Next level: how gaming has the potential to drive engagement for brands

Brands are showing a growing affinity to working with gamers to tap into the growing demographics of the industry, which is on an upward growth trajectory. There is an industry consensus that with increased industry support, players can help brands and products reach the right audience.

The gaming world clearly has a lot to offer the marketing world – games and players form the center, but there are also developers, studios, composers, production houses, platforms, creators and others who are part of the larger process.

Animesh Agarwal, Founder and CEO of 8bit Creatives, himself a former esports athlete, points out: “Gaming growth depends on three strong pillars: players, ecosystem and infrastructure. Audiences desperately want to consume gaming content and game production houses and creators are coming up with new content formats like docu-series, web shows and innovative streams to entertain and engage and take it to the next level. This will continue to increase the proportion of the population engaged in gambling.”

Sharing similar views, Faraz Sayed, Director of Media Planning at Carat India, says that due to its “always on” nature, esports provides an ongoing opportunity to drive value for brands. Players who play competitively often live stream during the “off season” as they strive to improve and prepare for upcoming tournaments.

“It means fans can watch their favorite players practice all day, every day, and ask them questions as they watch them improve in their sport. This is a great opportunity for fans. to directly engage with their favorite streamers, which gives brands a unique opportunity to tie into fans’ passion points. It’s a level of engagement that can be assessed differently from traditional passive sports TV shows,” noted Sayed.

Growth story

India’s gaming market is expected to reach a value of $5 billion by 2025. The domestic industry, comprising games, platforms, studios, players and talent management, has attracted $350 million (approx. Rs 27,000 crore) in investments from venture capitalists between 2014 and 2020. (22% CAGR), with that figure rising to $1.6 billion in the first nine months of 2021 alone, according to a report by Maple Capital Advisors. It should be noted that this figure was largely due to two major deals: Dream Sports and Mobile Premier League, which raised $785 million (approx Rs 6,200 crore) and $375 million (approx Rs 3,000 crore) , respectively.

In 2022 itself, among a slew of other deals, Loco added $42 million (approx Rs 332 crore) in funding to its already formidable kitty, while Rooter raised $25 million (approx Rs 185 crore) in funding. Series A, with the latter investing Rs 100 crore in acquiring top esports teams like GodLike and other initiatives. Rooter also recently acquired the media rights to all esports and gaming tournaments on Skyesports, a major host in the space.

Meanwhile, Loco, among other investments and acquisitions, has partnered with fellow gaming great Nodwin Gaming and secured the digital screening rights for the latter’s BGMI Master Series tournament.

For Ashwin Suresh, Founder, Loco and Pocket Aces, this progression of the gaming industry in India is the same as abroad but at a very accelerated pace. “Gaming investors who previously invested in markets like the US and Japan are now coming to India because that’s where the new audience is. It’s also important to remember that gaming markets in the West were built on the back of PCs, consoles and gaming rigs, which were expensive and already a barrier to entry.

India, he says, is decidedly a mobile-first market and has skipped that step. Therefore, it is the world leader in the mobile games market. “You can get a decent phone on which you can play any popular game for less than Rs 10,000. Data is cheap and increasingly accessible even in the most remote parts of the country. what it takes to become a skilled player is practice and young people see the opportunities in a growing market.

Piyush Kumar, founder of Rooter, says India has provided a unique opportunity for international gaming conglomerates. “In India, almost every household has a young person between the ages of 10 and 25, who regularly plays games on the phone, and the market size is huge. That’s why you have huge companies that have never created of mobile games before, creating mobile versions for the Indian market, which are also doing very well.

“Nearly a million people are game content creators who log into Rooter every day, and that’s the bottom of the pyramid. Then we have a list of 3,000 to 5,000 popular professional creators with which we have contracts and pay monthly salaries to create content for our channels. And the third tier is exclusive sponsorships that we have with the best gaming and streaming talent in the country,” Kumar says, saying this represents a huge pool of consumers.

Mitesh Kothari, co-founder and CCO, White Rivers Media, believes that every platform, big or small, seeks to drive engagement and grow its user base, collaborations with up-and-coming pro-gamers are the way to follow, and the exclusive partnerships are just the beginning of the hopeful transformation Indian gamers have been waiting for.

Rishabh Bhansali, co-founder of FanClash, which recently raised $40 million (about Rs 3,162 crore) in Series B funding, points out that there are 500 million grassroots esports viewers globally, with 20% CAGR growth. In India, that number stands at 100 million and is expected to triple by 2025.

Brands that create fan engagement platforms, athletes and teams help them access the fan community and adopt the brand proposition faster. Whereas for gamers, the current conventional form of fan engagement is limited to fan interaction during streams, cheering via social media, and a few LAN events.

“Partnering with brands can expand that fan engagement in tangible ways. For example, the concept of fantasy in esports transforms an avid fan from a passive spectator into an active team leader who can create their own fantasy team of real players and earn money/prizes based on performance real of the chosen players. in tournaments around the world,” added Bhansali.

According to Suresh, investment companies, as well as advertisers (endemic and now non-endemic) are increasingly turning to platforms like his, and others, because they are at the center of this whole ecosystem. “We work with game studios, their distribution channels, the users themselves who download and play the games, a subset who stream videos of themselves playing the games, and a subset smaller who plays competitively. And these competitive players have audiences and subscribers that reach into the millions, and advertisers want to reach them.

“Influencers are, without a doubt, one of the most indispensable and organic marketing agents today. They provide a unique human connection that helps brands connect with viewers and keep them engaged. First glance, we have a lush abundance of credible influencers in the Indian gaming scene.While professional gamers and esports athletes can reap the lucrative fruits of this multi-billion dollar industry with these offers, brands can reach their desired audience, drive more traffic, and creatively engage them,” says Kothari, emphasizing that it’s truly a win-win for everyone involved.

Talking about the acceptance of the game in the country, Abhishek Aggarwal, Founder and CEO of Trinity Gaming, says that over the past two years, parents have gone from complaining to him through emails, calls and personal interactions on the time their children lose “playing”. video games” to salute the efforts of its games and talent marketing agency.

“With gaming and esports becoming competitive events at international events like the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and soon to be the Olympics, coupled with the growth and chance of success in the field, many parents are now happy to encourage their children to pursue gaming as a viable career option,” says Aggarwal. Trinity Gaming will soon be running outreach programs at colleges and universities to attract the next generation of professional gamers and creators, it said. -he adds.

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