More Than a Video Game

More Than a Video Game
Igor Djuricic

Glopinion by

Igor Djuricic

Oct 23, 2019

How PUBG Mobile Became a Cultural Phenomenon in India

It’s no secret that PUBG Mobile has taken India by storm and the mobile title has thrived in the subcontinent giving birth to an entire ecosystem of content creators, tournament organizers, players, organizations, and talent. As an esport in the region, PUBG Mobile is the king, with titles such as Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive which are popular globally, taking a back seat. The two titles formed the pillars of the small Indian esports community for a long time, but the entry of PUBG Mobile has tipped the scales heavily.

For tournament organizers, the incentive to execute a PUBG Mobile event has become much higher as the footfall and the viewership for those are significantly larger than what is expected from a traditional esport. Esports organizations too, have realized that there is a huge market to be captured and huge fan base that can eventually be tapped when it comes to the game. At this point, it would almost be foolish to be an Indian esport organization and not have a PUBG Mobile roster.

While PUBG Mobile’s rise to the top certainly seems surprising, especially when compared to the global esports landscape, the conditions and existing infrastructure in India is fertile ground for mobile titles.

Why PUBG Mobile Dominates the Indian Market

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India has a population of 1.3B people, nearly one-fifth of the total population of the entire planet, and is set to become the most populated country in the world by 2024/2025 based on current projections. But what sets the country apart is the fact that 50% of the populace is below the age of 25 and 65% of them are below 35. For any marketer, this is a dream scenario as a younger demographic means better purchasing power, adequate disposable income, and an affinity for trends and new products.

Improving infrastructure has led to cheaper access to the internet which has further accelerated the game’s growth in the country. From 2017 to 2018, India witnessed an annual growth of 18% in internet users, and in 2019 the country has 451M active internet users, which is the second-highest in the world. For additional context, this is higher than the total population of the United States, which stood at 327M people in 2018.

While internet usage is currently dominated by the urban population, rural penetration is on the rise, with growth rates at 35% compared to 7% in urban areas. But what is really the clinching factor is the fact that 97% of Indians on the internet use their mobile devices to access it. An ASSOCHAM (Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry)-PwC joint study showed that by 2022, 859M Indians will become smartphone owners as compared to 468M in 2017. In fact, a large segment of the population, although mobile users, aren’t smartphone users and are expected to make the change with time.

The Rise of Content Creators

It seems clear that while a majority of Indians don’t have access to a gaming PC or a console, access to smartphones is already there and growing. As a result, a lot of mobile titles have had massive popularity over the years but a few key factors drove PUBG Mobile to new heights. The emergence of content creators who went all out in terms of building their brand, their following, and their content, has become essential to the health of the scene, making not only a name for themselves but elevating the title to new heights.

Channels such as Aaditya ‘Dynamo Gaming’ Sawant have already amassed a massive following, sitting at over 5M subscribers. Being one of the first to arrive on the scene, Dynamo’s rise to popularity has been interesting to watch. In a time when global streamers are adding more and more elements to their stream and trying to establish a more personal connection to their fanbases, Dynamo’s streams feature just pure gameplay and voice without any bells or whistles. Other popular streamers such as Naman ‘MortaL’ Mathur, Chetan ‘Kronten’ Chandgude, and Ronny ‘Rawknee’ Dasgupta have also steadily built up big followings by carving out niches for themselves.

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