The Indian video game market has seen an incredible boom in both revenue and community participation over the last couple of years.
With the ecosystem still in its nascency, market leaders are positive that the Indian esports and video game scene will continue to achieve new heights over the next five years.
In a conversation with Abhishek Mallick of Sportskeeda Esports, Rohit Agarwal, founder/director of Alpha Zegus, opened up about his thoughts on the future of esports in India. He talks about the hurdles that video game streamers and content creators face today and the importance of bridging the gap between talent and endemic and non-endemic brands.
Here is an excerpt of the conversation.
Q. Rohit, why don’t we start by having you tell our reader a bit about yourself. From chemical engineering to talent management and marketing, you have indeed had a very long journey. How have your experiences been like so far in the field of esports and video games?
Rohit: The one great thing that engineering has taught me is to be “curious” and “question everything”. I think that’s exactly why, ever since my college days, I started picking up random side jobs – be it in marketing, PR, copywriting, accounts – just about anything that could satisfy my curiosity of “How does this work”.
Gradually, the love for marketing became evident to me since marketing was all about deep diving into people’s psychologies and patterns, and that kicked my curious mind. I was fortunate to have worked with brands like Amazon, Intel, etc., on some of their biggest digital campaigns, which gave me a much wider perspective on marketing and demographic behavior.
But I needed a niche that would get me excited every single day, and gaming did exactly that to me. It’s been over three years in this space now, and every day I still have a moment of “What? Did that really just happen?”
Q. What are your thoughts on where the Indian video games industry stands today? Where do you see it in the next five years?
Rohit: Gaming is without a doubt an insanely dynamic domain to be in, where possibilities and opportunities are endless. Especially due to the pandemic, every day, we see new gamers of all ages, geographics, and genders stepping in with the hopes of becoming the next big gaming star.
Today, the Indian gaming industry stands at a point where multiple brands are investing and taking an interest, parents are being more accepting, and more people are seeing this as a career option without a fallback.
In the next five years, we are potentially going to see more gamers ride around in their Mercedes, more national & international investment coming in, and gaming to become a more mainstream form of entertainment.
Q. Tell us a bit about your marketing firm Alpha Zegus. What were some of the thoughts and visions that went behind it? Tell us about some of the early hurdles as well.
Rohit: While I was initially started working on tech & gaming campaigns, I discovered a big gap. However, the Indian Gaming space had big engagement numbers and more engagement tools than any other entertainment segment (such as live streams). Neither the brands nor the creators/gamers could utilize the complete potential of it.
Our early hurdles were majorly to do with building trust with creators & brands. Back when the industry was quite unorganized, the brands, agencies, orgs, and creators used to have multiple distasteful experiences with timelines, payments, creative inputs, legal, etc.
There would be disagreements, delays, and fights that would lead to people shying away from opportunities. We had to first work on a lot many trial campaigns to build that trust with all parties before we could start looking at monetization.
Q. Alpha Zegus is currently working with top names like Rakazone Gaming, Hydraflick, Xyaa, etc. What, according to you, are some of the biggest challenges that video game streamers and content creators face today? What do you feel are some of the more viable solutions to these issues?
Rohit: Many times, streamers and content creators are at the mercy of their primary platform – be it YouTube, Instagram, Twitch, or any other. Changes in algorithm affect their engagements, which in turn affects their monetization, endorsements, morale, etc.
The most viable way to tackle this would be to find your niche and diversify within that niche. Explore different platforms, explore other formats (short formats videos, stories, etc.), and get your audience accustomed to all shades of you. That’s when creators can open up more opportunities for themselves and not be at the mercy of the algorithm of one platform.
Q. Ever since the advent of mobile gaming and mobile esports, there has been a significant gap between these handheld gaming platforms and PC. Needless to say, mobile is a more popular choice and is far ahead of PC when it comes to community participation. And while titles like Riot Games’ Valorant did help the PC market, it’s not yet as robust as the mobile one. In the coming years, do you feel that the gap between the two will lessen, or will mobile keep pulling ahead as it is right now?
Rohit: Mobile being a handheld device that comes in all budgets & sizes, with multiple audiences ranging from an elderly playing ludo to a kid playing battle royale, there is no doubt that it’s going to stay king for decades to come.
But talking about a more passionate & hardcore gaming audience – PC gaming is looked upon as a much more evolved gaming experience. With more immersive graphics, more variety of games, and options like VR & simulation gaming, many reports suggest that more gamers are going to want to try PC gaming in the future when they have disposable income for their dream setup.
I believe we shouldn’t be looking at lessening the gap between the two but rather enabling more gamers to try out PC gaming alongside their primary gaming device.
Q. What are your thoughts on non-endemic brands and the roles that they can play in helping esports and video games reach a wider audience and consumer base?
Rohit: While endemic brands are finite and have a well-defined (direct) audience base, the involvement of non-endemic brands shows the real growth of an industry.
Internationally, we are seeing brands like Mercedes and Balenciaga entering the gaming space, not with the intent of immediate sales but to create long-term advocacy with the GenZ audience.
In India, we are gradually seeing FMCG, QSR, BFSI, and Automobile brands test waters with gaming, which in turn hugely helps the gaming industry grow both financially and in audience base. In fact, at Alpha Zegus, one of our primary aims has been to introduce more and more non-endemic brands into the gaming space, and we have been working with the likes of KFC, Old Spice, Adidas, etc. and running campaigns for them.
Q. With esports finally becoming a medal event in the upcoming Asian Games 2022, what ramifications do you feel this will have on a scene like that of South Asia and India? Will esports finally be taken as seriously as any other traditional sporting event?
Rohit: Esports and gaming are receiving recognition from every direction – be it regulatory bodies being formed, more international opportunities & exposure, brand endorsements, or even web shows around gaming – there is no way this sport can be ignored anymore.
Brands like Netflix, Jio, PayTM, Amazon are all venturing into this space, adding to how strongly they advocate for this sport. Tournament prize pools are getting bigger, players are earning in the likes of mainstream celebrities, and esports becoming a medal event – all of it has made esports a serious carrier option for many.
Q. What, according to you, are some of the biggest issues that the video games industry in India faces today?
Rohit: I feel the Indian gaming industry is still quite unorganized – there are some players/orgs/agencies who are getting into this space just to ‘ride the wave’ and earn a quick buck, while there are some great talents, both as players & orgs, that are still awaiting the recognition they deserve.
Not only is there a need for more regulations, but I strongly feel that the entrepreneurs and KOLs in this space need to work towards a common goal – the Indian Gaming Industry is still growing. We all need to contribute to this in a way that’s bigger than our personal agendas.
Q. While we touched on mobile and PC gaming, I would love to get your view on console gaming in India as well and where it stands today. What do you feel to be the future of console gaming in the nation?
Rohit: Console gaming is a bit different in the way it operates from mobile & PC gaming. While mobile & PC gaming is seeing large-scale tournaments with a big prize pool, console gaming (in my knowledge) is still limited to small-scale competitions.
There are some extremely fine & competitive players in this space, but the console segment Is yet to see bigger national & international opportunities.
Q. What’s next for Alpha Zegus? Are you guys planning something big for the coming months?
Rohit: We have a lot of exciting things lined up for Alpha Zegus. While we have our influencer & digital marketing divisions set up in the gaming space, we are soon going to be introducing some AI and Web 3.0 based solutions into gaming.
Parallelly, we have also started building our lifestyle division with an aim to blur the lines between lifestyle & gaming and make gaming more ‘stylish’ and ‘mainstream’. Fingers crossed!