Esports is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. Something which started in 1972 and took a while to get started, reached an all-time high of $1.1 billion net worth in 2019. Games like Fortnite, PUBG, Call of Duty, and FIFA games have been extremely popular amongst the youth and it now could convert into a career option rather than just a ploy to pass time.
The winner of the Fortnite in 2019 was a US teenager Kyle Giersdorf, who won the solo event of the competition in the Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York and took home 3 million dollars.
FIFA eWorld Cup was introduced in 2018 with the FUT Champions game mode in FIFA 17 and saw more than 29 million people watch the first eWorld Cup. This figure rose by 60 percent the following year to 47 million as it was shown in more than 75 territories worldwide.
Now it is expected that the esports empire could hit $2.17 billion by 2023.
Switzerland’s Racing Unleashed is also looking to make a big foray into the market and has seen its business grow in the past few years. The ever-growing, efficient start-up combines state-of-the-art racing simulators with professional simulation software – bringing the real cockpit into the virtual motorsport world.
It launched the ‘Home Challenge 2020’ with virtual racers driving the Formula car Tatuus FA01 around Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. The winners will be the top 5 racers who will have the fastest laps at the end of the challenge. It starts on Monday, May 11.
We caught up with the CEO of Racing Unleashed, Monisha Kaltenborn, who was born in Dehradun/Uttarakhand and is looking to capitalise on the ever-growing market of esports. Monisha talked about how Racing Unleashed sees the growth of esports in India and how they are looking to enhance the experience in the country. Here are the excerpts: –
How does Racing Unleashed see the growth of esports in India?
Esports is today a global business that’s achieved a global business revenue of nearly 1.5 billion dollars in 2019. And e-racing comprised out of that 4.5 billion dollars in sales. So clearly it is one of the most important and fastest-growing segments of the sport and entertainment industry. Looking at this trend it’s clear that in such an active and booming market like India esports play an important role. Now, we are still at the beginning of this development in India, but looking at how fast the young generation is proceeding in the area of digitalization, esports is going to become more and more important.
What are the plans for India in relation to the Home Challenge 2020?
We started very spontaneously with the home challenge this year. Given the restrictions that COVID-19 imposed on all of us, it was always our plan to start the online qualification. But given the circumstances, we just had to improvise a little and start quicker, so we did this on a very simple basis, and it was very interesting to see which parts of the word actually gave a very quick and big response to it. One of them was India next to Brazil and other Asian countries. In India mainly the states of Maharashtra and West Bengal impressed us with the number of participants and people who interacted on this home challenge. Looking at this experience, we certainly are going to continue with our home challenge. Based on the same format for the next race, and after that we do want to change the basis a little to move more towards the kind of online challenge, which comes closest to what we are doing here. But these are the plans, which we will, of course, announce in the next weeks to come.
How has the response been till now?
The response has been overwhelming, considering that we just started out entering the segment on the challenge at home (“race from home) through the Assetto Corsa platform. That’s the software which we use for our game. And it just confirmed us in our way – and by far exceeded our expectations. We had a reach without any promotion of nearly 800.000, which is quite impressive.
We have seen there is a huge market for virtual gaming in India. Almost all Indians in metropolitans and other towns are so technologically advanced, they are using a lot of platforms. But still, the arena of esports is at a nascent stage. How do you think it can be improved? The potential to grow is massively and definitely there.
Absolutely. The potential is very big and what you need is always the market entry. And for any sports, any entertainment, essential elements for any successful entries is that you need to have local participants and local heroes. Like in real motorsports, we want to enter this market of course first on the online area and trying to have growing gamers personalities in India, which again have their own following and generate more interest. And they, of course, can participate at an international level, which we can equally offer. This increases their value and their followers again. That’s the kind of growth we need to take there to generate indigenous growth and interest driving from that.
What are the hurdles faced by organisations like you to gain traction in India? And what are the differences you have seen from before and now?
The biggest hurdle is of course to attract the attention given that there’s so much in esports and motorsport traditionally has always had a difficult start in India. I know that from my experience in Formula One Championship. India staged a fantastic event, but for some reason, well we know the reasons, we could hard establish ourselves because motor racing has been very limited in terms of public interest. But this is changing, because the big difference comes from esports because esports and the virtual world enable people who are so interested in motorsports to not only be spectators of this sport but to become active participants. And everything that you can do yourself when you collect your own experiences is closer to you. I think that the big difference between the real sport and the virtual world is on top of that the accessibility, which is much easier and cheaper than watching an auto race on location. The accessibility makes the difference to the previous, real motorsport. Now if you have racers and participants with their own experiences, you can also follow a local hero, so that people are noticed who are that far away, but they are from your country, which plays a big role in India as well.
What are your plans to gain a standing in India?
Our first step was this “challenge at home”. Then we want to introduce a regular online qualification challenge. After that, of course, we want to set up Racing Lounges in India, hopefully with partners. Because that’s the big difference between our e-sport and the others. Our concept is based on the fact, that people are not only at home alone – like everyone else – and take up the racing challenge, but that they also come together at a racing event, where we emphasise the element of the sporting activity or have a kind of get-together in the lounges in a relaxed atmosphere.
We also support young talent and work on the racing careers of the future. Training on the racing simulator is very popular and in-demand in Formula racing. After all, a racing driver’s skills, such as fitness, concentration, and reaction ability, are crucial for success in the racing simulator, too. We see again and again how our simulator racers fight, sweat, surely get angry, or are happy in the cockpit. We also want to achieve this unique feeling and experience in India by bringing our high-quality, physically, and mentally demanding racing simulators to the starting line there as well. We may also be able to conduct a roadshow through the states together with the companies of the association/federation in order to present our product to a wider audience and to create not only a social media community here as well.
Viewership is as much important for a game to popularise and become an important esports model as publicity itself. So is there a significant increase in the streaming of the home challenge and how do you plan to increase that in a highly dense population like India?
We are only at the beginning of streaming in India. But from our experiences in Europe, we know how unbelievable fast the growth can go, also through participants, viewers, partners, and interested parties. India is, of course, different and will be unique in this respect as well. This huge country or subcontinent with a similar market is enormous, at the same time attractive and exciting digital challenge for us. To this end, we are compiling online market data, as we have now done for the Challenge at home, and are conducting further market studies, not at least based on our social media and website statistics, which honestly will take some time. Here, too, the know-how grows with the experience. And we must be prepared for a flood of data – big data. Or “digital first”, as one of our mottos is called. We are very happy to become an online and racing lounge player in the fascinating esports world of India as well. The next step must be to bring the racing simulators with the moving cockpit, the F1 steering wheel as well as telemetry tools and professional race engineers there, and above all to find appropriate partners and locations.
If esports had to gain a bigfooting, investment in the grassroots level is needed. What are your plans for that, something like LAN gaming maybe?
In the rapidly booming digital business always you have to be open for all kinds of esports, sim races, web challenges, or gaming platforms. The interaction does not always have to be WLAN based. We are also not closed to LAN gaming. This combination of private computers connected by a local network could well be a variant that we are pushing especially in India. To gain even greater popularity and awareness. In terms of the possible and necessary investments that this project, will undoubtedly require, our CEO has a relatively large network in Asia, and in India in particular. These are of course many contacts from motorsport and Formula 1 business. The latter have now also entered the e-sport scene. However, the competitors do not have racing lounges with real cockpits and virtual favourite race circuits. These lounges, as well as the Web-Challenge, are supposed to push our maxim: The democratisation of motorsport. We at Racing Unleashed could not imagine a better starting point for this than the largest democracy in the world. The country where I was born.