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Published: February 1, 2022

Written by: Stoyan Todorov

Nimish Raut has held various roles across the esports industry, and he has been particularly well-versed in the Southeast Asian and Indian gaming markets. He was appointed as NODWIN Head of Global Esports Partnership, reflecting on his vast experience and deep-rooted understanding of esports.

Today we approach Nimish hoping to find out more about how the Eastern and Western esports communities differ as cultures, opportunities, and even preferred gaming titles.

Nimish’s experience as part of Riot Games, Red Bull, Star TV Network, and notably Fnatic’s teams put him in an ideal position to help us understand the industry in its various permutations and how local esports in one place of the world can be different than those in another.

He is also a die-hard esports fan and his focus lies exclusively on the industry as such and not general video gaming.

Q: Nimish, Southeast Asia has been a tremendously vibrant region for esports from what we see in our news feeds over the past several years. Is it hard to do esports in this region despite the strong interest?

While this is an important question, it’s quite a difficult one to answer as Southeast Asia is a region within a region. Every country in SEA is a separate region on its own and there are certain markets where there has been a huge interest in esports such as Indonesia and Thailand. India which is considered South Asia and not SEA has also been considered a forefront in the market.

To answer the question, of course, it’s extremely difficult. While we are a growing market, the infrastructure is not at the best of its ability. There’s a lot of money flowing into market on things beyond the world of esports. The numbers though a positive side can also have a negative side as people are just worried about the numbers. Money is flowing into activities like streaming and other sides of the business and not purely esports. Money is thus dried up a little bit for esports. And recently, there have been complications due to the pandemic and lack of live events making it that much more difficult for brands to invest in esports.

I remain optimistic about this region for the next 5 years – we need to be the #1 region in the world and mobile esports could be that opportunity for us.

Q: In terms of investment opportunities, there seems to be a lot of brands focusing on the North American and European markets. Is this a false statement and are India and Southeast Asia just as attractive to investors looking for a way into esports?

This again is a difficult question to answer – the North American and European markets are the ones who define the trends (barring China). The investment opportunities for brand and investors have reached a plateau in NA/EU but the size and potential of the consumer is only focused on per capita consumption and the numbers for these regions aren’t going to grow big anymore. And the focus since then has shifted to SEA and India – these are alien territories for brands, investors and teams coming from the west. So, while yes, there is an attraction for investors from the west for India and SEA, the ability for them to invest the money they generally do in the western markets has not been seen.

The biggest names that come to this region come in with different expectations in terms of spends that they would do in the US as compared to SEA which I feel is quite unfair.

Q: Do you think the Indian/SEA regions are a little more fragmented when it comes to competitions and have less defined competitive calendars?

Absolutely, India specifically has no defined competitive calendar. We are extremely behind in terms of creating an ecosystem and I’ve expressed this opinion very openly. Southeast Asia on the other hand, has consistency with titles like MLBB with OneEsports and a few other big partners within the region trying to ensure that there is a consistency in the kind of IPs that they do. But India definitely does not.

Q: Do you think that India’s decision to close off PUBG is detrimental to esports or is Battlegrounds Mobile a worthwhile successor? In general, do you see governments interfering with esports’ progress in the region? We know that in places such as Malaysia, esports is actually very much supported on a governmental level.

For the first part of the question, only time will tell how successful it is, but the reality is that the country is very happy that the game is back since that’s what we were worried about.

I personally believe with the right intention, whoever can take this particular esport ahead should be the one to intervene, whether it’s a private organization or the government. Eventually, I do feel that it is going to take multiple stakeholders to take BGMI to the next level. While I don’t see the government playing a huge role in this, but any stance or support that is morally in favor of gaming and esports is going be beneficial for the gaming and the ecosystem

Q: Are there similarities in the Eastern and Western esports scenes and are there any distinct differences in the way consumers approach esports in those respective regions (broad as they are)?

Similarity wise, I believe the demographics of the consumer, the overall approach, whether its age, interest levels and consumer habits are quite similar compared globally. The world becomes a lot more global in that sense – at a granular level these factors are similar.

The major difference is that the western regions are a lot more involved with esports – they give the respect to the esport and esports comes first. The business of entertainment of esports is built around the esports itself, and not the other way around. The entertainment of esports plays a secondary role to the development of esports itself.

While talking about the East, with the exception of China, all the other regions, specifically India, have bastardized the idea of esports. We’ve not even built esports but have jumped into entertainment – what people don’t realize that without the esport, there is no entertainment

I believe the purest form of entertainment is the esport itself and that’s why China, Europe (like Riot’s LEC), North America and even Brazil has seen the success because they are managed by great entertainers who are backed by cool gameplays and sporting IPs that we lack in our country.

Q: Elsewhere, we saw some changes of esports in the East. China restricted the gameplay hours per week for U-18s, while Japan and South Korea seems to be opening up. Do you have any predictions about how the Japanese and Chinese esports market will fair in 2022 and beyond?

I’ve never had a chance to work with the Japanese market directly, but I have worked with Chinese teams and representatives. I do feel there will be a paradigm shift – the world is divided into 2 parts where NA/EU decide how to grow esports into a pure entertainment/sporting product while China keeps on innovating on how to reach consumers whether its through mobile cafes, stadiums, bringing the right partners, getting the viewers to the right platform, etc. It’s always very interesting to see how China brings esports forward as they’re ahead of the curve.

Japan is currently sandwiched between US and China – they have their own esports ecosystem going on in their own specific style and growing for themselves. I do feel with metaverse and VR/AR becoming a part of day-to-day gaming, China, Japan and US are going to show us the future and India will be playing catchup.

Our kids will be inspired and hopefully by the time they grow up, have access to that technology.

Q: If there is one thing you can change in India and Southeast Asia right this moment what would it be?

For India – I will stop people bastardizing the term esports. I will ensure that brands and investors focus their spendings more on esports directly and make a competitive product out of it rather than spending on tertiary content like streaming and unboxings, etc.

For SEA –  potentially build a bridge between SEA and India. If there is a way to build that bridge and add India as part of Southeast Asia, then as a region we will be so much stronger. Not only will we have the numbers, we’ll have a region within a region that is fairly open to the idea of the western culture but is considered as East

SEA is generally considered close to China and gets influenced by what happens there as compared to the West. Getting India as the midway between the West and the East will benefit India in a big way and allow SEA to benefit too as they’ll get a lot closer to the West, and that’s when we’ll truly become a truly global esports culture.

Thank you.

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