Bluestone Capital Founder and CEO Ajit Gunewardene (left) with InGame Entertainment CEO Raveen Wijayatilake. Bluestone Capital’s Analyst Avin Gunewardene, Co-Founder Shantanu Nagpal and InGame Entertainment senior team members Vikum Jayasekera and Ramesh Liyanage
- Pic by Upul Abayasekara
Private equity and venture capital specialist Bluestone Capital is betting on esports, having taken 25.25% stake for Rs. 31.2 million in young pioneer InGame Entertainment Ltd.
Bluestone Capital Founder and CEO Ajit Gunewardene told the Daily FT that the relatively new esports industry is growing to be worth over $ 1 billion next year, with the future upside being exponential and InGame Entertainment Ltd. (IGEL) has the potential to ride on this growth wave, especially in the South Asian region.
“With our investment, we hope to take esports mainstream in Sri Lanka and also make Colombo the hug for it within South Asia,” Gunewardene added.
For Bluestone and its co-investors, it is the third investment after PickMe and Fintrex Finance (formerly Melsta Regal Finance).
IGEL, which has been operational for 11 years as Gamer.LK, last week concluded the first ever InGame Esports South Asia Cup in Colombo with a prize pool of Rs. 1 million.
Organised in association with the Sri Lanka Esports Association (SLESA) with support from Sri Lanka’s National Olympic Committee and the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka, the event brought together the best teams from South Asia - India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Maldives - to compete in the world-famous ‘League of Legends’ esports title.
Esports or electronic sports is a form of competition using videogames. Most commonly, esports takes the form of organised, multiplayer videogame competitions, particularly between professional players and teams.
According to a recent report from Amsterdam-based research firm Newzoo, global esport revenues should reach over $ 900 million by the end of 2018 (up from $ 493 million in 2016), with a total global audience of over 380 million people, up from 226 million in 2015.
A Newzoo report also stated that 42% of the gaming market belongs to the mobile industry, and mobile is projected to claim more than 50% of the market by 2020. Viewership is fuelled by massive prize pools for tournaments - the largest being a $ 25 million prize purse awarded at the 2018 Dota 2 International held in Vancouver this year.
The International Olympic Committee last year recognised esports as a sports activity and it will be a medal event at the 2022 Asian Games in addition to the same status in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games in the Philippines. Esports made its major multi-sport event debut as a demonstration sport at this year’s Asian Games in Jakarta. The Premier League, UEFA and Formula 1 are among the sporting organisations that have launched their own esports leagues.
A team from Sri Lanka attended the 18th Asian Games in August this year to represent the country in esports.
“The esports community is more ogranised in Sri Lanka and gaining popularity. We are working with the private and public sectors to position geographically strategic Sri Lanka as the hub for esports in South Asia,” said InGame Entertainment CEO Raveen Wijayatilake.
He noted that the esports industry was expanding beyond the PC and console realms to mobiles and the company’s game.lk Facebook site had over 40,000 fans.
He said Sri Lanka’s largest esports championship, the Sri Lanka Cyber Games held within Play Expo, last week drew over 3,000 participant registrations and foot traffic of 25,000 over the three-day event. Brands such as Dialog, SLT, Mobitel, Red Bull and MAS are also backing the growing esports community in Sri Lanka.