(e) has been a prominent letter in the English language used to define a transformation of an existing process, market, or sector. Much like the early buzzwords such as email and later eCommerce – eSports has also been silently picking up pace and traction in the global arena of commercial entertainment.
eSports is a term used to define a competition conducted digitally and online through the use of video games including conventional sports like cricket, tennis, golf, etc.
A concept that took its roots in the early 1970s within Stanford University’s corridors – when an online game by the name of Space Wars was turned into a championship tournament that yielded 10,000 participants. Whereas the first documented eSports competition was organized by Atari in 1980 pulling in thousands of audience members to witness the live-action.
Well, that was just the beginning – in 2016 a competition conducted in Los Angeles known as The League of Legends World Final was able to attract 43 million-plus online viewers and had a whopping twenty thousand spectators live spectators. The total global revenue for the eSports sector back in 2015 was estimated to be around $252 million and is predicted to rake in $1.79 billion in revenue by 2022 according to Newzoo.
So What’s Included in eSports?
- Fighting Games
- First-person Shooters
- Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas
- Sports bases
- Card Games
- Racing Simulation
- Real-Time Strategy
- Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPG)
All these genres mentioned above have their unique formats, fighting games such as Mortal Kombat and Super Smash Bros are not the same as the First-person shooter (FPS) competitions that include games like Call of Duty, Apex Legends, and Halo.
Multiplayer battle arena (MOBA) competitions consist of dedicated teams that compete over games like League of Legends and Dota 2 whereas sports games like Madden and NBA2K can be played by individual members and the same goes for card games and others.
Some of the most popular competitions that audiences are hooked on are League of Legends, Dota 2, and CSGO.
The eSports Business Model – Big Tournaments Require Big Investments
Believe it or not but much like any entertainment business – the eSports sector too has a huge number of stakeholders involved in each aspect of the competitions. From game developers, game publishers, game platforms, gaming agencies, to corporate entities, event organisers, advertisers, streaming companies and sponsors – all come together to facilitate the execution of these events that appeal to millions of gaming fanatics across the globe.
The revenue from the eSports competition is generated through providing access to these events for mass consumption along with the support from advertisers contributing as sponsors, selling media rights to media agencies through a bidding process to live broadcast the event. Other means include revenue generated from selling sales to special or branded merchandise.
Through the involvement of major consumer electronics companies, a lot of the equipment used in the competitions such as hardware for the coputers and smartphones are either provided free of cost or at subsidized rates.
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*Takes A Deep Breathe* Here we go: eSports in Pakistan
Countries like Korea and Japan have turned out to become more of a mature eSports market and given the current trends, Southeast Asia will soon be the centre of such activity given the ever-increasing growth across all sectors of the eSports environment.
But the main question is which of the games or publishers are going to become premium valuable properties. Though Riot Games’ League of Legends covers a dominant market position globally, it is not the most sought-after game in Southeast Asia, whereas their newly launched games like Valorant and Wild Rift are picking up traction and will possibly attract a bigger share of the market.
Pakistan may comprise a broad base of 183 million cellular subscribers, 98 million 3G/4G subscribers, and 103 million broadband subscribers but given the total population is estimated at 220.9 million and continues to grow rapidly with an annual fertility rate of 3.6 children per couple – its safe to say there’s a lot of potential that remains untapped.
Apart from the digital infrastructure deficit, there are a number of other major reasons which prevent Pakistan from joining the ranks of global hubs for eSports much like Japan, China or Korea but we’ll get to that later. In the past several initiatives were taken to turn small-time gaming competitions into glamorous eSports events that would pull in millions of young viewership. The first traces of any eSports activity leading up to a one-off event called Djuice National Gaming Championship dating back to 2009 organized and sponsored by Telenor.
Companies like Telenor, PepsiCo have been instrumental in laying the foundational work for eSports to rise in Pakistan through competitions like Mountain Dew Gamers Arena and other platforms like GameBirdPK that host events, tournaments, in an attempt to contribute towards the eSports industry of the country.
Tournaments like Gaming Summit ’17 Organized by ESN were key to mobilize the youth on a local level. Since it was more of a local competition in a fairly new competitive space it featured only 5 games including CS:GO and Dota 2 but offered a whopping Rs. 1 million as prize money.
Similarly, Mountain Dew Gamers Arena is also one such initiative that was launched in 2018 and featured video game competitions for Dota 2 CS:GO and PUBG. The best teams from Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and other cities competed for a prize pool of Rs. 1 million. The efforts have been consistent ever since with the competition now turned into an annual event. Through the efforts of Dew Gamers Arena Pakistan and Portal Entertainment – in January 2021 the first-ever Esports Awards was conducted to recognize the players, teams and organizations that work tirelessly to elevate the eSports industry in Pakistan. The winners were selected from a spectrum of 31 categories.
Jazba Cup is another perfect example of initiatives that help dig out and promote Pakistan’s best grassroots talent – that if provided the platform that reaches global heights. Organized by NODWIN Gaming – The Jazba Cup conducts 6 grassroots level tournaments that span over a period of 6 months. The launch of Riot Games servers in Bahrain to service players in the Middle East and Pakistan, impacted by a rise in engagement in the region. Valorant soon after its release was ranked as the fastest-growing First Person Shooter (FPS) PC online game in the year 2020. This series of events led NODWIN Gaming South Asia to launch Valorant eSports for the Pakistan gaming community and tournaments that would be streamed on NODWIN Gaming South Asia YouTube channel. The 2nd Semi-final for the Jazba Cup competition to become Pakistan’s top Valorant player was recently streamed live on 6th June at 09:00 pm on NODWIN Gaming South Asia’s youtube channel, you can stay tuned to their Instagram page for more updates.
eSports is backed by Big Numbers everywhere
According to reports from Sensor Tower, 90% of the top 100 downloaded paid apps in Pakistan were gaming apps such as action, adventure, arcade, casino, puzzle, racing, and strategy in the year 2020. By January 2021, the top five rated mobile gaming applications in Pakistan are PUBG Mobile, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Hitman Sniper, COD Mobile, and Marvel Contest of Champions, according to Sensor Tower. According to an article featured in Profit Pakistan reported over 150 gaming zones operating in Pakistan, raking in over a billion rupees annually. The same source in their blog post mentions Pakistani eSports athletes being ranked among the top 100 of the Asia Pacific region, and 50 thousand highly skilled eSports athletes across the top multiplayer games in Pakistan.
With such and other developments like the Pakistan Consulate General consulting Hong Kong on eSports, to promote Pakistan’s eSports industry worldwide – sure seem to be solid steps that might lead us to a clear direction.
So what it means for future of eSports in Pakistan?
EThe private sector may be taking some serious steps to lay solid foundations for the eSports industry to flourish in the country but the involvement of public stakeholders like the Government is also very much needed to achieve this. Proper legislative law needs to be put in place to create an investment-friendly environment for big tech companies to invest in tournaments as mentioned previously.
When discussing barriers to entry from a consumer technology perspective it is important to realize that consumer products such as laptops, gaming systems and other gadgets are way too expensive for the majority of the population. Though the advent of mid-range priced smartphones has helped a lot in terms of mobile gaming, PC gaming on the other hand where the big money lies is still quite inaccessible even for the well off. Access to reliable parts is another big concern added with their inflated pricing due to effects limited supply.
Pakistan ranks as the 4th top freelancing country acknowledged globally, which also means there lies great potential for Pakistan to also grow within the global gaming industry. There is also a dire need for Pakistani freelancers to contribute and provide solutions to the problems faced in the gaming sector. Such as the issue of server connectivity – an aspect that can be addressed if the developer community is mobilized and establishes local servers to encourage a more competitive side.
To make the local eSports industry thrive each stakeholder must take on hybrid roles to bring together and work with game developers, tech companies to organize competitions that would uplift the local eSports ecosystem.
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