National Sports Day Celebrates The Rise of Esports in India

National Sports Day Celebrates The Rise of Esports in India

Esports is disrupting traditional norms and making waves all across the country. Once considered a niche pastime, Esports has transformed into a global phenomenon that is reshaping the traditional sports landscape in numerous ways. As the nation gears up to celebrate National Sports Day, let's dive into the meteoric rise of this new-age sporting phenomenon. 

For any sport to gain recognition and credibility amongst the general population, it is essential to achieve significant success at major international tournaments and Esports fulfills that criterion. With remarkable bronze medals in the DOTA 2 title at the Commonwealth Games 2022, and also in the Hearthstone title at the 2018 Asian Games where Esports was a demonstration event under its belt, India has already marked its presence on the global Esports map.

Now, the country is all set to battle it out in four different titles - DOTA 2, FIFA, Street Fighter, and League of Legends at the upcoming Asian Games 2022 in Hangzhou where Esports is making its debut as a full-fledged medal sport. Regarding this, the Sports Ministry has also given its official approval for the 15-member contingent to represent the nation at the prestigious tournament which is a monumental step towards marking the growing significance of considering Esports as a mainstream sport.

Charanjot Singh, a distinguished FIFA athlete of India recently secured top seeding in the South Asian region seeding event for the Asian Games 2022. Speaking ahead of the biggest competition of his life yet, the athlete said, “I never thought I would be representing India in Esports at such a major international tournament. Having started with local tournaments it gives me immense joy to witness this rapid rise of Esports in the country. I am happy that people have understood that Esports is just like any other sport as it requires physical reflexes, strong mental strength, dedication, practice, and strategy. Every young kid with a controller in his hand will now be encouraged instead of being scolded.”

While Esports gained the stature of a sport when the government officially recognized it as a multi-sport event, its legitimacy amongst the general public was enhanced when the government made amendments to the Information and Technology Act to establish a clear distinction between Esports and online gaming. 

Talking about the inspiring journey of Esports from being considered a hobby to an official sport, Mr. Lokesh Suji, Director of Esports Federation of India and Vice President of the Asian Esports Federation (AESF) stated, “Within a year, Esports has transcended the perception of entertainment to reach the level of competitive excellence. We are extremely thankful to the government for separating Esports from the umbrella of online gaming and is not considered to be a part of iGaming, rummy, gambling, etc. With our talented athletes striving for a medal in this year’s Asian Games and the official inclusion of Esports as a medal sport for Asian Games 2026 as well, it will help in educating the general public about its significance even more. Looking at the impressive growth trajectory of the ecosystem, we eagerly await its flourishment in the country.”

Along with major international tournaments, Esports has also made its way into mainstream media. The reach of competitive gaming has extended beyond Esports dedicated platforms, with established sports networks like Star Sports and streaming giants like JioCinema realizing the potential of the sector by broadcasting Esports events to a wider audience.

Sharing his thoughts on the mainstreaming of Esports, Animesh Agarwal, Founder and CEO of 8Bit Creatives and co-founder of S8UL expressed, "The transition from online streaming platforms to renowned sports networks signifies a noteworthy shift in the perception of Esports, positioning it on the same level as traditional sports. As Esports tournaments become a familiar sight in households across the country, there will be a surge in interest and participation, leading to a larger pool of potential talent that we can guide, support, and represent. Additionally, with Esports solidifying its mainstream status, the interest from non-endemic brands looking to establish a presence and be a part of the gaming community will also skyrocket which is beneficial for the overall growth of the sector.”

Esports getting the status of a mainstream sport has not only led to an upsurge in its popularity and cultural acceptance but has also created a solid foundation at the grassroots level for gamers to take it up as a viable career option.

Tanmay Singh also known as ScoutOP who is one of the leading gamers in the country says, “As an Esports athlete, I feel more validated and motivated to grind than ever before. The recognition on different platforms like TV and major streaming services makes me realize that we're part of a rapidly evolving industry that is capturing the hearts of people across the nation. There has never been a better time to be an Esports athlete, and I am genuinely thrilled to contribute to the ongoing gaming revolution in India.”

According to the "Windows of Opportunity" report on India's Media and Entertainment industry by FICCI-EY, the number of Esports players across all competitive level games in India increased from 600,000 in 2021 to 1 million in 2022, and it is expected to reach 2.5 million in 2023.

As Esports continues to flourish, its landscape is evolving as artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and Web3 gaming are pushing the boundaries of what is possible. Esports tournaments are being conducted in stadiums, degrees, and courses for Esports in educational institutes are becoming common, and even states are building their own Esports academies. So, it is safe to say that the future of video gaming in India is exciting.