Playing spoilsport around the festive season, the Commonwealth Games committee announced last week that they will not be retaining esports as a competitive medal category for the 2026 edition. This follows on the heels of various esports games being conducted alongside the CWG 2022. The Indian DOTA 2 team had played into the history records by bringing in the bronze at the first-ever Commonwealth Esports Championship, leading to the industry celebrating the victory and what was to come.
According to reports, the reason behind this exclusion were worries of various sports authorities over doping, essentially the use of stimulants to allow e-athletes to perform with an unfair advantage. However, Rohit Agarwal, Founder and Director, Alpha Zegus, a marketing agency specializing in gaming, points out that in the past, there have been doping cases across various sports in international events.
“We have always witnessed strict action being taken against the concerned player/team. However, this is the first time that a sport is being barred due to a few bad apples. Esports still has a long way to go in terms of growth and infrastructure, but it’s a little difficult to believe that doping could be the primary reason,” he adds.
Industry insiders had hoped that the pilot project of including esports in this year’s games would fuel the Indian gaming industry, already firing as it is on all cylinders, with an expected valuation of USD 7 billion (close to Rs 58000 crore approximately) by 2026, with India already counting as the second largest gaming population in the world, right behind China, which is also soon expected to surpass.
As Vidur Naik, Managing Partner, TCM Platform pithily observes, “The growth of eSports has been nothing short of a Saturn V rocket that took the man to the moon. With close to half a billion people participating in and viewing eSports, which led to eSports being part of international sporting competition, the news that eSports was being dropped from the event has come as a surprise.”
Rohit Jagasia, Founder and CEO, Revenant Esports, adds that with this news, we have to understand that our new-age sports need proper infrastructure, training facilities, coaches and most importantly health experts who will take care of athletes' mental and physical well-being. “An ecosystem only grows when every stakeholder works together and the vision should be aligned to make it a sport in all the multi-nation sports events.”
Echoing others with similar reservations, Jagasia is also still not convinced that doping alone will be the reason, saying “There is a lot more to it which we hope to know in the coming future. We have to take this decision as a major setback and take the learning out of it that we have to build a proper program for our esports athletes so that they can represent the country at these prestigious events and bring laurels for the country.”
However, in some good news, esports is still to be a medal event at the upcoming Asian Games, to be held in China in 2023, after a long delay. This combined with the already fervent fan base gaming and esports enjoy in the country, most see this as a minor road bump on an otherwise ever-expanding highway.
Naik concludes, “We feel the impact will be minuscule on the overall category as gamers, brand advertisers and publishers continue to invest heavily in eSports. With revenue set to exceed USD 2 billion (INR 16,558 crore approximately) in the coming year, eSports continues to take one giant leap after another.”