Here’s what it’s like to be a gamer in India

Team SOUL wins the PUBG Mobile Championship Open regional finals in IndiaPUBG Mobile
  • Esports has always been present in India since the days of the Defence Against the Ancients (DOTA) but it's booming to a whole new level with the advent of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) making its foray into the country.
  • More and more players are taking up gaming professionally but it's not as lucrative as one would expect and parents still want their kids to keep their grades up in case esports doesn't work out.
  • Business Insider India spoke to two previous winners of PUBG Mobile competitions in the country to find out what it's like to be a gamer in India.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) has been sweeping over India. And in June, the game crossed 400 million downloads reaching 50 million daily active users (DAUs).

The esports industry is also hot on the track — expected to cross $1 billion in the next two years according to Google — with numerous competitions opening up the possibility of professional gaming for PUBG players in the country.

Business Insider India spoke to Mehul Dey, winning team member for Terrifying Nightmares who won the PUBG Mobile Star Challenge 2018, and Naman Sandeep Mathur — popularly known as Mortal on YouTube — from Team SOUL, winner of PUBG Mobile Championship Open (PMCO), to get some insight into the world of gaming.
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Here’s what it’s like to be a gamer in India:
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​1. It’s a budding industry

​1. It’s a budding industry

PUBG Mobile Campus Championship arena (Source: Oppo)

Esports isn’t something that everyone is familiar with but it’s picking up quickly in India with access to cheap data and affordable smartphones. When Dey informed his college that he wanted to participate in a ‘tournament’ — the PUBG Campus Championship — they assumed that he is going for a football or a cricket competition.

“For them, sports basically is that. So, when I told them that I want to go for PUBG, they were shocked that esports is coming up in India,” Dey said.

2. You can earn anywhere between ₹5,000 to ₹45,000

2. You can earn anywhere between ₹5,000 to ₹45,000

Team Soul at the PUBG Mobile India Series 2019 (Source: PUBG Mobile)

A ‘professional’ gamer in India can earn anywhere between ₹5,000 per month to ₹45,000 per month once they sign on with an esports company. Dey signed up with Entity Gaming. “The amount of exposure that e-sports gaming in India is getting now, it surely can be a career for all gamers,” he said.

At the end of the day, salary depends on how well they perform and how many people know them. “If you have a good fan base, you can obviously ask for more. If you don’t have a good fan base but you play well, you can ask moderately. If you’re just a beginner or budding talent, then you have to start with the minimum because you don’t have a firm base,” explains Dey.



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​3. Then, there are the perks

​3. Then, there are the perks

Prize pools for winning the PUBG Mobile Championship Open (Source: PUBG Mobile)

Signing up with an esports company also has it perks like having a designated space to practice and no headache over travel expenses. “We have to go to Entity’s bootcamps to make new strategies. Get a booth, sit there, figure out ways to enter a house when you already know that there’s somebody inside. Figure out new ways of killing other people,” Dey told Business Insider India.

Aside from your basic salary, there are winnings from competitions and companies looking to woo them to use their smartphones.

The PUBG India Series 2019 had a ₹10 million prize up for grabs. Winning the regional finals of the PUBG Mobile Championship Open awarded Team Soul ₹450,000.

​4. Skills matter

​4. Skills matter

Team Soul winning the PUBG India Series 2019 (Source: PUBG Mobile)

Simply put, “It’s not about the device, it’s about how you play,” said Dey. Both, Mortal and Dey, share that gaming has to be a passion in order to be successful.

Dey who is 19 years old and pursuing his degree in hotel management, says that he practices for at least two to three hours every day on average. Mortal, who has completed his Bachelors in Commerce from the South Indian Education Society, practices for four to five hours a day, in two shifts.

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​5. So does having a high-end smartphone

​5. So does having a high-end smartphone

Dey now competes using a Galaxy Note 9 rather than his OnePlus 5 after participating in the PUBG Star Challenge and 'getting thrashed' by their opponents' high-end devices (Source: PUBG Mobile)

“You need a very good phone to play competitively and if you want to play for fun, you can use any ₹20,00 device,” Mortal told Business Insider India making it clear that while skills do matter at a competitive level — you need a high-end device.

“I started with the iPad 2018. It was a very good device to play on. I switched to mobile phones because, in competitions, you can’t use a device that has a screen size of over 6.5-inches,” said Mortal.

Explaining the difference, Dey shared, “There is a difference in frame rates inside the game as well. You get to choose from low to extreme. So, even on an entry level phone, you will be able to get a high frame rate. That’s the basic level that you get on any phone. On high-end phones that can stretch to an extreme frame rate.”

​6. No, a ‘gaming smartphone’ won’t cut it

​6. No, a ‘gaming smartphone’ won’t cut it

ASUS ROG gaming smartphone (Source: Business Insider India)

Gaming smartphones may be the new trend but, both Dey and Mortal, feel that they can do very little for your game. “I know a lot of people who went according to the trend of buying a gaming smartphone. But, eventually, even that phone didn’t turn out to be the best,” shared Dey.

Given a choice between a gaming phone and a flagship phone, players tend to go for a flagship phone because, at the end of the day, what matters is a good processor and plenty of RAM.

“A gaming smartphone does not give you an edge over other players with normal smartphones,” asserts Dey.

Mortal, as an influencer in the tech space, has been doing his part to raise awareness that gaming smartphones aren’t necessarily better.

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​7. Formal training isn’t an option

​7. Formal training isn’t an option

PUBG themed multiple stream viewer for YouTube (Source: Pwnedu)

If you’re looking to play professionally in India, formal training isn’t quite an option yet. “He’ll have to learn on his own or watch videos on YouTube. New gamers will first have to prove themselves in tournaments — be it offline or online,” said Mortal.

He adds, “I’ve seen the difference between how people used to play before and how they play now — the gameplay has improved a lot. That’s only because they’ve seen content creators, how they play and learnt from it.“

​8. Fancy equipment won’t help

​8. Fancy equipment won’t help

Triggers to turn your phone into a gaming controllers (Source: Reddit)

When you’re competing professionally, add-ons aren’t allowed. Be it triggers — they turn your phone into a PlayStation 4 controller — or an extra grip, it won’t get past the gate.

“It’s just your fingers and your phone,” shared Dey, “So buying supplements makes no sense because you go there for a LAN event, all you have is a new cell phone, which the sponsors provide — if there are any — and your fingers. That’s it.”

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​9. Being YouTuber goes hand-in-hand

​9. Being YouTuber goes hand-in-hand

Mortal's YouTube stream (Source: YouTube screengrab)

Some players were YouTubers before they got into esports, other got into it after winning their first tournament but it’s usually inevitable that they go hand-in-hand.

For Mortal, being a YouTuber is a more reliable bet. “In esports, I am not sure. As far as Youtube is concerned, yes, its a career option for me and I’ll continue with it. I will try other games,” he said.

​10. But, there’s a difference between streaming and practicing

​10. But, there’s a difference between streaming and practicing

PUBG Championship Open 2019 (Source: YouTube screengrab)

“The difficulty was choosing between practices and streaming. So, for YouTube streams, it is fun game play. But, then practice cannot be done on live stream because we wanted to discuss strategies and everything,” shares Mortal who has more than 2 million subscribers on his YouTube channel.

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​11. Get your grades up, like mom and pop say

​11. Get your grades up, like mom and pop say

Gamers at the PUBG Campus Championship (Source: Reuters)

Esports may be a career option for gamers but parents will be parents. “The main concern was of my parents because moving to gaming all of sudden, without having a strong back up concerned them,” shares Dey.

They did let him game but with a few conditions in place, He said, “My mom and dad, everyone said if you’re doing this as your passion, do it, but we don’t want your grades to go down.”

Even Mortal had plans to go on and get his LLB while pursuing CS. His insight is, “You have to focus on your studies and play the game like its your passion. Don’t think of it as a career option and leave your studies or anything. You have to study, that is important.”