HT Brunch Cover Story: The thirst for games
One day, Mithilesh Patankar swears, he’ll laze on a beach and play video games all day.
It sounds like a good retirement plan, but the 24-year-old Mumbai-based game content creator, who goes through the Mythpat handle, still has a ways to go. On YouTube for three years now, the winner of the 2021 YouTube Streamy Award for International Creator of the Year may be making a better living than most engineers, but he’s too young to retire. Not to mention too full of ideas that need expression.
Delhi-NCR-based Ujjwal Chaurasia, 20, aka Techno Gamerz, also has no retirement dreams. He is too excited about the game content he creates. He earns roughly the same kind of money as Mithilesh, and his future plans now include app development.
When I mentioned our cover stars, my millennial best friend pulled out his phone and pulled out videos of Mithilesh and Ujjwal that he likes, perhaps a testament to how famous the two are. In fact, gaming is now recognized as a legitimate sport, and the upcoming Commonwealth Games and the 2022 Asian Games will include eSports (professional gaming) as a category. In India alone, revenue from the game streaming industry could reach around $300-400 million by 2023, according to industry experts.
Mithilesh was in second grade when he discovered games like Mario and Roadcrash. Ujjwal started even earlier at the age of five when he came across the game Snake on his older brother’s phone. Games were a huge part of their lives and when social media gave them the opportunity to play all day and earn money from it, they naturally jumped in.
Today Mithilesh has 11.3 million YouTube subscribers and Ujjwal 24.5 million. The two have 1.9 million Instagram followers. On average, a gaming content creator in India earns more than half a crore per year: major players can charge between `4 lakh to `12 lakh for brand insertion. These can be 15 to 30 second promotions, like drinking an energy drink during the game or using a particular facial cleanser before or after a game. Neither Mithilesh nor Ujjwal will share actual figures for their annual earnings, but they are willing to give a hint.
“Double what an engineer earns,” says Mithilesh. He looks at Ujjwal. “Triple?” he asks, uncertain. Ujjwal shrugs.
Share the thrill
Professional Internet players earn money by winning tournaments, playing in teams of four or five people. The prize amounts vary between `25 lakh to one crore.
Non-professionals are content creators who live stream videos of themselves playing games, giving audiences a taste of what it is and how it feels. What sets Mithilesh and Ujjwal apart from other creators? Well, their goal and their signature comments.
“We create content for ‘khel nahi paa rahe, dekh toh lun’ people, who don’t have access to gaming gear but can at least watch it to be a part of it,” says Mithilesh. He started making gaming videos after losing way too many semi-finals in gaming competitions. “The goal is to make the public enjoy the game with you,” he says.
The two young men had to convince their parents that yes, they could indeed make a living creating gaming content.
Mithilesh’s family wanted him to pursue engineering, while Ujjwal’s wanted him to excel at something, anything, but saw no scope in gaming. As a compromise, Mithilesh got his engineering degree, then asked his parents to give him two years to create his YouTube channel. If he didn’t have 100,000 followers by then, he told them, he’d get a nine-to-five job.
“They didn’t believe it earlier, but when the number of subscribers started to increase and the money started coming in, their hesitation dissipated. Today, they have nothing to complain about,” he says.
Ujjwal, meanwhile, completed his studies and made sure there were no complaints about his grades. Since he had no computer or phone, the possibility of addiction was kept at bay. Not that he spends less than eight hours a day playing anyway!
“The support from my parents came later when they realized I could earn by playing and how much,” Ujjwal explains.
One of the reasons why their parents accepted their career choice is that the possibility of earning a good income through games and social networks is no longer a pipe dream.
“Both YouTube and video games have become big over the past three to five years, and it’s all thanks to easy access to the internet and cellphones,” says Mithilesh. game like Fortnite hitting `1 crore. And it’s the 16-year-olds who come out on top.
“That was not the case even two years ago,” adds Ujjwal.
This has increased the awareness of content creation as a career path. “Previously, the parents didn’t support him because they didn’t know,” says Mithilesh. “It was almost a crime to even play games online! But once PUBG started to hold tournaments, parents also realized that careers could be made from it because the stakes were quite high. there may be no initiative, but the support is not lacking either.
They point out that it was only after PUBG was banned that people started competing in other games, such as Minecraft and BGMi.
Game of thorns
While their parents may have accepted that what Mithilesh and Ujjwal are doing is a legitimate career, others still question it. These people, the two young men say, are usually baby boomers who ask them what their “real” job is.
“When we were kids, we wanted to be astronauts. Kids today want to become influencers,” Ujjwal points out.
But it’s not that simple. Only once you hit 500,000 subscribers can you start making a living from gaming content, the two young men reveal. Mythpat started making money when it hit 10,000 subscribers, starting with `5 a day. For Ujjwal, the money started coming in when he was at 35,000 subscribers.
“Everyone thinks they can be a game maker. I get messages from 12-13 year olds about how they want to dive into the game right away. But that’s not how it works. Study first and start in your twenties,” says Mithilesh. “You can’t join YouTube for the purpose of making money. You can only do it if you want to create content.
Neither Mithilesh nor Ujjwal are interested in competitive games. This is where, they say, the slightest hint of loss leads to a surge.
“There are racist slurs and abuse thrown around because there is freedom to say anything when you are connected to three random people. You can do whatever you want and no one can do anything about it except maybe report you,” says Mithilesh.
However, the two agree that competitive games can also lead to a true bond immediately.
“Most games have voice chats and if there’s something competitive about it, you can be good friends with your teammates within 30 minutes,” says Ujjwal. “Even closer to them than your best friend! This usually happens when you have the same playstyle and your synergy matches, as if in a fight he covers you and vice versa.
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From HT Brunch, March 6, 2022
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