The Rise of Esports and Gaming Culture in India

What is Esports gaming? For those in the fog, it is the world of competitive and organized video gaming, bringing competitors from across the globe together from various leagues and genres of gaming, competing against each other in the same games that are popular amongst home gamers.

Labelling video games as sports is a controversial point of debate. While some point to the growth in popularity of Esports as justification for designating some games as sports, others contend that video games will never reach the status of ‘true sports.’ However popularity is not the only reason identified: some have argued that “careful planning, precise timing, and skillful execution” ought to be what classifies an activity as a sport, and that physical exertion and outdoor playing areas are not required by all traditional or non-traditional “sports.”

China was one of the first countries to recognize Esports as a real sport in 2003, despite concerns at the time that video games were addictive. Through this, the government encouraged Esports, stating that by participating in Esports, players were also “training the body for China.”


The first Esports event took place almost 48 years ago in 1972, where students at Stanford University competed in the video game Spacewar. Stanford students were invited to an “Intergalactic Spacewar Olympics,” whose grand prize was a year’s subscription for Rolling Stone, with Bruce Baumgart winning the five-man-free-for-all tournament and Tovar and Robert E. Maas winning the team competition. 


The concept of direct, tournament-level competition between two players was popularized by the fighting game Street Fighter II (1991). Previously, video games most often relied on high scores to determine the best player, but this changed with Street Fighter II, where players would instead challenge each other directly, “face-to-face,” to determine the best player, paving the way for the competitive multiplayer and deathmatch modes found in modern action games.

1996 could be considered a breakthrough year for Esports as the international Evolution Championship Series (EVO) Esports tournament was founded, thanks to the vast popularity of fighting games such as Street Fighter and Marvel vs. Capcom in the 1990s. The growth of Esports in South Korea is thought to have been influenced by the mass building of broadband Internet networks following the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

It is also thought that the high unemployment rate at the time caused many people to look for things to do while out of work. Instrumental to this growth of Esports in South Korea was the prevalence of the Komany-style internet café/LAN gaming centre, known as a PC bang. The Korean e-Sports Association, an arm of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, was founded in 2000 to promote and regulate Esports in the country.


Fast forward to almost five decades later, the Esports industry hit an all-time high of $1.1 billion net worth in 2019 and is estimated to reach $2.17 billion by 2023. Needless to say, Esports has gained a global reputation and is one of the fastest-growing industries in today’s market.

India, one of the world’s fastest-growing economies and home to over 1.3 billion people, has emerged as one of the most lucrative markets in recent times for Esports from a growth perspective. In recent years, the country has witnessed several upcoming Esports startups. As of 2019, India stands at no. 17 globally in the soon-to-be billion-dollar industry.

With the growth in professional gaming in India, improved infrastructure like increase in the number of avenues for gamers to participate increased internet penetration, and the rising purchasing power of the consumer, gamers can now look at gaming as a professional career choice rather than just a hobby or a leisure activity. Games like PUBG Mobile from Tencent have played a huge role in the rise of competitive mobile gaming in India. 


India has evolved as a major player in the online competitive gaming arena. The figures say all that is needed to be known about India’s rise in this market. Games’ revenue rose from $253.6 million in 2014 to $1.1 billion in 2019. These figures are only likely to rise further, given that India is now second only to China when it comes to the number of smartphone users, according to Esports analytics experts Newzoo. 

Content: Even gaming content consumption is at an all-time high. Streamers like Tanmay Bhat, Mortal, Dynamo, CarryMinati & many more are bringing in huge numbers with their content. 

Is it all green? No, not everything is prosperous in this booming scene of Esports. (1) People’s perception is that gaming has always been considered more of a means to kill time and nothing more than that. There is no respect for those who are passionate about gaming. People who are gamers often get laughed at and are considered to be wasting their life if they are a gamer. It’s been mistreated as being a hobby of a child who does not play gully cricket. 

(2) For those who are passionate about gaming, they lack knowledge in gaming. This is due to an insufficient number of gamers who actually have the nerve to come forward and try gaming as a viable career. Since there are very few people to discuss their passion, they don’t quite know about what’s happening around the world in terms of gaming. 

(3) When compared to the US market, the computer hardware in India is costly. This is because there are zero/fewer manufacturing units of computer hardware in India. All of the computer hardware is imported from foreign countries and sold. The imported goods contain Import duty and appropriate taxes, which cause an increase in the price of computer hardware in India. If you are a PC gamer In India, one thing is for sure, being a PC gamer isn’t reasonable. The system requirements of recent PC games have been expensive to our standards. Having a system that costs you approximately Rs. 50,000 to even play a game in low-to-medium settings is the minimum requirement. 

Publishers help in opening an advanced experience frontier for gamers in India. Major game publishers in India include Gamezone, GameGuru, Express Computer Online, Nexus NetTech, Nazara, etc. Publishers have a high impact on the gaming industry in India. Like the arena of software, publishers have started moving towards high-level by trying their hands over casual online gaming. This in turn is expected to boost India’s gaming market.

There is a serious lack of publishers in the Indian Esports ecosystem. Event organizers in India need a license from international publishers for tournaments themselves. 

We are growing. To cite a study conducted by KPMG, the number of game development companies in India stands at around 275 today. This number was a mere 25 in the year 2010. Celebrity and persona-based games have witnessed huge success over the last few years. Celebrity and persona-based Bollywood and sport celebrity games offer a huge potential in geography like India, and this is expected to significantly boost gaming content consumption in the country. But this is still not enough.

What seems to be the problem? A lot of work happens in India and we certainly do have the skills required for the task. India being a big market, the gaming & Esports market is quite a niche. Investors are not quite ready to invest a huge amount in making a flagship game that will cost millions to develop. Creating these games is quite difficult & expensive and lack of funds plays a major role in developing and publishing games.

mobile gaming

As the Covid-19 pandemic forces people to stay indoors, consumption on digital media platforms has increased. 

Not just streaming platforms, gaming platforms have also seen a surge of users and an increase in the amount of time spent by consumers on such platforms. A recent Nielsen report shows that Indians’ use of their smartphones has increased 9% to over 3 hours 40 minutes daily compared to pre-lockdown times.

Consequently, there has been a mad rush among social networking sites, OTT streaming platforms, online chat applications to get a share of this surge. Gaming platforms seem to be a clear winner as time spent on them has increased from 22% to 30% even as the share of social networking remained flat during the period. Interestingly, the report states that there has been a greater increase (55%) in the times spent on gaming platforms by older females as compared to the average smartphone user (49%) in the last 5-6 weeks.

We can conclude that there is an upward trend for the Esport growth in India, but we still have a long way to go. Right now, mobile gaming is booming and people coming on board with more games like PUBG for competitive gaming will be the progressing step towards the future.

On a global scale, India has just started out and has already shown the potential of becoming a top country in Esports. As it stands now, the Indian gaming industry is shaping up to become one of the biggest, if not the biggest, markets for digital gaming.

With the introduction of Esports in India, gaming is not just an avenue for entertainment anymore. With the emergence of competitive gaming, Esports is evolving as a viable career option for virtual athletes and gamers. The Indian Esports industry today is without a doubt one of the fastest-growing industries in the world and it’s fairly evident the future of Esports in India is quite promising.

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