Gamers in India are set to get a whole new way to watch gaming tournaments with the largest multiplex operator in India, PVR Limited, announcing a partnership with homegrown e-sports firm Nodwin Gaming to stream gaming tournaments in its theatres.
The pilot project, announced on Monday, is the first of its kind initiative in India and will begin with Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI)--the game that replaced the now banned PUBG Mobile in the country, but the company said it plans to include games from different genres.
“We want this to be an annual affair at the least,” said Kamal Gianchandani, Chief of Strategy, PVR Limited. “We want to grow this property on similar lines as the IPL. Think of this as the IPL of e-sports in the country. And think of theatres as the venues, akin to stadiums, for the games to be played,” he added. He said that it’s too early to comment on what kind of games will be streamed in future, “but the ambition” is to foray into bigger gaming titles, allowing gamers to play from PCs etc.
Akshat Rathee, Managing Director and co-founder of Nazara-backed Nodwin Gaming, said the partnership will allow the company to “give its audience apremium watching experience” for e-sports.
At the moment, the company has chosen four cities in India, including Gurgaon, Indore, Hyderabad and Mumbai. In Gurgaon and Indore, the events will be streamed at the Ambience Mall and Treasure Island Mall theatres, respectively. Each of these have 50% capacity, but covid-19 restrictions allow for only 50% occupancy in Gurgaon right now. Gianchandani said that Hyderabad and Mumbai locations are yet to be selected.
He said the company has the ability to stream events, having streamed football and cricketing events in the past. However, e-sports events will be accompanied by commentary, graphics, trivia and more, which are being handled by Nodwin Gaming. These will be done in a separate studio, but people sitting and watching the stream will get all the content at the same time.
Further, while PVR will be selling tickets for these in-theatre events, Gianchandani noted that streaming e-sports events in theatres could open up newer monetization opportunities in future. These include selling naming and other sponsorship rights, advertising from brands and even selling the streaming and broadcast rights for e-sports in future. However, the multiplex giant is focused on getting the product right, increasing engagement and making it a pan-India phenomenon in India. “I would not put a time frame to it (how long it will take to go pan-India), but our goal is to take it as early as possible,” he said.
A KPMG report from June this year estimated the total revenue of India’s online gaming market in FY21 at Rs. 136 billion. E-sports accounted for Rs. 1.7 billion of this market, and was expected to grow to Rs. 5.7 billion by 2025. The report pegged e-sports organizers and streaming companies as key enablers in the gaming value chain in future.