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  • Fantasy Sports: The Biggest Source of Entertainment in Small Cities

    Published on September 15, 2020

    Rise of Online Gaming in India

    Everyone is aware of the tremendous growth the online gaming industry has seen in India in the recent past. Online gaming has gained a strong foothold within the Indian entertainment industry and has a projected user base of more than 628 million gamers this year. Gaining mainstream recognition, the online gaming industry in India is expected to be worth INR118.8 billion by the year 2023, as per a report released by KPMG. The digital revolution in India, which has put a smartphone with an internet connection in the hands of almost every Indian, and the lockdown that started in March gave a further boost to the gaming industry. “Online gaming companies in India are seeing an uptick in the number of users on their platforms and a surge in the number of hours Indian users spend gaming online,” says the report published by the Indian Gaming League (IGL).

    Fantasy Sports and Skill Games Are the Future

    The online gaming industry is primarily divided into 3 major categories: skill games (skill-based games which usually involve real money gaming), casual games (Candy Crush, Temple Run, etc.) and e-sports (Fifa, Freefire, etc.). Online fantasy sports gaming is skill-based gaming where sports lovers can create their fantasy sports teams by selecting real-life players from upcoming matches. Fantasy cricket, fantasy football, and fantasy kabaddi are the main fantasy sports in India. Users’ fantasy teams score points based on the actual statistical performance of their players during the course of the real match and the teams scoring the highest number of points are declared winners. 

    The first online fantasy sports game in India was released back in 2001, but it was in the last 2-3 years when the industry witnessed the highest growth. India has witnessed a 700% increase in the number of fantasy sports operators and a whopping 2500% increase in the number of fantasy sports players. It is projected that India will have approximately 100 million fans playing fantasy sports this year, which is 1/6th of the total user base of online gamers in India. The rise of online fantasy sports has established a closer connection between sports fans and real-life sports. Many casual viewers have become dedicated sports fans, thanks to online fantasy sports. This begs the question, who is the online fantasy sports consumer in modern India?

    Who is the fantasy sports consumer in India?

    The rising popularity of sports gave rise to many avenues for sports fans to express their love for games. Indians were introduced to the concept of sports bars where fans could come together and socialize. State-of-the-art facilities were developed in cities where sports fans could come and play together. Unfortunately, all these developments were restricted to the Tier I cities of India. Tier II and Tier III cities suffered due to the lack of infrastructure. Online fantasy sports, on the other hand, does not require any infrastructure. It simply requires a smartphone with an internet connection and hence it became the biggest source of entertainment for sports fans in small cities. 

    A report by the Indian Federation of Sports Gaming (IFSG) suggests that more than 50% of the online fantasy sports traffic comes from Tier II and Tier III cities, but individual operators have claimed the share of the smaller cities to be close to 70-90%. The report by KPMG also suggests that the frequency of engagement is way higher for smaller cities compared to Tier I cities. Almost 70% of the online fantasy sports users from smaller cities engage with various online fantasy sports operators more than 4 times a week.

    Motivators of Engagement in Fantasy Sports

    Contrary to popular belief, the opportunity to win money isn’t the biggest reason for the popularity of online fantasy sports. As per the KPMG report, close to 72% of the online fantasy sports users play for fun and excitement. As many as 48% users love playing online fantasy sports to manage teams virtually and 47% users play them because they help them to reconnect with the sports they so dearly love. And, 46% fantasy sports users believe playing fantasy sports is a great way to utilize their sports knowledge. 

    Online fantasy sports operators such as Howzat keep innovating and introducing new features that keep their users engaged. For example, during the worldwide lockdown, apart from its regular fantasy sports offering, Howzat introduced a brand new free-to-play fantasy sports model called Recall Fantasy. This tested users’ knowledge of popular matches that took place in the past. This proved to be a successful way of engaging sports fans, especially when there were no sports events taking place in the real world. Fantasy sports operators, including Howzat, also introduced sports quizzes and polls, which provided good entertainment in the initial months of the lockdown.

    Shashank, an avid fantasy sports user from Indore, says, “I love cricket and have been playing the game since I was a kid. In 2019, my friend introduced me to online fantasy sports. I downloaded the Howzat fantasy cricket app onto my phone and have been playing with it ever since. The pressure of work doesn’t allow me enough time to play cricket but Howzat helped me reconnect with the sport I love. Even during the lockdown, Howzat kept me engaged with its Recall Fantasy contests, as well as various quizzes and polls on its blog. Now that sports have resumed, I am looking forward to playing live fantasy cricket contests.”

    With the ongoing domestic T20 tournament in the Caribbean islands and the upcoming Indian T20 league, online fantasy sports lovers, especially those from smaller cities, are excited and geared up to utilize their sports knowledge and have lots of fun playing fantasy cricket.

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