"We are yet to see a gamer who can be used as a pop culture lexicon": Vijay Subramaniam, Founder, The Collective Artists Network
While it is one of the fastest-growing spaces in the region, the video game industry is still not considered by many to be as big as mainstream media.
However, stakeholders believe that it won't be long before esports and video games reach that level of notoriety. Vijay Subramaniam, the founder of the Collective Artists Network, is one of the many voices who feel video games will become as popular as mainstream media in the next couple of years. It could even birth an individual who can be used as a "pop culture lexicon."
In a conversation with Abhishek Mallick of Sportskeeda Esports, Vijay shares his thoughts on the Indian video game market, The Collective Artists Network's future in the field, and their collaboration with Revenant Esports.
Here is an excerpt of the conversation.
Q. Sir, you have been quite vocal about the Indian video games and esports industry's growth over the last couple of years. Can you share some of your thoughts on where you see the market today and where you feel it will be in the next five years?
Vijay: From an overall perspective, I think the gaming business is one of the key growth pillars of the creator economy when it comes to digital media. We are seeing so many brands and companies investing millions of dollars into the whole gaming ecosystem across the board.
I feel that gaming as an industry, both across casual gaming, streaming & merchandising, will be the biggest growth curve we can see in the next 12 to 16 months.
Talking about the long haul, I think it is going to be a multi-million dollar business. It will bring out more influencers, similar to what YouTube did.
The gaming business is also going to have influencers with a particular audience base that will become hard to ignore for brands. Additionally, I feel that, how comedy and music exist as independent verticals, we can see a large creator base coming out of the gaming industry.
Q. What are your thoughts on the role that video game streamers and content creators play today when it comes to helping grassroots talent and allowing them to connect more with the nation's esports industry?
Vijay: What we see now is the first batch of bellwethers in terms of creators. Just to see the numbers we hear from the gaming companies, the impact these gaming streamers have in the business is staggering.
I feel that even a strong hobby or a passion can lead to a full-time vocation in today's world, and gaming is one such stream. We will see the emergence of gaming influencers, franchises, or even teams.
So even though it is early days, we understand our legacy of understanding, curating, and building talent. Like what we did with the digital-first talents, adding this as a new genre to the talent bucket, we feel we will be in the position to pop more talent, brand and position them better, and give them a larger canvas for monetization.
Q. While you have been quite vocal about how the influencer market is growing as big as traditional media, what do you feel about where the video games streaming and content creation ecosystem stands today as a source of mainstream entertainment?
Vijay: I think it is a source of mainstream entertainment. It is just that it does not hit too many people beyond a particular age profile. If you look at teens going all the way to young adults, I think the penetration is already there.
When we started working with the likes of Revenant Esports, we realized how big and deep the market is. So if you ask me, I feel the creator economy space will have a very strong layer of gaming creators that are going to come on. This includes an amalgamation of creators, teams, tournaments, franchises, consumer brands that will develop over 8-12 months and become more mainstream.
Q. The Collective Artists Network recently signed a management contract with Revenant Esports. Can you shed light on some of the thought processes and vision behind this undertaking?
Vijay: So we have done this with the digital talent ecosystem and the musical talent ecosystem back in the day. Now, when you get into a new domain, as cultivators and developers who can help make the canvas larger for the ecosystem and build successful brands, Revenant fits well in that philosophy.
You will see us make more aggressive moves and have a larger role to play as we have spent the last 3-4 years understanding the digital market better, and now we are getting into gaming. We are using the network and flywheels of the Collective Artists Network, which has excellent relationships across corporate India, media & entertainment, and venture space to help these guys find their next growth stream.
This could be through growth capital, finding meaningful brand collaboration, getting married to a little bit of mainstream, etc., and all of that just sits at the center with us.
Q. What are some of the expectations from this partnership? What are a few plans that the organizations have for the Indian esports scene moving forward?
Vijay: In terms of expectations from this partnership, I think it's more for them than for us. We have told them that we could pretty much craft the next layer/phase of their growth, so we hope that we can achieve that for them.
Also, as I said, when we go deep into domains, we start building organizational and market strength around them, which you will see us do with the gaming creator economy as well. I think it's too early to talk, as I have always been a vociferous ambassador of landing some results first and then doing the talking.
I think our first result is here already as we have a prolific esports team and are already in the process of converting some exciting projects. Our appeal to the gaming creator ecosystem will be, here is the country's largest creator monetization network, and we are excited to expose that to you.
Q. What would you say are some benefactors who are helping video games be as popular as traditional media when it comes to being a source of entertainment?
Vijay: To be honest with you, I don't think they are at par with the traditional media. For example, you only become a traditional source of entertainment when you entertain through what you do.
Like, you will know a Virat Kohli even if you don't watch cricket. You know or must have heard of Bhuvan Bam even if you don't follow his content, and that is where gaming needs to go.
I think it's there as a domain, but we are yet to see the emergence of a gamer who can be used as a pop culture lexicon. That is our genuine attempt here. At the end of the day, we are star makers, and our job is to ensure that we bring out a few of those meaningful stars in the country.
Q. Why did The Collective Artists Network decide to venture into the Indian esports and video games industry?
Vijay: Collective Artists Network will venture into anything and everything that deals with the creator economy. So, today if it's gaming, we are there, and tomorrow if it will be something else like travel and leisure, which has also shown great potential, we will enter that. We call ourselves the largest creator marketplace, and if there is a domain that has the potential to scale up, we will be a part of it.
Q. With the 2022 Asian Games finally adding esports as a medal event, what ramifications do you feel it will have for the video games market of a region like South Asia. Will a career in the field be more widely accepted by the masses?
Vijay: If you have something like the Asian Games accepting it, I think that is what gaming needs. This existed earlier, where people questioned how one could make money from YouTube. Still, as I said, today, with the proliferation of the internet and smartphones, every passion and hobby can be converted into a full-time profession.
Once gaming gets that accredited acceptance to a level where a parent will not worry about this becoming a full-time job for their children, I think that is a great first step in the direction.
Q. What's next for the Collective Artists Network? What plans does it have for the esports scene for the next five years?
Vijay: We just launched our creator commerce platform in April, a consumer brand initiative with Glance, so like I said, we will go deeper and wider into the creator economy.
So as and when things develop there, you will keep hearing announcements from us, and like I keep saying, gaming is a part of that ecosystem.