Chennai-based Playtonia focuses on promoting and organising e-sports leagues for the serious gaming community and dedicated e-sports enthusiasts, with millions of dollars in prize money.
One day, three engineers and gaming freaks came to a common realisation: that gamers in India often struggled with internet speed and bad network. So Abhijit Pattanaik, Anshuman Pandey, and Sanupam Samantray built a powerful platform on which high-on-graphics game will never suffer from latency.
Their platform, Playtonia, India's leading e-gaming start-up, was launched in June 2017 and now focuses on promoting and organising e-sports leagues, be it for the casual gaming community or dedicated e-sports enthusiasts.
The reason the trio went after e-sports is because it involves big money. The prize money involved in games such as Dota2 is $132 million so far; $49 million has been won in a game called League of Legends. There are 100 players across the world who make more than a hundred thousand dollars per year; these include players like Park Joon, Jonathan Wendil, Danil Ishutin, Lee Jae Dong, and Jerry Lundqvist. These professional gamers sitting in front of powerful computers are sponsored by cmpanies like Coca-Cola, Intel, Acer, and NVIDIA, signalling that gaming is a great way to brand products.
One-stop e-sports destination
Enter Playtonia, the first one-stop destination for e-sports in India. There are two verticals that Playtonia is after.
In the first model, Playtonia offers its services in large-scale e-sports event management; it uses a strong online tech stack to organise events and production services. Large hardware companies like Asus and Acer are using Playtonia’s platform and services to organise their e-sports tournaments.
The second business model is to host servers on its website so gamers from India and around the world can compete on the Playtonia platform with a “lag-free” experience.
Anshuman Pandey, Co-founder of Playtonia, says: “Playing online at Playtonia's platform gets gamers points and goodies.” He adds that users need to subscribe to be able to participate in tournaments hosted on Playtonia platform.
There’s also a third business model: targeted advertising. Playtonia’s website and its social media channels are a medium to connect to the gaming community and large companies attract gamers through these platforms.
Playtonia is a one-of-its-kind platform from India because of its technology stack, which allows gamers to be part of the game on a real-time basis and the high-speed gaming experience.
The early days
The idea of the e-gaming startup came to 26-year-old Abhijit Pattanaik in early 2016 while he was a network engineer at HCL. He was often frustrated when playing online in India because of the lag, which created a very bad gaming experience.
Abhijit wanted to build a service that would take away the lag if the games were hosted on high-end servers. He joined hands with a friend, Sanupam Samantray, 26, who had previously been a graphics designer at Sulekha and Eros. In late 2016, they began building the e-sports and gaming experience. Anshuman Pandey joined them as Chief of Product in January 2017.
Playtonia was launched in Chennai, where the three worked, in 2017. They also brought in Prasanna Kumar as the CTO at around the same time, June 2017.
The co-founders made a good bet because there are about 2 million online gamers playing games such as CS:GO and Dota2 from India. These are just two games; there are several players in other games. The number gets bigger when the entire APAC region is taken into consideration.
On an average a gamer spends anywhere between $10-$15 a month to participate in tournaments and make in-game purchases. With millions of online gamers around the wold, it puts the size of the online gaming industry in billions of dollars.
On a daily basis, more than 1.5 million gamers from India are active on a platform called Steam, the largest e-sports platform in the world. Millions of gamers from across the world are active on the platform.
But while an average gamer spends $10 per month on foreign websites, Playtonia offers the same services at a minimum of $2 per month with “a better gaming experience”.
Playtonia has competition from other online gaming sites, including USports.in in India and WorldGaming.com, Meltdown, and Playsports.com globally. Most games are hosted by the game publishers or creators themselves.
The world of gaming
A typical online gamer can be anyone - a school or college kid or working professionals joining online servers for gaming after college or office hours. Not so active on social media, gamers are motivated to win and prefer to use their skills to make money.
“They are mostly introverts who are looking to making a living in the digital world. It is the future,” Anshuman says.
In India, professional players like Ankit Panth (gaming name V3NOM) flock to LAN parties and gaming cafes in good numbers every evening and during weekends.
India is a very large market for e-sports and is still overlooked. Advertisers have no clue about the potential of this community yet. However, things can change rapidly.
A professional gamer today can earn more than an average software developer in India. This is mainly because the prize pools for e-sports tournaments have increased significantly. Globally, the prize pool is in millions of dollars; in India, it’s increasing substantially. At Playtonia’s last event, the prize pool was worth Rs 20 lakh.
Professional gamers now have bootcamps where they train like athletes all day long.
“These bootcamps are in partnership with companies, which give them salaries and takes care of their amenities while taking a percentage in the prize pool that they win,” Anshuman says.
Sumail Hassan, an 18-year- old gamer originally from Pakistan, has so far amassed about $2.3 million just by playing Dota2 at the international level.
In the future
According to gaming insights company Newzoo , the size of the gaming industry is $108.9 billion globally. Around $27 billion of those revenues come from China. So, Playtonia has clearly bet the future.
The company has to increase its subscription base and increase ad revenues to make money. There is yet to be a media-gaming-tech startup that is valued at $1billion dollars.
V Ganpathy, of Axilor Ventures, says: “Every tech startup should focus on revenues from its B2B segment. If the B2C business begins to scale, they have a winning combination.”
Over a year, Playtonia has organised 30 small and large-scale tournaments and has a built a strong following in the Indian gaming community. It currently has 22,000 registered subscribers.
In 2018, the team plans to add more games on their platform in its bid to be the leader in e-sports tournaments in India.
Playtonia is self-funded, with the founders putting in less than Rs 30 lakh into the business. They are now in talks with many investors to raise funding and scale the platform to other countries.
Playtonia, which catering to gamers in India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Pakistan, is now aiming to expand its user base and offer a lag-free gaming experience in APAC and Gulf countries. Game on!