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A groundbreaking year for Indian Esports, marked by participation in the Asian Games 2022, witnessed global triumphs, mainstream recognition, and brand investments, laying the foundations for a successful 2024

The year 2023 has been defined by a multitude of key events and accomplishments for Indian Esports. The ‘Leveling up: State of India Gaming FY’23’ report by Lumikai in collaboration with Google states that India was home to 568 Mn gamers in FY23. The country’s gaming market hit $3.1 Bn in FY23 and is projected to reach $7.5 Bn by FY28, growing at a CAGR of 20%.

The Indian contingent’s participation in the Asian Games 2022, where Esports debuted as an official medal sport, and the remarkable fifth-place finish secured by the League of Legends team emerged as the year’s crowning achievement that showcased the nation’s Esports prowess on the international stage. S8UL, India’s premier Esports organization, added to this triumph by winning the first-ever ‘Global Impact on Mobile Gaming’ at the MOBIES Awards as well as the ‘Content Creator of the Year’ award at the global Esports Awards 2023.

Mr. Animesh Agarwal aka 8Bit Thug, Founder and CEO of 8Bit Creatives and S8UL, reflected on these milestones, stating, “The recognition on the global stage including our country’s talented contingent competing at the Asian Games 2022 and S8UL achieving unprecedented success elevated the industry’s status. The stigma surrounding gaming as a career choice has dissipated, opening new opportunities for aspiring gamers and legitimizing Esports as a viable and respected profession.”

The year also witnessed a transformative influx of brands into the Esports ecosystem, with notable examples such as IQOO SOUL’s historic title sponsorship with Team SOUL. Mr. Animesh Agarwal highlighted the significance, saying, “The increasing involvement of non-endemic brands, their entry into the gaming space, and the rise of official tournaments have reshaped the industry’s landscape. IQOO SOUL’s title sponsorship with IQOO highlights the expanding horizons of Esports sponsorships with brands across all domains. The influx of non-endemic brands brings both financial support and broader visibility to gaming creators, organizations, tournaments, and other Esports events.”

The amendments made to the Information and Technology (IT) Act by the Indian government played a pivotal role in distinguishing Esports from real money gaming (RMG). This recognition provided legitimacy to the sector, leading to increased sponsorships and investments.

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States like Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh have also taken proactive steps, with initiatives such as the country’s first esports academy and tournaments. Educational institutions have also embraced Esports with the inclusion of Esports in the curriculum.

Sharing his thoughts on these developments, Mr. Lokesh Suji, Director of Esports Federation of India (ESFI) and Vice-President of Asian Esports Federation (AESF) commented,The future of Esports is exceptionally bright in India. Through the consistent efforts of ESFI, the Indian government officially recognized Esports as a multi-sport event and categorized it under the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in December 2022. Beyond official recognition, infrastructure development is a critical factor for the sustained growth of the Esports industry. The initiatives by our government and numerous states have laid the groundwork for potential financial backing and infrastructure growth in the coming years. Esports now proudly stands alongside the traditional sports of the country, attracting more players and sponsors to the industry.”

After its temporary hiatus, the triumphant return of Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI) this year was an instrumental factor for the Indian Esports industry. Emphasizing the resilience and growth, Mr. Rohit Agarwal, Founder & Director, Alpha Zegus noted, “Content solutions have been our top priority in 2023, and it has been an incredible year for us. Titles like BGMI had a comeback that boosted the Esports industry by more than 4x factor, while publishers like RIOT took serious efforts and made massive investments into the Indian gaming space. In numbers, we generated more than 400 pieces of quality content for our partners and saw a 300% growth in content solutions as compared to 2022. In 2024, our efforts are going to continue towards content solutions and experiential marketing, expanding our base to different regions, and bringing more quality to our work.”

As Esports continues its ascent as a global phenomenon, the inaugural Esports World Cup 2024 and the entry of streaming giants like Netflix and YouTube into gaming signal a revolutionary shift for Indian esports in the upcoming year. The convergence of these factors coupled with other trends promises a dynamic and transformative year ahead.

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