“Streaming started picking up fast in 4-5 months after I started and so I decided to quit my finance job and become a full-time gaming streamer. I have been doing this full time only for the last 8-9 months,” said Hiranandani.
New Delhi-based Sakshi Sood, 22, is another professional gamer and content creator who started streaming games such as GTA5 during the lockdown. “After BGMI was launched, I started streaming that too and garnered over a million followers within a year,” said Sood. She is mostly active on Facebook. Sood has also participated in several BGMI (Battlegrounds Mobile India) tournaments.
Hiranandani and Sood belong to the new breed of casual gamers and streamers who have taken the leap to full-time gaming as a career after the Covid-19 led boom in the Indian gaming industry.
On average, women gamers and content creators earn between Rs.30,000 and Rs.100,000 per month. This is what most male gamers also make. Top gamers make even more, according to Trinity Gaming. Brand deals, eSports tournaments, affiliate brand marketing, barter collaborations and platform remuneration are some of the ways both male and female gamers are making money.
According to a November 2021 report by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and VC firm Sequoia, the Indian gaming industry generated $1.8 billion in revenue in 2020 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 38%, which is faster than even the US (10%) and China (8%).
“During the pandemic, we saw immense growth in the gaming ecosystem. The participation of women gamers has grown a lot too. Two years ago, only 4% of gamers were women. Today women gamers account for 15% of the professional gaming community in India,” said Abhishek Aggarwal, co-founder and managing director of Trinity Gaming, a gaming content marketing firm. His firm is now working with 10 times more professional women gamers than before the pandemic.
Anurag Khurana, founder and chief executive of Penta Esports, corroborated that the presence of women in the game streaming space has improved significantly. However, he also noted that there are still not enough gamers in eSports. “There are only four to five teams that have announced their female rosters in India.”
Things, though, seem to be improving. Last month, Acer organized a tournament on Valorant, a multiplayer online game, for women gamers in India as part of its Predator Gaming League (PLG). The tournament received a total of 1.2 million impressions and a viewership of 180,000. Thousands of women participated out of which team Mollies won, according to Acer. “We believe that women gamers would play a huge role in driving the growth of the eSports industry. It is inspiring to see women take up gaming seriously,” said Sooraj Balakrishnan, head of marketing at Acer India.
The involvement of game publishers is important, according to Trinity’s Aggarwal. “The more publishers get involved the more validation and support women gamers will get,” he added.
Khurana, however, believes the industry needs to do more to get more women into eSports. “If you look at casual games put together, 40% of gamers are women. In professional, serious gaming the number is still quite low as compared to men. There is no encouragement for women to participate in eSports. Some companies are taking such initiatives but they are very limited and more symbolic than a norm,” said Khurana of Penta Esports. He rues that gaming is still not encouraged at home, especially for women.
Bullying and online harassment, for instance, are some of the other factors that women gamers have to face. “We get hate comments daily. Over time, I have learned to cope with these comments by ignoring them,” said Sood. Hiranandani added that she hasn’t met another female gamer who hasn’t faced harassment and bullying. However, she said that being a woman also gives you an upper hand as gaming is mostly male-dominated and people are curious when they see women in gaming.
The ratio of women gamers to men is not skewed only in India. “India is not lagging, In general all over the world there are few female professional players,” said Hiranandani. However, some of the top women game streamers in the US such Alia Shelesh, known as SSSniperwolf, have an estimated monthly earning of $101,000 to $1.6 million, according to SocialBlade, a website that tracks social media statistics. She has 32.7 million subscribers on YouTube. Similarly, top eSports gamer such as Sasha Hostyn, also known as Scarlett, has made $423,000 through eSports gaming as of February 2022, according to Statista.
Hiranandani said that she will continue to focus on game streaming for now and has no intention to get into eSports anytime soon as it requires a different skill set, a lot of discipline, and a good team.
Sood, too, is focused on streaming, but is now participating in more tournaments as that is where you get more recognition, she added.
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