The Indian market is looking for the next big esport title and League of Legends: Wild Rift has positioned itself as one of the top contenders in the region. While it’s already been made clear that South Asia isn’t going to be a part of the open beta, it hasn’t stopped the community from generating noise about the title. The ban on PUBG Mobile has created a massive void in the Indian esports community and while similar titles have been able to gain some ground, Riot Games’ reputation has allowed Wild Rift to emerge as a frontrunner in the quest for the next big title in India.
South Asia and MOBAs – A Storied Past
The subcontinent’s obsession with PUBG Mobile, and in more recent times Valorant, suggests that the shooter genre has always been more popular in the region. However, this is only true in the last couple of years. The MOBA genre, particularly Dota 2, was one of the most important titles in the South Asian esport ecosystem pre 2019 and although its popularity has declined, there still exists a fan base. In fact, the only tier 1 international event in the region was a Dota 2 event – ESL One Mumbai in 2019. From 2016 to 2018 South Asia had a thriving Dota 2 community with rich narratives and rivalries that made it the largest esport title in the region.
Over time, the lack of engagement for Dota 2 has shrunk, mostly because the competitive scene became stale and regional matches were just not able to pull significant viewership or interest. This caused most tournament organizers and, eventually, organizations to drop Dota 2 as a title, marking a major shift in the landscape. Since then, there has been an exodus of Indian Dota 2 players with years of experience in a MOBA but no structured competitive scene to play in. Now, many ex-Dota players are itching to find space in the competitive Wild Rift landscape either as players or coaches. The League community in South Asia although very small in number has also found itself largely ignored with Riot Games never showing any interest in the region. With the mobile version, the community can finally translate their experience and expertise into a worthwhile career option.
Filling the Void
The ban on PUBG Mobile has left a massive void in Indian esports with many looking to Wild Rift as the title which will fill this gap. Riot Games’ history as a company known for developing a comprehensive esports structure coupled with recent efforts in Valorant has positioned Wild Rift as a very lucrative title. The timing has also worked out great for Riot as the ongoing Worlds 2020 and the launch of India servers for Valorant has allowed them to take part in the esports conversation. Bans on titles like Mobile Legends: Bang Bang and Arena of Valor have also left a gap in the Indian mobile MOBA community, which although unorganized, had a substantial player base. A combination of these factors has made the conditions conducive for a title like Wild Rift come in and seize the market.
Indian Stakeholders Already Making Moves
The popularity of the title and potential in the region has been led by industry stakeholders. TSM-Entity manager Siddhanth Joshi, a popular community figure and former league player, is one of the names leading the charge. He, along with other community figures and influencers have stirred interest in the title through social media and content. North American organization, Noble Esports has already picked up a roster in India despite the game not being available publicly. Many content creators and portals are also doubling down on the title with educational content and updates, leading to further exposure.
As the Wild Rift Open Beta goes live in several parts of the world, Riot Executive Producer Micheal Chow has reiterated that the delay is largely due to technical constraints in the region. While he has assured players that the game will be worth the wait and that features will be implemented to give new players fair access to in-game content, there still is no timeline provided by Riot. While PUBG Mobile has laid the foundations and set up the framework for an esport ecosystem, its ban has opened up the doors to a world of possibilities.
Shounak Sengupta is a staff writer for AFK Gaming.