The career of an esports player is a short one. Maybe you start playing League of Legends at the tender age of 14 or 15, get scouted to join a pro-team with a heavyweight investor behind it, and retire in your twenties. Until then, you eat, sleep, and breathe the game. Maybe team practices or gaming bootcamps take your time away from school. It’s stressful, and the reason why people stop playing so young is because the burnout rate is incredible.
So why play? Because it can pay millions. Imagine being 20 years old and having the type of money people don’t see over a lifetime.
India wants in.
Indian game developer and publisher Nazara has had a long history of growing India’s gaming ecosystem. In 2013, it launched a seed fund focused on gaming startups. A year later, it launched a US$1.6 million game fund to invest in startups developing mobile games. And today, it’s announced an investment of US$20 million, which it will use to create a premier esports league in India over the next five years.
Imagine being 20 years old and having the type of money people don’t see over a lifetime.
What does that look like? Nazara will create content and a community platform for esports players. It’ll also bring in coaches and other specialists to build, train, and manage teams. There will be two six-month seasons, and the winners within local leagues will go on to compete on a global stage. Games will include Dota 2 and Counter Strike: Global Offensive.
“An ecosystem for esports in India doesn’t exist,” Manish Agarwal, CEO of Nazara, tells Tech in Asia. He describes the upcoming selection process as “democratic.” Players will be able to audition and will be picked in a draft-like fashion for six teams. Those not chosen will still be able to participate in events on the platform to improve their skills.
Esports fans will be able to follow their favorite players through the new platform, which Manish hopes will grow an esports fanbase through its web television content, guides, forums, online tournaments, and coverage of the scene. According to Manish, that fanbase – which hit 246 million in 2016 – tends to be affluent and tech savvy. They’d be willing to pay up for perks for their fandom.
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The potential cyber goldmine
A month ago, UTV Group founder Ronnie Screwvala launched the esports league UCypher, part of his company USports. Allotted anywhere from US$11.9 to US$14.9 million, UCypher has 10 teams competing in mobile, console, and PC games.
Last year, the esports market was projected to hit US$463 million and tip over a billion by 2019. Nazara has been around since 2003, and until recently, Manish says, its focus has been the nation’s 100 million mobile gamers. Nazara’s new esports venture will focus on the 5 to 7 million hardcore gamers and their audiences. Manish points to India’s growing smartphone user base as even more incentive.
“Youth today is not really watching TV so much,” he says. “They’re looking for interactive memes and mechanisms for entertainment.” He hopes to draw them in with a vibrant esports platform.
Meanwhile, for parents wringing their hands at the thought of their children giving up their university dreams in favor of millions earned behind a screen, he has a reassurance – the venture will also partner with universities in the future to offer career opportunities when the youngins’ days in the league are finished.
Converted from Indian rupees. Rate: US$1 = INR 67
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