May 2023 Indian Esports Rewind

May 2023 might just turn out to be the most important month for the Indian Gaming Community (IGC). After months of speculation, Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI) has finally returned to the scene, sending it into a frenzy. The game is by far the most popular esports title in the country, and its return is sure to bring a lot of new players into the fold. 

The Indian Government clearly differentiated between “online games” and “online real money games,” providing clarity and transparency around online gaming in India just a month ago in April. BGMI’s return could be a sign that the Indian government is becoming more supportive of the gaming and esports industry. This is a positive development for the industry, as it will help to create a more conducive environment for growth.

The Indian esports scene has come alive with the return of BGMI, which is attracting a lot of players and viewers. The scene is also getting a boost from the influx of large-scale investments from outside the gaming industry. After a long hiatus of ten months, teams are forming and competing again, and things are looking more normal and stable.

Having said that, here’s a recap of everything important that happened in May 2023 in Indian esports.

BGMI Makes a Resounding Comeback, Krafton Reiterates Commitment to Indian Esports

Most Searched BGMI Teams In 2022

While Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI) developer Krafton announced the imminent return of the game to the Google Play Store and Apple App Store on 19th May, it did not specify the actual date of return. Following this, on 27th May, BGMI was available for pre-loading on all Android devices and officially relaunched for both Android and iOS devices on 29th May.

While announcing the return of BGMI earlier this month, Krafton CEO Sean Hyunil Sohn thanked the IGC for its continued support and patience during the period of its absence. Sohn also expressed his gratitude to the Indian government officials for granting permission to resume BGMI operations. 

While the community was rejoicing the news, India’s Union Minister of State for Entrepreneurship, Skill Development, Electronics & Technology Rajeev Chandrashekhar took to Twitter to reveal that BGMI’s comeback will be in the form of a three-month trial. As a result, the Indian government will be closely monitoring and assessing concerns related to “user harm and addiction” before making a final decision regarding the game’s permanent status.

Krafton has already updated its privacy policy stating that user data will be stored on servers located only across India and Singapore. Further complying with the government, Krafton announced that players aged 18 and above are limited to six hours of gameplay per day, while players under 18 are restricted to just three hours. Additionally, the developer has also set an in-game daily spend limit of INR 7000.

Krafton also reiterated its commitment to Indian esports and gaming. Sohn added, “Our approach has always been India-first, which serves as the foundation of all our efforts. We believe in investing in the Indian gaming industry and contributing to building a vibrant ecosystem that fosters growth and innovation.” As a part of this, Krafton will be collaborating with local developers and promoting the use of cutting-edge technologies to further its mission. 

We also recognize the importance of providing skilling and employment opportunities for Indian talent, which can help them nurture their skills and thrive in the industry,” Sohn said.

To give a boost to the BGMI esports scene, which had been quite dormant in the last ten months, Krafton announced a BGMI Launch Party Tournament called BGMI: Rising which is currently ongoing and is set to conclude on 4th June.

All the stakeholders in the Indian gaming and esports industry welcomed back BGMI, pointing out how the game is going to play a crucial role in building and nurturing esports in India, pushing the industry to new heights. 

AFK Gaming’s Perspective: There is no denying the impact that BGMI has on the Indian esports ecosystem and the gaming community. Within a week of its official rerelease, BGMI has grabbed the top stop in the ‘Top Free Games’ category on the Google Play Store. While on paper, the playtime restrictions seemed quite harsh, it looks like the players are genuinely just happy to comply with the rules and play their favorite game. 

In the past, other esports titles struggled to fill the void left by BGMI and its numerous tournaments. The audience was so invested in the title that they were tuning into BGMI scrims in hordes while there were no official tournaments. Now, with BGMI esports tournaments likely on the horizon, the Indian esports ecosystem has sprung back to life, bustling with activity. Organizations, both old and new, have started to round out their rosters and are getting ready to participate in boot camps, events, and competitions. This crucial three-month trial period will give pros and aspiring players a good chance to prove themselves and also help the organizations assess whether the rigor for BGMI is still the same in terms of numbers and statistics.

NODWIN Gaming Raises $28 Million USD in Investments

NODWIN Gaming Valuation Soars to $349M After Successful $28M Funding Round

Indian tournament organizer NODWIN Gaming has raised $28 Million USD from new and existing investors, including Sony Group Corporation, KRAFTON Inc, and Nazara Technologies. The company plans to use the funds to expand its gaming and esports ecosystem, create new IPs, enter new markets, and make strategic acquisitions. The funding round has increased NODWIN Gaming’s valuation to $349 million USD, which is 2.7 times higher than its valuation in 2021.

The company plans to use the funds to grow its existing ecosystem, which includes esports tournaments, influencer management, music festivals, merchandising, and more. The company also aims to test new products and services in different markets and create consumer-first IPs.

BGMI has been well-established as the most lucrative and popular esports title in the country. However, it was absent from Indian esports for over 10 months due to its suspension. Despite this setback, NODWIN Gaming, a leading esports company in India, has managed to grow its revenue by 70% this year. In a conversation with AFK Gaming and The Esports Advocate, NODWIN’s co-founder and managing director Akshat Rathee revealed that NODWIN generated INR 388.7 Crore in revenue in FY23, compared to INR 210.8 Crore in FY22. He attributed this growth to the company’s focus on creating consumer-first IPs and expanding to emerging markets like Africa and the Middle East.

Rathee also said that India has a huge potential for gaming and esports, as it has a large and young population of around 570 million people aged 13 to 35 years old. He expects the number of Indian gamers to grow to 700 million by FY25, making India one of the most attractive markets for the industry. He also said that NODWIN’s vision is to make esports accessible to everyone and transcend “pure esports” into a spectacle that appeals to a wider audience.

He also added that he is glad to be an esports company based out of India, as he believes that India has a huge potential and appreciation for esports. He also said that he has investors who understand and support his vision and goals. He contrasted this with the Western esports scene, where he said there is a stigma around esports and a lack of profitability.

Rathee also said that the esports industry is undergoing a “consolidation phase,” where the industry will become smaller but stronger. He said that NODWIN seeks to be a part of this new and consolidated esports industry in the future.

AFK Gaming’s Perspective: NODWIN Gaming’s successful fundraising despite the prevailing uncertainty around esports from a global perspective underlines that emerging markets like India have already become significant players in the global esports industry. According to Blue Weave Consulting, India’s esports market was worth USD 33.50 Million in 2021 and is projected to reach USD 245.21 Million by 2028.

This tremendous growth is fueled by the innovation and expansion of esports companies like NODWIN Gaming, which are creating new IPs, entering new markets, and making strategic partnerships with global players like Sony, KRAFTON, and Nazara. NODWIN Gaming has also shown resilience and adaptability in the face of challenges like the suspension of BGMI, which was one of the most dominant esports titles in India. 

The company has diversified its portfolio of games and events to cater to the diverse preferences and needs of the Indian esports audience, which is not limited to hardcore gamers or fans, but also includes casual viewers and enthusiasts. The company’s vision to transcend “pure esports” into a spectacle that appeals to a wider audience similar to Formula 1, could very well prove to be the blueprint for companies looking to establish themselves in the esports industry as a premier tournament organizer.

Quick News

  • With the return of BGMI making waves in the Indian esports community, Krafton and BGMI officials announced a BGMI Launch Party Tournament titled “BGMI: Rising.” This four-day action-packed tournament is set to culminate in a thrilling finale on 4th June.

  • Krafton officially launched an Esports YouTube Channel and an Instagram Page dedicated to India called “KRAFTON INDIA ESPORTS” to cultivate and nurture the esports ecosystem in the country. These exclusive social media handles will serve as a central hub for esports enthusiasts, providing captivating content, thrilling competitions, and updates on Krafton’s numerous esports events including New State Mobile, Road to Valor, and BGMI. 

  • Indian esports organization Orangutan Gaming entered an exclusive partnership with PUMA India, making the sportswear manufacturer its official kit partner. Under the terms of this partnership, all Orangutan esports athletes will wear the official jersey and other merchandise created exclusively for them by PUMA. With this deal, PUMA has expanded into Indian esports.

  • Revenant Esports announced that Bollywood star Jai Hemant Shroff aka Tiger Shroff has invested in the company. Revenant Esports currently boasts esports lineups in popular games such as Brawl Stars, BGMI, Valorant, Pokémon Unite, and Call of Duty Mobile. Notably, the invested amount was not disclosed, but the organization called it a “huge boost.

  • For the first time since July 2020, Velocity Gaming has been left without a Valorant roster. After first parting ways with its overseas recruits Domagoj “Doma” Fancev, Adam “ec1s” Eccles, and David “Dav” Miljanić, Velocity Gaming took a bold step and completely disbanded its Valorant roster and bid farewell to its other players – Anuj “Amaterasu” Sharma, Debanjan “DEATHMAKER” Das, Karan “Excali” Mhaswadkar, and Sagnik “Hellff” Roy.

  • After defeating Team Sri Lanka in the IESF (International Esports Federation) Female Asian Championship 2023: South Asian Qualifier, the Indian female CS: GO team has advanced to the IESF Female Asian Championship 2023, which is scheduled to take place from 10th to 17th July in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

  • One of the best Valorant Game Changers teams in the Asia Pacific region, Orangutan X underwent a roster shuffle ahead of the Valorant Champions Tour (VCT) 2023: Game Changers Asia Pacific (APAC) Open 2, which kicked off on 30th May. Orangutan X signed three international athletes, Emily “Emi” Lauw from Australia, Elmarian “Erumaa” Haessel from Indonesia, and Anrionel “Twirly” Cajanding from the Philippines, expanding to a six-player Valorant lineup. 

  • Global Esports was eliminated from the VCT 2023 Pacific League following a clean sweep by Team Secret. This pushed the Indian organization to finish in the bottom four of the overall standings in the tournament, winning only three out of its nine matches. 

  • The Group Stage of Valorant Challengers League 2023: South Asia Split 2 (VCL 2023: SA Split 2) concluded on 21st May, with Orangutan, True Rippers Esports, Aster Army, Reckoning Esports, Revenant Esports, and Gods Reign advancing to the Playoffs stage. The playoffs will conclude with the grand finals on 11th June. The winner of this split will get a chance to compete in the Valorant Challengers Ascension 2023: Pacific (VCA 2023: Pacific).

Looking Forward

The next three months will be a period where players, fans, and organizations will be looking at Indian esports through rose-tinted glasses. With Krafton already on the right path to make gameplay changes and other restrictions to comply with the government and answer concerns related to user harm and addiction, it will only be a matter of time before the officials decide on BGMI’s permanent status. 

On a slightly worrying note, though, a thorough analysis of the BGMI relaunch in 2021 vs 2023 revealed notable differences in terms of viewership figures. There is a significant drop in both peak viewership and total views when we compare the launch of BGMI in 2021 and 2023. Industry experts believe that it could be due to a chunk of players moving away from gaming during the ban period. Another reason could be that in 2021, creators had early access to the game, which lured viewers to tune into streams and understand the game, This time around, the game was simultaneously released for all players on 29th May. 

However, a majority of industry pundits believe that there is still a large appetite for BGMI in India and that we could likely see the game popping off when official tournaments kick off very soon. 

Moving away from BGMI now, the Indian Gaming Community also has a lot offered in the Valorant ecosystem. Riot Games is celebrating its third-year anniversary in India through the Bharat Valorant Anniversary Celebrations. Between 2nd June and 4th June, the celebrations will be held across select PC cafes in India in cities including Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, and more.

If you are a Valorant esports fan, you can closely follow the playoff stage of Valorant Challengers League 2023: South Asia Split 2. The winner of this tournament will be decided on 11th June and the team will have the chance to make it to the Valorant Challengers Ascension 2023: Pacific.