Esports has seen a sudden rise in popularity due to the pandemic. This accelerated growth of this global phenomenon has everyone on their feet waiting to jump in on this opportunity.
Akshat Rathee: Founder of NODWIN Gaming
Having been an avid gamer throughout his college years, Akshat Rathee has revolutionized the games and esports industry in India. Having grown and built several companies in the gaming ecosystem. He is now the founder of NODWIN Gaming India’s biggest Esport and Gaming Company curating their growth to global markets as well.
In an informative and insightful session with our Co-Founder Arshi Yasin, Akshat the Esports Professor unwraps everything Esports and talks about how India is finally accepting the global phenomenon.
Starting off Akshat breaks down what Esports is. E in the esport stands for electronics, the device that athletes play on, and like the professor that he gives us the technical definition of sport which is the physicality of responses which determines results. The conversation leads to whether esport can be considered as a sport firstly and then whether it should be included in the Olympics. He quotes the Olympics motto ‘Citius, Altius, Fortius’ which means "faster, higher, stronger" in Latin.
Competitive gaming is determined by the speed of responses and on skill which meets the faster criteria of the Olympic motto. This according to him makes Esport a sport.
Large Ecosystem of Esports - the rise of Esports
Akshat mentions how growth of traditional sport takes place, quoting crickets’ growth and development as an example of what esports could be like in India. Akshat also mentions that there are multiple disciplines in esport which fall under the wider umbrella. He says that a CSGO pro won’t be able to compete in for example PUBG Mobile due to them being vastly different entities.
Akshat mentions that the western definition of Esports is mainly PC gaming driven which esport titles like Dota 2, CSGO, League of Legends. While comparing to the eastern definition which is mainly mobile-driven with titles like PUBG Mobile, Garena Free Fire, Clash of Clans to name a few. He breaks down the ecosystem using a very interesting analogy driven around cricket mentioning that Test Match Cricket is PC Gaming for the purists, One Day Cricket is console gaming, and lastly the edition of cricket that is capturing the average person which Twenty-Twenty Cricket is mobile gaming. Mobile gaming in India is easily accessible for its public, driven by regional languages and the sheer number of users which is around 185 million people, helps the growth.
Impact of COVID 19 on Esports ecosystem
There has always been a societal stigma of playing video/mobile games in India, with parents considering it a waste of time. However, with the current situation, society has also grown to understand that gaming can be a very social affair. Acceptance of mobile gaming and its legitimacy has changed due to the current situation with families playing video games with each other thus forging better relationships with their children.
With the growing popularity of esport tournaments and performances at global tournaments, India is slowly putting themselves on the map of global esports
The pride that India is good at esports with recent performances at the Global level standing second after China. Akshat also provides insights on increasing numbers at the grassroots level results in better competitive output at professional level.
Esports in future Olympics
Esports at the Olympics
Akshat mentions that Esport doesn’t need the Olympics. Major game titles have their own championships/world series. Olympics being a media property uses traditional sport to earn their finances while showcasing sport at a global level.
He mentions that most games are controlled by the publisher and they themselves determine the rules and regulations. Since the Olympics do not allow corporate bodies, creating an elected body for the global esports ecosystem may not be the right way forward. Thus making Esports not fit the message that the Olympics wants to send. Akshat mentions that major stakeholders can use their platform showcase esports as a demo sport which is what Intel is doing with their Intel World Open. He continues that traditional sporting federations can implement their own esport body thus creating the need for esports in the Olympics which he says will happen in the next 3 to 5 years.
Gender neutrality in Esports
Akshat starts off this conversation mentioning that in the precursor to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. Akshat mentions that Scarlett becomes the first woman to win a major Starcraft 2 tournament held as a demo run. Firstly showcasing his knowledge of the global ecosystem and secondly saying that esports can be gender-neutral to a certain extent.
He continues that participation of females in esport will happen through creating opportunity/reservation system in which female gamers can make use of and showcase their abilities. However, he also mentions that women need to take the onus and get themselves involved in the gaming ecosystem. Considering the growth of esport or any other sport in question, Akshat believes that if more women watch sport, more women will end up playing as is the case with the growing development and popularity of Women’s Cricket.
Sponsorship In Esports
With the growing popularity of esports in India, endemic and non-endemic brands are making their entry into the market.
As the gaming industry is mainly catered to ages 16-24. A lot of brands want to be able to capture this demographic thus using gaming as the perfect platform to do so.
Akshat when asked about whether big brands like Nike, Puma will enter the market swiftly answers that in less than a year, we could potentially see those brands in esports.
Role of media
Media plays an important role in the growth of any industry and it is the same with Esports. However, Akshat mentions that due to the nascent stage of the industry, broadcasters aren’t aware of what steps to take.
Traditional media still hasn’t figured out where esports lands in terms of viewership. However due to its popularity, esport related content still works but they haven’t been able to figure it out completely. Akshat concludes that as the industry is taking its baby steps, the opportunity to try and build is immense.
Fan engagement in Esports
Fan engagement in esports works just like in traditional sport, fans like a player/sport and then end up engaging in it. Akshat provides insight into how teams need to be able to build their brand through profitability and having a management structure in place. With teams actively investing in the team house, content creation, and managers to help achieve their goals.
Using examples of the Premier League and Bundesliga, Esport organizations need to be able to build longer engagement methods that last throughout the year. Considering that esport leagues last for a period of 9/10 months, it is easier to drive fan engagement.
Making a career in Esports
Many people ask Akshat what it takes to be an esport athletes and he replies back saying the same as it takes to be a traditional sports athlete. To become an esport athlete, individuals need to spend hours developing and honing their skills. Constantly trying to get better at the game while learning the nuances of it makes a better athlete. Focusing on getting better at the game rather than casually playing for hours together. Akshat also answers that being involved in esport doesn’t necessarily mean playing the game. Just like traditional sports, esports also needs management. Whatever career options are available in traditional sports, the same can be said for esports as well. There are no new career opportunities in esport and in this regard esport and traditional sport goes hand in hand.
Future of Esports
Finally concluding Akshat hedges his bets on Esport being the second biggest ‘sport’ after cricket in terms of viewership as well as playing numbers. He also mentions that esports often gets confused with entertainment whereas it could become a stand-alone entity that drives entertainment. Esports is a niche industry at the moment but has massive growth potential in the future. It will be interesting to see what happens in the future and how NODWIN Gaming will facilitate the growth of the same in India as well as in global markets.
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