Video games have a come long way since the first games were put out in the 1970s. The global E-Gaming industry is growing rapidly at a CAGR (Compound annual growth rate) of 5.7% , the global value is estimated to reach a staggering US$ 93.18bn by 2019. In more saturated countries, mainly South Korea, Japan, Sweden and the U.S.A, E-gaming is already an embedded and acceptable way of life in society, leaving the days when gaming implied just you and your console, long behind us.
With Virtual Reality technology just around the corner for millions of gamers across the world, E-gaming has never been at a more exciting stage. Professional gamers in Korea, Japan and parts of Europe are treated like celebrities and the matches are played in physical arenas with people live streaming major events across the world. ‘The International’ for example is DOTA 2 tournament for 16 chosen teams; the last edition in 2015 had US$ 18 million in prize money. Naturally, India is a huge market for a lot of the big players like Sony and Nintendo and the gaming scene in India may not be as far behind as its western counterparts after all. The country has seen a huge increase in E-Gaming in the last couple of years. A lot of nationally popular mobile app based games have been made in the country; Teen Patti, Real Cricket and Skatelander to name a few. Last year, we also saw the birth of the Indian Gaming Expo in November, concentrating on new games, gaming technology, cosplay and a tournament with prize money of 3,00,000 INR.
This general increase in the popularity of the E-Gaming industry in India led to two young men starting the IGL or the Indian Gaming League. Yash Pariani (23) is a DJ and owns ‘One World Productions’ in Greece whereas Krish Galani was the pioneer behind U.S.A’s first female-only pro-gaming ‘Call Of Duty’ tournament. The online portal aims at creating a platform for Indian gamers to come together and learn from each other, not to mention play for substantial cash prizes and gain access to International gaming tournaments. “The Indian gaming community has the skills and potential to compete Internationally, but they lack infrastructure, association and companionship”, Yash added. Krish and Yash saw this untapped potential and took a leap of faith to start the IGL in January this year.
The IGL will run two formats in its first year, both online and offline. So far they plan to launch with the three most popular games in the country, namely CS (Counter Strike), DOTA 2 (Defense of The Ancients 2) in the online format and FIFA in the offline format of the league. Inspired by the format of Indian Premier League, IGL has sold its various teams to buyers who are said to be key influencers and celebrities; the names have been withheld till the first month of the competition is concluded, though they have announced that Sanjay Kapoor has bought the Chennai FIFA team. All owners have to pay their gamers a monthly salary of 15,000 INR, thus actually making E-Gaming a lucrative career option. IGL has also partnered up with renowned e-sports organisers from the States, Major League Gaming, to guide their operations. The online games (CS & DOTA) will have a weekly event at Hoppipola in Khar and Powai so that the gamers can meet regularly and a tighter community can be formed, whereas the offline FIFA meet up will happen once a month at The Intercontinental Hotel on Marine Drive. IGL will provide all the consoles and hardware required for the events. Shraey Gupta has recently joined the two young co-founders too, making it a three-person team. They have also been partnered with Sony, PayTM and Redbull, each being an industry leader in their sectors.
Thus far IGL has taken all right strides in making the league a financially viable investment for the owners and the gamers. Scroll down to read our conversation with Yash Pariani about the finer details of what the IGL is all about and the E-gaming scenario in Indian, in general:
HG: What prompted you’ll to start IGL? Tell us more about the thought behind it.
YP: I met my cousin, Krish, in New York last summer and he happened to own Call Of Duty and Smite teams that took part in several competitions. This was my first interaction with large scale E-sports tournaments and I realized that we could execute a similar concept in India. Our initial research showed us a glimpse of the sad state of the Indian gaming scene. We knew we had to do something to unify the unstructured and scattered market and we also knew that gaming was big in India, it just wasn’t quantified. That is how we decided upon our execution structure just for the Indian scene, tournaments were not going to be enough, we had to make E-Sports a glamorous event, we thus decided on involving celebrities.
HG: What is the current scenario of the E-gaming industry in India and Abroad? Could you speak about this from a Gamer’s and a Maker’s perspective?
YP: In India, currently, there are a few gaming competitions but none have really achieved the traction that is going to take it to the next level. We are looking at changing all of that and putting India at par with players across the world. An E-Sports tournament in the US recently had a prize pool of 20 million USD, maybe one day we can make that happen for gamers in the country. As a gamer in India, one of the biggest issues faced for them is the stigma associated with gaming. Parents have never approved of raising their child, as a professional gamer. At IGL that is the core value that we want to change and to make parents proud of their children for being a professional gamer.
HG: How do you see IGL growing in the market?
YP: We have had a very strong start. Users from all across India, even people from smaller cities have joined the league and are participating in online tournaments. We are currently in the midst of forming operations in Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Delhi apart from Mumbai. IGL aims to gain as many users as we can and build the biggest gaming community in the country.
HG: What factors helped you close in on the 3 games for the first season?
YP: At the moment, we have decided to form a league with just 3 games. Krish and I chose 3 of the most popular games in the Indian market; Counter Strike, DOTA 2 & FIFA. These 3 are by far the most popular and even in our past events, they have received the maximum traction. Each game is distinct and unique in their own way and have a huge fan base of their own. CS is an FPS game, DOTA 2 is a fiction strategy game and FIFA, we all know is a football-based game.
HG: Does a professional gamer specialise in one game, or do they usually concentrate on a couple or more games?
YP: Most of the teams that have already participated in our tournaments usually stick to just the 1 game, however when it comes to mobile gaming & FIFA we have found gamers usually may take part in other mobile games.
HG: You seem to have tied up with various global brands for the IGL, how did you make that happen? What is your unique offering that helped you partner with these brands?
YP: The first brand that we associated was MLG (Major League Gaming), they are one of the most recognized names in the E-Sports Industry. Krish owns teams in America that take part in MLG’s tournaments hence when we had approached them to become our Media partner. We approached Sony & pitched the idea to them, it is needless to say that they loved it. We also had our first successful event at Hoppipola and we plan to make it a weekly affair. This idea itself is unique for the Indian market, and our partners share our vision & recognize the growth potential. Last year 32 million people viewed the League of Legends final in the championship.
HG: IGL is still at a very nascent stage, what do you have planned for 2016? And how has the response been so far?
YP: Our main aim is to grow across the country & build our community. We want the country to know that E-Sports is here to stay and that every gamer should join the revolution. By the end of 2016, our aim is to host tournaments in 8 different states on a weekly basis, making sure that we can engage as many people as possible. Towards the end of the year we also plan to have one huge tournament where gamers from all across the country will come down to participate in.
HG: How would you compare India to other growing E-gaming nations? Also how far away are we from, say, a Korea or a Japan?
YP: This is the right time for E-Sports in India to thrive, as the internet infrastructure and access is improving. The biggest change we need to make is actually in the mindset of most Indian parents. We plan to improve the infrastructure of the tournaments and have them on a bigger scale. I believe that in the next 3 years India can produce players that will keep up with the international level of players.
HG: On the surface, E-Sports does not really need much infrastructure apart from a good computer with high definition graphic, internet and minimal gaming gear. What baby steps do you think we need to make here in India to match the global standards and to offer enough exposure to our virtual athletes?
YP: Internet connection is the most important obstacle that needs to be tackled, as well as affordable PC’s for every gamer. It is definitely improving but we still has a long way to go, and we hope that the IGL will be the bridge to help us reach global standards. We have started by trying to get as many people to take part in our tournaments including non-traditional gamers. Our next night at Hoppipola will also include Guitar Hero, which can be turned into a couple’s tournament.
HG: They say that the Global Gaming Industry is fast overtaking the Movie industry. What are your views on that?
YP: Definitely, the storylines that most games have today are that of a mini movie, especially games like the Grand Theft Auto & the Call of Duty franchise. They each have their own plot lines similar to an Interactive movie. GTA Sold 800 million dollars worth of copies in its first day, which something that even the biggest franchises in Hollywood like Star wars was not able to top. So there’s great potential in it.
HG: With the future moving into VR (Virtual Reality), how does that change the gaming world?
VP: We agree with the Oculus Rift & other devices coming out soon, VR is the next biggest platform. We’re extremely keen to begin with tournaments based on VR. Gaming will always exist only the platform will change.
HG: Are there any Indian gamers out there that everybody should stop and take notice of?
YP: There are many. A few whom we’ve been following are Team Brutality who play Counter strike and have taken part in various international tournaments. Shantanu Basu is also one of the most well known FIFA players in the country. Team Neckbreak is also being taken notice of.We hope that through IGL we’ll be able to give them the recognition that these E-athletes deserve.
HG: What are the different ways in which you can make a career in the gaming industry, except for being a gamer?
YP: There are many ways and many positions, we are always on a lookout at hiring admins & referees, they will ensure that while a tournament is going on everyone is following the rules and no disputes occur. Also every team, especially the professional ones require a manager/coach who would be a point of contact between the team owner and various tournament organizers. They also have to devise strategies the teams can use and ensure that the teams are spending time training.
HG: What are your 5 favourite E-Gaming teams across all games?
YP: Evil Geniuses, Dota FNATIC, Counter Strike XGN, Smite EnVyUS, CSGO Faze Call of Duty
HG: Tell me about your 4 favourite game characters?
YP: Mario, Pokemon, Trevor (GTA V) & Kronos (God of war)
HG: Rate the 3 genres of gaming: Strategy, Sports and First Person Shooter on a scale of 1 to 10?
YP: Fire person shooter-10 Sports-10 Strategy-8
HG: What are your 2 favourite Game developers?
YP: EA Sports, Riot Gaming
HG: If you could bring down only one E-athlete to India, who would it be?
YP: Mike “Blfire” Glushenok