC focussed games but almost 9 out of 10 developers are going to build the games for the mobile phone.
What role will Indian e-sports companies play on the global level?
The Indian e-sports companies should fundamentally define what e-sports means for our country. I fully acknowledge that Western countries have run e-sports on PCs and consoles but in our country, people who have PCs and consoles are very few. Denying the opportunity to 200-300 million people to participate in a competitive tournament just because they don't have a PC or a console is ridiculous. We, as a country, should enable the participation of larger audiences. Whoever has a mobile phone should be able to participate in competitive e-sports. In the next 2-3 years, 30-35% of the global e-sports audience will come from India just because of the sheer size of the country. If 30-35% of the consumption of any industry comes from one geography, then the onus is on that geography to increase participation and at the same time build out clear regulations that are inclusive for users.
What are the things marketers can do to leverage gaming?
The first thing that marketers can do to leverage gaming is actively participate in sponsoring or participating in large-scale e-sports tournaments. If you are going to run a tournament for a million and another million or two are going to watch that tournament, that is at least 2-3 million eyeballs glued to that tournament. That is a targeted communication because there is no better way to reach those folks than by sponsoring that tournament. The cost of sponsoring these tournaments is significantly lower because it doesn't involve a lot of physical infrastructures. It also becomes an easy way for marketers to target specific audiences. Different games have different kinds of audiences. Depending upon the kind of audiences that you want to reach out to you can pick and choose and sponsor that kind of tournament. The advantage of sponsoring e-sports tournaments is that you can reach out to male and female audiences through tournaments that are skewed towards them. Marketers should spend time and money understanding this space because marketers who do understand this space are going to get a significant headstart over other folks who will not spend time understanding it but then would want to understand it once it becomes fully mainstream.
Do you think gaming in Indian languages is the next big frontier because that will bring in a newer set of audiences that were never introduced to gaming?
More than languages, games build on Indian stories. If you look at Japan, there are so many games that have been built based on the stories that originated from that land. In India, we have so many stories to tell and every game is in a way telling a story. More than language, games that are built on stories that are familiar to Indian audiences will tend to do well. As more Indians come online, there will be studios that will focus on some of these games.
What kind of jobs will the gaming sector create?
Gaming and particularly e-sports, you will see that India and Indian platforms will be net exporters. This will help build a class of workforce that is focused on IP creation. India historically has been extremely good in services but the advantage of building this ecosystem is that it focuses a lot on IP creation. IPs like digital properties can be monetised again and again across the world. That creates a lot of value back for the Indian ecosystem. It is going to create a lot of jobs apart from the core aspects which everyone knows about like engineering, product management. It will add tremendous value to the trade ecosystem. Today, most storytellers are working in the film industry or related industries. Storytelling is one of the most difficult aspects of game development. Copywriting is also a critical aspect of game development. Most of the creative folks who work in the film or OTT industry will find relevant jobs in the gaming ecosystem. India has been good at creative work. A lot of work on these top-class Hollywood movies happens in India.
What are the two or three predictions that you are going to make for the Indian gaming industry?
Gaming in India will make more money than what Bollywood does or all the film industry does. That I am certain of. In any country, where gaming has become mainstream, it eventually makes more money than all the other entertainment sectors combined. It is true for matured economies like China and the US and India is headed in that direction. E-sports is going to be a part of the Asian Games and it is eventually going to be a part of the Olympics. India will be among the first three or four countries to win a lot of medals in Olympics as long as e-sports across the globe recognises that access to e-sports is the most important thing. If we provide access to our people and if 300 million are participating in a tournament, the person who is going to come on top is more or less going to be in the top 2 or 3 in the world. We must also ensure that people are provided access to the right kind of devices to increase the reach of the sport.
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