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Indian Esports stakeholders reflect on historic year for video-gaming industry; share outlook for upcoming year

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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.

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.

Asia

China’s CBA League Extends Global Broadcast and Integrity Partnership with Sportradar

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The Chinese Men’s Professional Basketball League (CBA League) and Sportradar announced a strategic extension of their partnership aimed at growing the league’s global presence and ensuring integrity within Chinese basketball.

This extension will leverage Sportradar’s expansive network to distribute more than 550 games, including highlights and short form video, through the regular and post-season. Through international broadcast and audio-visual distribution channels, including leading broadcasters, streaming services and over-the-top (OTT) platforms, the collaboration seeks to enhance fan engagement and broaden the league’s viewership in international markets.

CBA League will also continue to receive Sportradar’s market-leading integrity services, with its suite of technological solutions and products deployed to safeguard CBA League competitions against a range of integrity threats.

Shirley Lv, who led the broadcast rights negotiation at CBA League, said: “We are delighted to extend our partnership with Sportradar and believe it will provide enriched possibilities and further awareness for CBA League, given the company’s extensive experience and recent track record. By building up opportunities globally in this long-term partnership, we look forward to developing the continued growth of the CBA League and reaching out to new audiences around the world.”

Ben Turner, Head of Sports Content and Partnerships, APAC and Head of Global Basketball, Sportradar said: “Sportradar is the unparalleled partner to propel CBA League towards previously untapped levels of global visibility. Basketball is one of only a few sports with significant global appeal, and Sportradar is committed to maximizing this potential for both the CBA League and our clients. Together, we will continue to unlock immense value through our content offering, fostering growth and engagements across diverse markets.”

The 2023/24 season is the CBA league’s 29th edition, with 20 teams vying for top honours.

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Asia

Aurora Gaming Crowned Champions of $350,000 Skyesports Masters 2024, Earns Spot in Skyesports Championship

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Aurora Gaming has been crowned the champions of the Skyesports Masters 2024, defeating OG 3-1 in an intense Grand Finals. With this victory, the team will take home $105,000 of the $350,000 prize pool and secure a slot in the next tournament of the 2024 Skyesports Counter-Strike 2 roadmap, the Skyesports Championship 2024.

The Skyesports Masters 2024 took place from April 8 to 14, featuring eight teams from India and Europe competing for the lion’s share of the substantial prize pool.

Coming in after a first-place finish at the Skyesports Grand Slam 2024 in Pune, India, last month, Aurora Gaming were on a hot streak and favored to win it all. The Siberian team had a dominant run throughout the upper bracket, achieving first place.

Facing Aurora in the Grand Finals was OG. The team had already lost to Aurora in their opening game of the Skyesports Masters and had to navigate through a high-stakes lower bracket, eliminating ENCE, Ninjas in Pyjamas, BIG, and BetBoom to reach the Grand Finals.

Aurora proved to be the stronger team this time as well, with a decisive 3-1 finish. The map-wise results were as follows:

● Anubis: 13-6 (Aurora Gaming)

● Mirage: 11-13 (OG)

● Ancient: 13-10 (Aurora Gaming)

● Overpass: 13-3 (Aurora Gaming)

In a post-match interview, Aurora’s Evgeniy “Norwi” Ermolin expressed gratitude to the team’s fans, stating, “I am feeling really good; we played really well today. Thank you for watching, for the support, and for everything. We will continue trying our best and look forward to playing some LAN.”

The Skyesports Masters 2024 reached a peak viewership of 41,833, a significant increase from the previous year, according to Esports Charts. Counter-Strike esports in India was given a revival through the 2023 and inaugural edition of the Skyesports Masters, the Playoffs for which happened in Bangalore, India. Skyesports has also announced that the Skyesports Masters will return for its third edition in the summer of 2025 with a six digit prize pool.

With this victory, Aurora Gaming has secured a slot in the Skyesports Championship 2024, the details of which will be announced later. It’s the next tournament in Skyesports’ 2024 Counter-Strike 2 esports roadmap, which has paved the way for international teams to look at the tournaments as viable IPs for them to participate in.

Commenting on the Skyesports Masters 2024, Shiva Nandy, Founder and CEO of Skyesports, said, “Congratulations to Aurora Gaming for winning the Skyesports Masters 2024. With more than 40,000 concurrent viewers, the tournament has made a significant impact in the global Counter-Strike 2 esports ecosystem, and I couldn’t be more excited for the future. Up next, we will bring another elite tournament, the Skyesports Championship 2024, which will be the sixth edition of this IP and the first time that Counter-Strike 2 will be a part.”

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Asia

Asian Regional Qualifiers Host Announced

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The International Esports Federation (IESF) is delighted to announce the highly-anticipated IESF Asian Esports Championship, set to take place in Chengdu, China, from September 9th to 14th, 2024. This championship will be the final regional qualifier leading to the 16th World Esports Championship Riyadh,  WEC24.

Huati Gaming will bring its experience to this event as a local organizing committee, together with the China National Cyber Games and Sichuan International Expo Group.

The championship will begin with an online competition from June 20th to June 30th, providing a digital stage for the national champions to showcase their skills and secure a spot in the offline event. Athletes and teams from 42 countries in Asia and Oceania will come together to compete in Chengdu. The championship will feature competitions across CS2, CS2 Women, DOTA2, MLBB, and MLBB Women, and an online qualifier for PUBG MOBILE, showcasing the region’s diverse talent and interest in Esports.

“It is a great pleasure to host our first championship in Chengdu, China. The city is known for hosting big events, especially major esports tournaments, and it makes it the ideal location for this year’s Asian Esports Championship. This event will present a unique opportunity for the teams, athletes, and the large fanbase from this region, to experience the excitement of competition that defines our championships.” – stated Boban Totovski, IESF’s General Secretary.

In addition to top-tier competition, this championship will also provide opportunities for emerging talent to shine on an international stage. The winning teams will earn the privilege of representing their countries at the prestigious WEC24. 

“Hosting the IESF Asian Esports Championship in Chengdu, China, fills us with immense pride as we welcome athletes and countries from across the region. The fans are already anticipating the thrilling competition, where the finest talent of Asian esports will showcase their skills. As we gather to compete, let us harmonize globally, celebrating our differences and uniting in the spirit of friendly competition.” – stated Xu Ming, Chairwoman of China National Cyber Games 

Given Chengdu’s known reputation as a center for Esports excellence and innovation, the IESF Asian Esports Championship promises to be a celebration of Esports, uniting players and fans from this region in a showcase of skill, passion, and sportsmanship. Stay tuned for updates and announcements as the championship approaches.

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