Is Mobile Gaming the Future of Indian Esports?
Remember the good old days in the 90s when we used to play the legendary ‘Snake’ game on Nokia mobiles? From black-and-white mobile screen-based elementary video games like Snake to Java games like Spiderman, Tanks Pro, etc. and then to more high-end graphics games like Candy Crush, Temple Run, Prince of Persia, FIFA and so on, the mobile gaming industry in India has come a long way, and evolved a lot over the years.
Ever since the introduction of Android OS and a large variety of Android smartphones in India, the mobile gaming market has benefitted immensely and witnessed healthy growth. Apart from the low-cost smartphone penetration, other important factors that have been contributing substantially towards the growth of mobile gaming in India are -- rising digital adoption amongst the youth, constant technological advancements and data revolution (super-cheap data and Internet connectivity pioneered by Jio and other telecom providers).
Such has been the popularity of mobile gaming in India that today it covers a lion’s share of 80 percent or more of the overall online gaming market in India, and our country has been named as ‘one of the top 5 mobile gaming nations’ in the world.
Until five years back, hypercasual/casual or fun games were much more popular among mobile gaming enthusiasts of India. However, the entry of PUBG Mobile in India (around March 2018) shook up the entire ecosystem forever for good. The cherished Battle-Royale game PUBG, with its enriching gameplay experience that was supported even in lower range or mid-range smartphones, took the love for esports (especially Multiplayer Online Battle Arena or MOBA games) in India to a new level altogether, and eventually PUBG Mobile became a ‘smash hit’ and went on to become one of the most-downloaded and most-played mobile games in India in 2018 and 2019.
Even after PUBG was banned by the Indian Government in 2020 owing to data security concerns, the fledging esports-loving mobile gaming community in India continued to grow manifold, as most of them moved on to other battle games like Garena FreeFire, Call of Duty and so on.
Off late, the growing demand and popularity of mobile games and esports were further accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
During last year’s lockdown period and beyond, as more Indians started playing smartphone games while sitting at their homes, a significant majority of them woke up to the realisation that mobile gaming can be seen, beyond just a form of entertainment/enjoyment, as a source of income (earning real money), and that lucrative careers, wealth and success can be made out of playing games!
We have recently been observing that there has been a phenomenal rise in the numbers of youngsters who have transitioned from non-serious and/or amateur mobile gamers to being hardcore or midcore professional real-money gamers and/or game streamers. There has also been a major shift from playing only hypercasual games like Ludo, etc. to switching to MOBA games, real-money games and esports.
Popular players/stakeholders in the global gaming industry (including game developers and publishers as well as different gaming aggregators and platforms), including both Indian and international companies, have already started investing heavily in India’s burgeoning mobile gaming and esports segments.
For instance, globally-renowned games like Fortnite and Minecraft (which were previously popular predominantly on PCs) have been able to scale up their audience reach and distribution by launching on mobile. Apex Legends – a highly popular PC game – recently announced it will be launching its beta mobile version in India.
Even Indian players/companies are not lagging behind on any count; Qualcomm has tied-up with Jio Games to announce the launch of their year-long-collaboration for their Esports Platform initiative. Be it Coca-Cola, Oppo, OnePlus or Airtel, brands in India have found a new-found opportunity in esports, and are coming up with innovative ways to promote and leverage upon the mobile-centric esports and competitive gaming ecosystem in our country.
Smartphone/smart device makers in the country are also looking to take their share out of the epsorts pie by bringing to the fore a wide range of affordably-priced phones along with high-quality processors and other functionalities that are useful to young gamers!
Beyond any doubt, esports is going to be the “next big thing” not only for India’s m0bile gaming segment, but also for the online gaming ecosystem at large. The best part is that now with the availability and accessibility of pocket-friendly smartphones and gaming devices/hardware and esports livestreaming on mobile devices becoming easier than ever before, even an aspiring gamer from a Tier III or Tier IV towns in India can rise to fame, and create a legacy in the world of esports, if he/she acquires the right set of skills and puts in long-term efforts.
So essentially, the rise of mobile gaming has democratized esports to a huge extent, and will continue to do so in the near future. While PC and other forms of gaming will continue to hold their own respective grounds, mobile gaming – which is already dominating the Indian gaming market – can definitely play a bigger role and become a key enabler and catalyst behind the promising future of esports in India, with constant innovations and concerted and collaborative efforts from all stakeholders.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)