Esports--The Next Frontier For The Events Industry: Mazhar Nadiadwala

The popularity and revenue of video games has led to the development of professional tournaments where gamers can compete against each other for remuneration writes Mazhar Nadiadwala, Managing Director, Dome Entertainment Pvt Ltd.


Despite being one of the world’s most popular hobbies, gaming is still seen by a major section of the mainstream Indian event industry as little more than a childish pastime. As an avid gamer myself, it’s quite disappointing to reflect on how such a large, diverse, passionate, and rich audience has been largely excluded from being able to participate in and enjoy their indulgence to the same degree that fans of cinema, sports, music, and theatre have. While the Indian events industry has come a long way in the last few years with regard to scale, diversity, and even quality, where even niche events like Broadway style musicals and leagues based on traditional sports have been warmly embraced, e-sports in India continue to remain confined to ‘hardcore’ gaming groups.

To many, gaming may seem like a very small, highly niche hobby, enjoyed primarily by teenagers or the youth,and does not warrant any serious discussion. However, while that assessment may have been true two decades ago, today, the industry has evolved radically, both technologically, and as a means of expression. Internationally, video games are a gargantuan market, with yearly revenues that far surpass the income of even the likes of Hollywood and Bollywood. The greatest revolution in gaming came with the advent of smartphone proliferation, which has enabled practically anyone with a mobile to indulge in a pastime that once required specialised and expensive equipment, like Playstations, Xboxes, and the like. In fact, as a result of mobile games like Player Unknown’s Battleground (PUBG), Fortnite, World Of Tanks, and Clash of Clans, there are an estimated 2.2 and 2.6 billion active gamers, which accounts for well over a quarter of all human beings alive today. Major video game releases rival, and often surpass their Hollywood equivalents, with the most financially successful media property of all time being a video game; i.e. GTA V.

The popularity and revenue of video games has led to the development of professional tournaments where gamers can compete against each other for remuneration. These tournaments are called ‘e-sports’,and are mainstream occurrences in much of the Western world, as well as China, Japan, South Korea, and Australia. ESPN estimates that within the next four years, more than 400 million people will be streaming e-sports tournaments, with the prize money ranging from anywhere between USD 10,000 and USD 1,000,000. Championships such as The International, Intel Extreme Master, and the Evolution Championship Series,are some of the largest e-gaming tournaments in the world, with audience footfalls that regularly rival those of Football and Cricket.

Video gaming in India, in accordance with global trends,has been bolstered by the advent of smartphones, and the gaming industry will be worth close to USD 1 billion by 2020, with over 600 million active gamers nationally. Games like PUBG, Counter Strike, DOTA, and Call Of Duty, are proof that the spirit and love of what the industry represents transcends the barriers of region, class, gender, and religion. Yet, despite these phenomenal statistics, e-sports remain a very niche occurrence that has yet to garner any mainstream support. When I say that e-sports are the future of the events industry, I’m not being hyperbolic. Just as in 2010, when a relatively obscuresport like kabaddi became an overnight success thanks to financial and technical support in the form of the Pro Kabaddi League, I predict that e-sports have the potential to be as great a success story, if given a similar platform.

Considering theimpressivenumber of participants, support from brands (especially tech companies like Intel, Microsoft, Lenovo, and others), and high viewership in the form of streaming, e-sports has all the hallmarks of a truly phenomenal class of events. All that remains to be achieved is for a mainstream event organiser to take the plunge and initiate one of the greatest revolutions that the industry has ever seen. Believe me when I say that any event company willing to invest time and money in developing its own e-sports IP will make gains beyond its wildest expectations, in the coming decade. The e-sports revolution is inevitable, and it’s time for the event industry to embrace it.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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