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Game Streaming the Next Hot Career?

By Shivani Shinde and Sourabh Lele
June 23, 2022 10:19 IST
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Live-streaming gaming, which includes video games as well, has turned into an industry worth around $1 billion in India, and is expected to touch $5 billion by 2025.

Kindly note the image has been posted only for representational purposes. Photograph: Kind courtesy RODNAE Productions/Pexels.com
 

Abhijeet Singh, a second-year engineering student from West Bengal's Naihati city, plans to drop out of college and turn into a full-time game streamer, which will fetch him dual benefits -- an income and recreation.

Live-streaming gaming, which includes video games as well, has turned into an industry worth around $1 billion in India, and is expected to touch $5 billion by 2025.

Recent reports suggest that the industry could scale up to $13 billion worldwide by then.

It has been over two years since Singh started game streaming (when he watched it on YouTube), and he now streams on Rooter, India's homegrown game streaming app.

"Unlike YouTube, you can gain an audience on Rooter very easily and fast. We just need to hold that audience with our creativity and content," he says.

The live-gaming streamer earns nearly Rs 20,000 to Rs 25,000 a month.

"I am thinking of dropping out of college and want a career in content creation," he adds.

Platforms like Rooter offer multiple revenue sources, including sponsorships and advertisements, which add to a player's income.

There are also 'Super Chats' through which the audience can pay the player if they wish.

"YouTube takes 40 per cent of that revenue, but Rooter gives you as much as 90 per cent," says Singh, or 'the Singh Babu', his username.

Or take the case of Udaipur-based Mansha Kunwar Rathore, ('Gaming with Laila'), who took up gaming as a career when she lost her job during the Covid pandemic.

"During the lockdown I started playing games to pass the time, but then realised that one can earn too, and began my career as a gamer. I started with YouTube, got a good response and also secured brand endorsements," she says.

Mansha has 2.1 million followers on YouTube.

With such a huge follower base on YouTube, she was then approached by Glance, the lock screen platform from unicorn InMobi, and she streams on both platforms.

She did not disclose how much she makes in a month, but reckons her salary is similar to that of a chartered accountant.

IMAGE: Gaming professional and influencer Mansha Kunwar Rathore, who has 2.1 million followers on YouTube says her salary is similar to that of a chartered accountant. Photograph: Kind courtesy gaming_with_laila_/Instagram

Games streaming is a huge category internationally, but in India it began making a dent only when PUB-G was launched around 2018 and gamers got the flavour of live multiplayer gaming.

Cheaper smartphones and data packages fuelled the demand.

While YouTube continues to be the largest platform for user-generated content, the surge in the number of gamers has given rise to local streaming platforms like Rooter, Loco, Glance and Turnip.

With monetisation not easy on YouTube, these platforms have attracted gamers.

For gamers to gain endorsement from YouTube, or a team from the platform to work with, they need at least 1,000 subscribers, and their content should have been watched for at least 4,000 hours.

Once a creator crosses these twin thresholds, YouTube starts paying them serious attention.

Rooter has reached out to every gamer who was not growing fast enough on YouTube, and brought them on board.

A dedicated company team of 40-45 then works with these gamers to increase their users and enable better monetisation.

Piyush Kumar, who founded Rooter in 2016 and pivoted to game streaming in 2020, says that the top 100 gamers on the platform earn Rs 50,000 to Rs 75,000 just by brand endorsement or influence marketing.

His goal is to take this number to 500 people in the next few months and to 2,000 by year's end.

Rooter has some 35 million subscribers, 10 million of them monthly active users (MAU), of which 1 million people are daily viewers who spend about 22 minutes on the platform.

It also has a total gamer base of 1 million, 300 of them female.

Kumar believes that within the gaming segment, game streaming is the fastest-growing sub-set.

"When we entered gaming, India had 250 to 300 million gamers. Today there are 450 million.

"Second, the Indian audience is either consuming content on YouTube, or short-form videos, or playing games.

"And we are bringing together both gamers and an audience who likes this content," he says.

The other instance of rising demand for live game streamers is the recently concluded Glance LIVE Fest, India's first live interactive festival, which had 64 colleges participating in Glance College Battleground.

While the winning team took home Rs 2,00,000 in prize money, almost 6,00,000 people turned up to watch.

Yashashvi Takallapalli, vice-president (gaming) at Glance, says that last December the company started with one game stream a day, and this is now 30 streams a day, or 20 hours of game streaming daily on Glance.

Glance gaming's live stream has 20 million MAU.

Game streaming is currently part of Glance's overall game offerings, but the recent increase in interest in live games has made the platform revisit its oeuvre.

"We want to invest more in tournaments like the Glance LIVE festival.

"Two, as a tech platform, we want to be at the forefront of creating amazing streaming experiences, as well as increase monetisation opportunities.

"Finally, we also want to increase the number of streams on a daily basis," he adds.

The rise of dedicated game streaming platforms is similar to what happened in other spaces as well.

YouTube started this category, but with the number of users increasing, everyone wants a dedicated audience and good economics.

Ashwin Suresh, co-founder of Loco, agrees.

"Two or three things are happening, which ensures the need for dedicated platforms like us.

"First, YouTube, because of its international battles with the likes of Facebook and others, is focusing more and more on shorter-format video. So, YouTube shorts are where the focus is.

"Second, YouTube is a very large company and its product turnaround time is slow, and this happens when you're a general entertainment platform," says Suresh.

"It's hard to create gaming-specific features, because a lot of people go to the platform for other entertainment features and they do not need features that are specific to gaming.

"We are a dedicated platform and can build products much more specifically."

The other reason why gamers are moving to dedicated platforms is discoverability and compensation.

"The time a content creator takes to move from zero to a million subscribers on YouTube is 9-12 months, but on Loco they can do this in 4-6 months," he adds.

Loco recently raised $42 million, taking its total funds raised to $51 million. Rooter, too, raised $25 million in January this year.

Game streaming is becoming a serious professional choice for youth, as it allows them to make good money -- anything between ₹30,000 and a few hundred thousand rupees a month.

Monetisation can be through advertisements, brand endorsements, and payments from streaming platforms, says Rooter's Kumar: "We work with the top 65 to 70 apps in the country.

"We also monetise through influencer marketing, which means all content creators or gamers have brand opportunities.

"We have also started our own commerce." The opportunity is huge, he adds.

Game streaming is not a mere source of fun. Gamers have to put in 12 to 15 hours a day when they begin playing new games, since they need to make sure that the audience is entertained as well.

Says Ayushmann Rawat from Ghaziabad, a second-year BPharm student: "The number of people watching us varies at different times of the day. On average, it is between 30,000 and 50,000 per day."

Live streaming grew dramatically during the Covid-19 lockdowns.

"We had more of an audience during the pandemic, as people spent more time on entertainment. We used to stream for seven to eight hours a day, as we were free and enjoyed it," says Rawat.

Loco streamer '8Bit Mumba' (Salman Ahmad from Uttar Pradesh in real life), recently started streaming Grand Theft Auto.

"I have been streaming for at least 14-15 hours per day since I started playing this game two weeks back.

"Generally, when we start a new game, we need this time, but on average I spend 8-9 hours a day playing games for both YouTube and Loco," says Ahmad.

He has 1.2 million followers on YouTube and 2,56,000 followers on Loco.

Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/Rediff.com

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Shivani Shinde and Sourabh Lele
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