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E-SPORTS: AN UNEXPLORED GOLD MINE

Introduction

E-Sports, short for electronic sports, can be explained as video games played by professionals in an organized competitive environment. They are similar to watching a sports tournament; however, the players compete in a virtual space instead of a physical one. As E-Sports is a sport, it has received sporting recognition from the International Olympic Committee, The Olympic Council of Asia and the Common Wealth Games. Many people also wonder how E-Sports is different from other forms of video games; this is because E-Sports focuses on the ‘Human vs Human’ form of competing instead of the ‘human vs artificial intelligence form’. The idea of competitive gaming began in the 1970s; with the development of console gaming, Stanford University hosted the world’s first E-Sports tournament. As of 2019, E-Sports has grown to attract over 458.8 million viewership globally, and it is expected to grow by 15% in the following years. Another format of online gaming is a concept called Fantasy sports. “Fantasy Sports are online prediction games where you put together a virtual team of real sports players. You earn points based on real-life statistics that are converted into fantasy points. The better your player performs in real life, the higher your fantasy points. You play against other managers and their teams. Everybody manages a roster by adding, dropping, trading and selling players to keep winning.”[1] Based on the explanation, people have wondered how different fantasy sports are from gambling and betting. In India, on the 16th of October 2020, the High Court of Rajasthan held in Ravindra Singh Chauhdahry s/o Shri Gopal Singh ji Choudhary vs. Union of India[2] “that “fantasy sports are a game of skill and do not amount to betting and that the 276th  Law Commission Report has opined that fantasy games, such as fantasy football, would be considered as “gaming” as opposed to betting.”[3]

E-Sports in India

This verdict in itself is not a cause for concern; however, in India, we do not have regulatory laws that govern E-Sports. “The Electronic Sports Federation of India (ESFI) is a non-profit organization established under Section 7 of the Indian Companies Act 2013 and rule 9 of the Companies (Incorporation) Rules.”[4] They are currently undertaking the responsibility of representing, promoting, regulating and engaging in E-Sports-related activities in India. Unfortunately, this governing body alone cannot fully exploit a vast industry like E-Sports without the government’s support and appropriate regulatory laws. Even with proper organizational backing, recognized by the Indian Olympic Association, India still has prejudice toward gaming as a concept. While many are worried about the ill effects of video games, such as addiction, violence, lack of physical activity, and even degradation of health; another deterrent to the growth of E-Sports as a valid career in India is the misconception that E-Sports falls in the same category as online gaming as those like Teen Patti, Rummy and other fantasy sports. This misconception will only begin to dissipate if E-Sports as a career gains official recognition and protection through law. There also exists a government-borne obstacle to the growth of E-Sports, the tax paid by people involved in E-Sports in India. The director of the Electronic Sports Federation of India, Lokesh Suji, said in a discussion with The Indian Express that “Since the government has not yet officially recognized E-Sports as a sport, E-Sports athletes, organizers and other involved parties end up paying a 35% entertainment tax, instead of the 20% sports tax. This itself hampers the growth of E-Sports in our country in a significant manner, as players do not get the benefits of sports quota like other sports.”[5]

Is E-Sports worth it in India?

A significant concern is the job security in the E-Sports scene. This concern arises from the thought that, like sports, only the pick of the litter will thrive and have a successful career. While it is true that E-Sports athletes face cutthroat competition, it is vital to understand that E-Sports also offers multiple career paths under its umbrella. People can work as managers, coaches, analysts, tournament organizers and casters. There is also a managerial side to E-Sports; teams have proper organizational backing and need help managing finances, contracts with players and even deals with sponsors. Aside from these options, athletes can stream their content and games on social platforms such as Twitch and YouTube to develop a fan base and earn some side money through subscriptions and views. “India has been holding massive international and national E-Sports events since 2018, the most notable of which being Dream Hack Delhi, ESL One: Mumbai, COBX Masters, and PUBG Mobile Indian Series. The overall prize pool increased by 180 per cent to $1.5 million in 2019, up from $288.3K in 2017. In India, E-Sports viewing and streaming are also viral. “Mortal” is a massive E-Sports influencer in the nation as a former E-Sports player turned caster. He has about 6 million followers on YouTube, and each video receives up to 15 million views. Numerous such players have established internet communities and fan bases in the nation.”[6] These statistics are during a time when E-Sports is still an alien concept to most of our population and before the COVID-19 pandemic. The E-Sports scene showed massive growth during the Covid-19 pandemic; as people were restricted to the confines of their homes, they turned to video games as a mode of entertainment. This change in the customer trend led to massive development in technology such as graphic cards, gaming equipment and streaming services. “Industry revenue is expected to reach $1.6 billion by 2023, per a Newzoo figure on Statista.”[7]

Conclusion

E-Sports is a continuously growing field with new games launching every season. It is not just a source of entertainment as it has the potential to generate many employment opportunities. These games also have a profitable and sustainable future, considering that Asian Games in Hangzhou (2022) include E-Sports as a medal event. The 2024 Olympics also has E-Sports as a middle game. There are many concerns regarding job security, protection of those involved and addiction which can only be combated through governmental support. We could develop legal requirements where companies can develop mandated parental protection settings for those under the age of 18 so that parents can monitor the amount of time the kids spend online to combat addiction. Developing a proper set of regulations will not only promote E-Sports but also protect those involved and help develop a more inclusive and safer environment for competitive gaming. It is now time to exploit the unexplored gold mine, E-Sports.

Author(s) Name: Bharghav R Pathangi (O P Jindal Global University, Sonipat)

References:

[1] Fanarena.com, ‘What is Fantasy Sports’ (Fanarena.com) <What is Fantasy Sports? Discover its power among young fans? (fanarena.com)> Accessed 21st July 2022

[2] Ravindra Singh Chaudhary s/o Shri Gopal Singh ji Choudhary vs. Union of India (2020), Writ Petition (Civil) No. 20779/2019

[3] Sachit Jolly, Priyanka MP and Pritthish Roy, ‘Legal matrix of Online Fantasy Sports in India’ (Bar and Bench, 24th November 2020) <Legal matrix of Online Fantasy Sports in India (barandbench.com)> Accessed 21st July 2022

[4] Electronic Sports Federation of India, ‘About Us’ (E-Sportsfederation.in) < ESFI | E-Sports Federation of India> Accessed 26th July 2022

[5] Chetan Nayak, ‘E-Sports has potential to outrun Cricket in India, but govt needs to do its part and clear’ (The Indian Express, 9th February 2021) <‘E-Sports has potential to outrun Cricket in India, but govt needs to do its part and clear’ | Technology News,The Indian Express> Accessed 21st July 2022

[6] Anonymous, ‘The growth of the E-Sports industry in India’ (The Indian Express, 20th August 2021), <The growth of the E-Sports industry in India- The New Indian Express> Accessed 21st July 2022

[7] Meghan Perkins, ‘How Has COVID-19 Impacted E-Sports and Its Technology Needs?’ (livedesignonline.com, 21st October 2020), < How Has COVID-19 Impacted E-Sports and Its Technology Needs? | Live Design Online> Accessed 27th July 2022