Interpret: Esports viewing in India holds steady while US, China see declines

While the esports industry has been weathering some tough times lately, as organizations struggle to keep businesses afloat and viewership sees declines, not all markets are created equal. According to Interpret’s New Media Measure: Global Profiles™, the percentage of consumers in the US watching professional esports via online streaming dipped from around 12% in 2021 to 8% during 2022. In China, one of the leading esports nations, that figure dropped as well, from about 27% of consumers watching esports to 22%. In India, however, numbers held steady with just shy of 21% of Indian consumers streaming esports online.

Mobile gaming, particularly battle royale titles like Battlegrounds Mobile India (an India-only port of PUBG Mobile, which was previously banned by the Indian government), have been a major factor in the country’s esports expansion. It doesn’t hurt that India is also the world’s second-largest smartphone market.

With the relaunched PUBG proving that reinventing for an Indian audience can work well, Singapore-based publisher Garena is now looking to capitalize on mobile esports in India as well. Garena recently relaunched its hugely popular Free Fire with features specific to India – changes deemed acceptable by the Indian government to enable Free Fire to resume operations in the country after tensions with Beijing flared over the game’s prior release sparking security concerns.

Garena is going all-in on the game’s marketing, teaming with Indian cricket star Mahendra Singh Dhoni as the face of Free Fire India and making him a playable character in the game under the name Thala. Moreover, the publisher is betting that mobile esports will help the Indian gaming market thrive. The company recently signed an agreement with the Government of Uttar Pradesh and plans to host an international esports tournament in the region this December. The publisher ultimately wants to see esports thriving in India as an ecosystem from the ground up.

“Esports is something that has a lot of potential, especially in a country like India, where I think the market is still a little bit underserved,” Vaibhav Das Mundhra, Senior Manager and Game Producer, Garena, told The Indian Express. “We hope to be able to promote esports in the right way not just at a national level or international level, but also going to college campuses and developing the esports ecosystem in India.”