As eSports continue to grow and expand, the question of the next step for Riot Games own League of Legends scene is an important and often debated topic. One potential answer for where Riot should next set their sights is India. In what has been a largely untouched region for eSports and League of Legends to date, India presents enormous opportunity but also presents significant obstacles.
In the past few years, League of Legends has experienced explosive growth, developing the game into a global phenomenon. No longer limited to a few major regions, with Riot’s support league sprouting across the four corners of the globe; the forthcoming Mid Season Invitational is a testament to that growth, with 13 different regions sending their proud representatives. One region that is notably absent, however? India.
The second most populous country in the world, India has a population of approximately 1.25 billion people, by comparison, roughly four times the population of the US. This creates an obvious appeal for any companies looking to invest into a growing and largely untapped market. In India alone, there are almost 1.5 times as many internet users as there are people in the US.
But while the potential for growth is obvious, societal factors and infrastructure issues will hinder and delay any development of the eSports industry. The number of those with access to the internet is only about a third of the population, and many of those with access have a very poor connection. Still, there have been multiple investors willing to take a risk on Indian eSports.
One Indian investor, Ronnie Scerwvala, has committed up to 15 million dollars to form an eSports league in India that would showcase teams playing a variety of games. A company called Nazara Games has also pledged approximately 20 million dollars to form an eSports League. While still in its infancy, investors are realizing the potential opportunities India has for eSports and are quickly lining up to capitalise on the nation’s potential.
Riot also realizes the prospects India presents for the growth of League of Legends. China is the obvious comparison, a country which developed rapidly and now boasts an enormous player base. While there are key differences between the two countries – such as state of development, internet quality, and societal barriers – if Riot is able to plant the seeds for League of Legends to be successful in India, they may be able to develop India into another major region.
Riot has taken the first step towards achieving this goal in hiring Anurag Khurana as the country manager for India. This is the first step in a long process for Riot Games to duplicate the success they have found in other regions. Servers will need to be updated or relocated, additional staff will need to be recruited and a strategy will need to be formulated to wrestle the player base away from the currently more popular Dota 2. Still, the payoff for success could be phenomenal if India continues their rapid national development.
Although Riot has taken the first step in the Asian nation, the question remains as to whether pursuing growth in India presents the best option. There are significant barriers that may dissuade Riot Games from focusing on cultivating India, rather than promoting continued growth in current regions such as Brazil or Japan. Still, the hiring of Khurana is the first step in a process that could potentially see India transformed as the next big eSports consumer.