Indian esports has seen some impactful developments in the past year, from the banning of PUBG Mobile to the release of VALORANT. However, one major change that has gone under the radar is the growth of betting and fantasy platforms in the region.
While the line between esports, esports betting and fantasy can be blurry, organisations such as the Mobile Premier League (MPL), PayTM First Games, Dream11 and WinZO have heavily invested into fantasy sports and real-money gaming. In some cases, these platforms have even delved into titles which the industry considers ‘mainstream esports’.
While the definition of esports has often been up for debate, it’s only recently that fantasy sports, real-money gaming and skill-based games have come to be included under the term, at least in India. In 2020, MPL raised a $90m (~£65m) Series C round while WinZO garnered $18m (~£13m) for its Series B round. In addition, Paytm First Games is backed by Paytm, an Indian e-commerce payment platform that is currently valued close to $10bn (~£7.3bn). The majority of gaming offerings on these platforms are hyper-casual or casual titles.
A growing concern among core esports industry stakeholders in India is that these companies are diluting the term ‘esports’ and operating in a space much closer to online gambling, which is illegal in the country. Increased scrutiny in the industry could lead to sanctions