The Inevitable Gaming Livestream War In India

Consumption of gaming livestream content in India has grown in tandem with PUBG MOBILE’s popularity in the region. The most popular Indian gaming personalities and tournaments regularly clock viewership that rivals, and in some cases surpasses, those of their international peers. However, this phenomenon often flies under the global esports radar due to this viewership being concentrated around regional language livestreams on YouTube.

Popular livestreamers such as Team SouL’s Naman “MortaL” Mathur, and independent content creator Aaditya “Dynamo Gaming” Sawant command subscriber bases on their YouTube channels in excess of 4M and 7M, respectively, with livestreams that regularly pull in peak concurrent viewership of 40K or more. Professional PUBG MOBILE players such as Fnatic’s Tanmay “sc0ut” Singh or TSMEntity’s Jonathan “Jonathan” Amaral have also entered the arena and can often be seen livestreaming for over 20K viewers concurrently. In perhaps the largest showing of the Indian esports fans’ appetite for live PUBG MOBILE content to date, a collaborative livestream in March featuring Mathur and popular Indian YouTube personality Ajey “CarryMinati” Nagar, saw over 180K and 200K concurrent live viewers on both channels, respectively. With examples like these and many more featuring streamers of various game titles, it’s hard to ignore the opportunity around video game livestreaming in India. 

YouTube’s dominance in the space is undeniable, but not unchallenged. Early movers such as Hotstar and VOOT have already flirted with the idea of broadcasting tournaments on their livestream platforms by working with NODWIN Gaming (which is a minority shareholder in AFK Gaming). Hotstar has previously aired the ESL India Premiership among other tournaments, while DreamHack Mumbai was livestreamed on VOOT. More recently though, a number of companies have either announced plans or launched livestream applications in an attempt to target this space.

In January, Rheo TV raised $2M USD from Sequoia Capital India’s rapid scale-up program Surge, Lightspeed Ventures, and other prominent angel investors. Its app is available on the Google Play Store and has clocked over 1M installs. Mobile Premier League (MPL), a gaming platform company that hosts mini-tournaments for PUBG MOBILE and Garena Free Fire among other games may also be gearing up to enter the gaming livestream space as reported by Forbes in April. Loco, another gaming application offered by Pocket Aces Pictures Private Limited on the Google Play Store and iOS, has recently begun focussing on gaming tournament livestreams. Following a partnership with Fnatic for a PUBG MOBILE charity tournament, Loco has partnered with Chennai-based Skyesports to host a multi-game tournament that will be livestreamed on the app. Even publishers seem to be looking for a piece of this pie now as Garena officially launched BOOYAH!, a dedicated app for gaming videos in India in May. The app allows its users to livestream gameplay among other things and currently features broadcasts for the Free Fire India Scrim Wars.

Eyebrows were raised when Facebook invested $5.7B in Jio Platforms Limited (part of Reliance Industries Limited) in April, making it the largest minority shareholder in the company. With Facebook Gaming’s popularity in the wider Asian region, this move, coupled with an optimistic statement about gaming made by Reliance Industries Limited chairman Mukesh Ambani, it may not be a stretch to imagine the platform making a play for the Indian livestream audience. After all, a significant portion of PUBG MOBILE’s growth (and by extension that of mobile esports) in India can be attributed to the low cost of mobile data, driven by Jio’s disruptive entry into the telecommunications market in India.

All signs point towards the emergence of a livestream war about to break out in India. YouTube enjoys first mover advantage and a captive audience of gamers. Among other things, challenging this dominance will require competitors to possess features tailored for gamers, unique content, access to significant amounts of capital and at some level, complacency from YouTube itself. Curiously enough, unlike the case with the western world, Twitch is on the sidelines of this battle rather than at the forefront of it. Whether this perception is by design or unintentional is unknown, and it will be interesting to see if Amazon chooses to leverage its presence in India to compete in the gaming livestream landscape.

Nishant Patel is the CEO and co-founder of AFK Gaming.

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