The eSports hype that is sweeping the world shows no sign of abating. In fact, its reach and influence are getting ever broader. No longer restricted to battlefield arena games like League of Legends or DOTA 2, competitive gaming is expanding into other genres, most notably sports games themselves.
FIFA is the most popular eSport outside the MOBA / first person shooter genre, while in America, the NBA 2K eSports series runs alongside the real world basketball season. However, in India, it is the rise of the Mobile Premier League that has really ruffled feathers over recent months.
What is the Mobile Premier League?
Just eight months ago, Bangalore-based entrepreneurs Sai Srinivas Kiran and Shubham Malhotra hit on the idea of the Mobile Premier League. Their idea was to combine India’s love of sport with the rise in competitive online gaming that we already see with live casino, social gaming and the like. MPL received a $5 million cash injection from Sequoia in 2018 and will complete a second round of funding in the coming weeks.
The platform allows its users to play more than 30 different games competitively, including carom, cricket, bike racing and pool. According to Kiran, it has already attracted around 20 million players.
The Kohli factor
With a World Cup just around the corner, there is no bigger name in sport than Virat Kohli right now, and by bringing him in as a brand ambassador, MPL has turned the burgeoning mobile eSports sector on its head. It has also set up an eye-catching rivalry between two of Indian sport’s biggest names, as the MPL is in direct competition with Dream 11, which is backed by none other than MS Dhoni.
Anyone who has seen the ad campaign will know it is certainly eye-catching. The tune is catchy and Kohli’s dance steps were his own idea – there were no professional choreographers involved. Hari Krishnan, the president of the company behind the campaign, told Forbes India: “He got the mood of the song instantly. When he broke into a jig, it was magic.”
Battle of the giants
MPL’s rapid growth is big news in the egaming community and has made the investment world sit up and take notice. However, by pitting Virat Kohli against MS Dhoni, the whole saga has captured the attention of India as a whole. Dream 11 recently became the first gaming platform to join the unicorn club and describes itself as “India’s biggest sports game.”
Is the egaming world ready to sustain two platforms – and two egos – of this size? Kiran is certain that behind the dancing and the Kohli vs Dhoni hype, MPL has the model to succeed. MPL, he says, is a platform that can help realise the dreams of developers as well as gamers. Unlike others in the sector, it does not seek to build its own games from scratch, but rather to showcase the very best from around the world.
Kohli and Dhoni will soon be bound for England, where they will combine their unique talents on cricket’s biggest stage. But when they return to India, their battle in the virtual world will continue.