“The digital revolution is far more significant than the invention of writing or even of printing” – Douglas Engelbart, an early computer and internet pioneer.
Over the decades, the revolution has evolved from building the first computer to the first video game to building 2D & 3D graphics that video game developers were able to create complex and indulging game experiences that further evolved to be finally taken to the masses to stream and watch videos on real time while professional gamers compete. In 2018, the revolution has kick started what experts and professionals from the industry call ‘The Golden Age' for gaming globally, and is all set to pick up in the year 2019.
The Streaming Revolution
In the last couple of years, there has been a significant shift in the content consumption platform, with customers moving from downloading content to adopting online streaming services. Services like YouTube, Hotstar, Netflix and Amazon are making moves to take content streaming to the masses with a variety of content in their bid to make it the primary option. There by, paving the way for game streaming online for entertainment.
Earlier, YouTube was the only platform on which content was consumed online apart from users who visited torrent sites to download content that was aired on television. Today, with platforms like Hotstar, the most subscribed to video streaming platform in India and other players like Amazon Prime and Netflix, the market has opened more avenues of content consumption, also paving the way for new content like live competitive gaming or eSports. Most eSports fans use both Twitch and YouTube to consume gaming content. While YouTube is used for more curated content, Twitch is for live streaming games, both for viewing and professionally gaming online.
In 2018, we conducted a survey among 1100+ millennials, it was revealed that 85% of gamers in the millennial study watched gaming videos on YouTube or Twitch. But, more interesting is the fact that more than 37% of gamers admitted to creating gaming videos themselves on these platforms, which is very encouraging for major players in the eSports market. Not only is digital technology of streaming improving engagement but game discovery along with monetization leading to a massive ecosystem for stakeholders.
eSports in India & Global
The eSports industry globally in the last few years has seen exponential growth in all aspects from the number of online streamers, advertising, brand sponsorships, ticket sales, merchandising. The eSports industry will surpass the $1.5 billion mark in global revenues from over an estimated 600 million gaming enthusiasts over the next two years, a report by Deloitte has revealed. Today, eSports is a $70 million industry in India which is a significant growth and it continues to grow rapidly. In countries like Korea, China and Japan e-sport professionals are celebrities in themselves and India are steadily progressing towards a similar eco-system.
With the digital arena having no boundaries for expansion and reach, the way sports are played is almost changing the whole gaming ecosystem. Among the growth drivers are Streaming Platforms and social media who are investing millions to acquire exclusive broadcast rights to some of the top-notch esports leagues and competitions. Big players like the world's largest social media platform, Facebook and Amazon's streaming service, Twitch have bagged exclusive rights to livestream tournaments of popular eSports organizations and titles.
From team-based battles and first-person arena combat to digital versions of professional sports and mixed martial arts, eSports are drawing large audiences of fans with a passion for competitive video gaming – both as participants and as observers through platforms such as Twitch. And many big companies across the media and entertainment industries are getting involved, vying for access to an audience that's moving beyond the reach of traditional media.
The Future of Game Streaming
Digital Streaming of games is also coming to speed in India with Cloud Based Gaming and may take center stage with millennials as India's broadband ecosystem and smartphone adoption evolves in 2019. While gaming may seem to be a solitary activity, social behavior in games can take many forms, from competing with others to building communities and alliances and watching streamers who entertain gamers with action packed sequences and commentary – hallmarks of the best eSports video content for most ardent fans. The love for streaming gaming content has created global streaming icons like Summit1g (who streams for 35 hours a week) or the Syndicate with over a million followers on Twitch. Influenced by these celebrities of the streaming world, 45% of the millennials also mentioned that they have considered a professional career as a game commentator or streamer owing to the overwhelming fame, money and attention that the profession can generate, if you get it right. It is only a matter of time before we see the next generation of Indians representing the country at the Olympics for eSports.
The good news for Indian gaming fans is that the eSports market in India is projected to become five-fold by 2021. However, will India get to where leading countries like China, Japan, and Korea are? Only time will tell. But looking at the massive 1.3 Billion population that is a market to various other industries, it is but practical to think that given the right infrastructure, recognition of talent, and change in mind set and push by investors, India will be there.
The author is Managing Director and CEO, JetSynthesys