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Esports in Bangladesh: An untapped industry on the rise

  • Published at 07:00 pm June 10th, 2021
esports gaming
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Esports operates the same way as any other professional sports organization or franchise

Remember what happened to the world of sports following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic? 

The 2020 Olympics? Postponed until July 2021. The 2020 European Football Championship? Also delayed. While sporting events have been restricted by social distancing measures, Esports have largely managed to escape this setback. 

What is Esports?

Electronic sports, or Esports, consist of competitive video gaming in online or in-person tournaments, which often offer cash or other compensatory prizes. 

Esports operates the same way as any other professional sports organization or franchise. 

Professional teams contract players, both specializing and competing in one or more specific video games. 

In contrast to mainstream professional sports, instead of athletic equipment, Esports players typically come geared with a gaming PC rig that boasts specialized keyboards, gaming mice, graphic cards, and other helpful gadgets.

According to a report by CNBC in 2019, Netflix said that Fortnite - one such game in the Esports sector- was a more significant competition than HBO. 

Even a decade back, the general public deemed the idea that those who play video games for a living have much in common with high-level professional athletes as laughable. 

But massive growth in the industry has even led different governments to recognize gamers as athletes.

China, one of the world's largest Esports markets in the world, generated $385 million in 2020 and was estimated to grow at a compounded rate of 17% until 2023. 

According to Statista.com, the revenue from mobile gaming alone in India will reach $6,225 million by 2025.

Esports in Bangladesh

Various segmentations exist within the Esports scenario of Bangladesh, with mobile gaming being the most popular one currently. 

With games like PUBG Mobile, Free Fire Battlegrounds, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, Call of Duty: Mobile, Among Us, Fall Guys, Etc. garnering worldwide fame, Bangladesh did not lag behind. 

For a long time, Bangladeshi PC gamers dominated the scene in the SEA region. 

Teams like Zeusaberz Esports and others have a long-standing reputation for showcasing their competitive prowess in games like Rainbow Six Siege, CS: GO, Apex Legends, Etc.

Players from Bangladesh have represented the country in events of various global platforms as early as 2007- such as that of World Cyber Games (WCG), which was globally very popular in that decade.

According to industry insiders, during the 2020-2021 period, Esports saw a significant rise in popularity, marketing, endorsement, and competition, with tournament prizes- one of the key incentives for players to invest their time and effort into the industry -gradually rising over the years. 

Just two years back, the biggest tournaments would have an accumulative prize money of Tk5,000. 

Now, events with more than Tk1 lakh in prize money are held monthly, and the players see Esports as a career option, said a top official of Zenetic Gaming- a local Esports company.

Athlete income

While globally, with governments realizing Esports and its athletes and gaming platforms and the development of games have increased the income of gamers, the local scene can be developed even more, said industry insiders.

Locally, a player's average income is mostly earned via two constant streams of revenue. First is winning from a tournament or event. 

When a team succeeds in a particular event, the prize money is divided amongst the 4 or 5 players equally or pre-decided by the organization they play for. 

Secondly, revenue comes in the form of promotional activities and external sponsorships as well. 

For example, some well-known players partake in advertisements, promotional shoots, paid partnerships, Etc. As such, a top-tier player earns anywhere from Tk50,000 - 70,000 per month.

According to industry insiders- veteran gamers, game developers, gamers, businesses of the sector- the local Esports industry has a relatively large scope of contributing to its overall GDP once it expands to more extensive grounds. 

On average, authorized third-party and official tournaments worth close to Tk5 lakh take place each month. 

Furthermore, there are sectors that heavily depend on the local gaming industry, such as the smartphone sector, which are already contributing to the country's GDP.

Prominent brands such as Realme, Oppo, Vivo, and others recruit mobile Esports players for promotional purposes. 

On the other hand, mobile network operators such as Banglalink have depended on local gamers for promotional activities.

At its core, the local gaming and Esports industry are dependent on the country's youth significantly. Most players are either teenagers or young adults, with a few exceptions.

There are even more ways that indirectly or directly contribute to the country's GDP, Sheik Rezaur Rony, 55 and one of Bangladesh's Esports veterans.

In terms of viewership size, official PUBG Mobile, Free Fire Battlegrounds tournaments garner over 4,00,000 views per Livestream. 

As for revenue, donations rack up plenty. However, due to the absence of facilities like PayPal, Superchat, etc., international viewers cannot donate. Through advertisement, monetization, and live-stream donations, around Tk5 lakh is earned monthly.

Challenges

One of the biggest challenges to the expansion of the industry lies within players themselves, says Rony. 

Another obstacle is the lack of a developed or existing marketplace or model due to which unification of the industry remains negligent, he stated.

Another top official of a local Esports company said that without proper agencies or guiding hands, several teams, players, and potential investors remain scattered and disjointed from the actual scenario.

Reluctance and age-old prejudices stemming from various misconceptions still pose a formidable obstacle for many to enter the realm of gaming, he added.

Through joint efforts, raising awareness, and programs like "Parents vs. Esports" organized by Zenetic Esports, many parents have been convinced about the merits of gaming and Esports as a whole.

Sharmin, a homemaker and parent of four boys, said: "My third son plays games, and he always told me about making money through gaming. But we never understood the process. To this day, we are not sure exactly how. But, I understand now a bit more and hence discipline him on the matter accordingly."

Going forward

In Bangladesh, the Esports industry is still going unchecked and unregulated. 

According to various stakeholders of the industry, a sustainable backbone to the industry must be established and nourished at its core.

Moderators must be implemented to coach the players from a grassroots level. 

Agencies that can transparently manage teams, the industry's finances, and intra-country rivalries must be elected to ensure a smooth flow between teams, players, and investors looking to enter the market. 

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