The Loco Story – Focusing on Esports and Understanding the Indian Market

As the gaming and esports sector in India expands, local streaming platforms have begun to grow their roots and become key stakeholders in the region. With a thriving regional audience and local expertise, these platforms are essential to the industry. Everything from positioning to branding to content and acquisitions have been carefully tailored to fit the needs and wants of the Indian audience and creators. With a good understanding of the market, the audience and the content space, Loco is emerging as one of the top contenders in the region. 

Owned by one of India’s most successful digital content houses, Loco inherits a vast wealth of knowledge from its parent company, Pocket Aces. The company is the name behind several successful digital series made and shared via several platforms that cater to the Indian youth. Sub brands such as Filter Copy and Dice Media have become staples among the Indian urban youth, particularly for their brand of relatable youth-friendly and fresh concepts. Pocket Aces’ success in the digital content space stems from both quality and finding the right niches. It is also indicative of their understanding distribution and reach, all of which are important parameters in gaming content. 

“For us, Loco really plays to the strength of what Pocket Aces offers as a company. We are a digital entertainment company who have already built the brands which are leaders in social distribution in India. We also are one of the largest players in India in the digital talent business,” Aniruddh Pandita, founder of Pocket Aces tells The Esports Observer. 

With more than 10M downloads, Loco is currently the best performing Indian product in the streaming space. While it started out as a quiz app, Loco has fully transitioned into a gaming and livestreaming product since May 2020. The platform claims to  have more daily active users than any of its Indian competitors and ranks better than all of them in the Google Playstore. “We’ve seen streamers on Loco grow by over 100% month-on-month,” says Pandita. “And that has been without any marketing features.” He estimates that India will have close to 1M monthly active streamers in the near future with the top 10K driving the majority traffic and revenue. Right now we are nowhere close to this number but you’ve to understand the situation in this context. Earlier, Indians didn’t have the devices required to stream and play games but with mobile gaming, things have certainly changed.”  

Esports is the Primary Attraction on Loco  

Loco has several partnerships with streamers, teams, and tournament organizers that has allowed it to grow the platform. These include deals with the NBA 2K League, Red Bull, Fnatic India, Team IND, and Marcos Gaming. among others. Pandita looks at esports as one of the key content focuses for his platform. “In any game there are three key components – the players, the media and the audience and you need to be able to encourage all three stakeholders. While we can always get community members to do casual livestreams, I feel competitive gaming will be something that drives interest and builds hope.” Pandita uses cricket as an example, highlighting how India’s success in the sport has allowed viewership and sponsorship to grow substantially. 

Loco has also created a few tournament IPs in titles such as PUBG Mobile and Rainbow Six Siege. Pandita feels that tournament organizers are an integral part of the ecosystem who are able to put the community together unlike other entities. For Loco, its own IPs have been an exercise in both community building and marketing. “We will support tournament organizers and we will also do big Loco originals. We have a large enough content budget to support that.”  

 

Understanding the Need for Non-Exclusivity

One of the most telling approaches in how Loco has onboarded creators is in allowing them to continue streaming on their primary platforms, which for most is YouTube. Pocket Aces has several successful IPs on YouTube and Pandita explains that the company understands this dynamic really well. For both Loco and the creators, it makes little sense to ask them to leave the platform where they have spent the last few years curating an audience. “YouTube to me is a general-purpose platform with a lot of top of the funnel interest. With an audience of over 400 Million daily active users, it makes sense for me to have folks on YouTube creating awareness about Loco.” Pandita uses Netflix as an example explaining how the platform started out with distributed content before focusing on its own productions. “It shows a lack of understanding of the market and more importantly lack of empathy for the content creators to ask for exclusivity at this stage.” 

The option is simply not viable because neither the consumer nor the creator wants it, explains Pandita. He is confident that creators will themselves move to Loco once the market is ready. “Every single ecosystem player used to ask us why we put our videos on both YouTube and Facebook. For them it was always to go to this platform or to that and nothing in between. But it’s not like that. There’s different markets and different used cases for each platform and it’s important to be able to define this used case.” He reiterates that Loco as a product will differ from YouTube, which means that creators will be free to use the different platforms to serve varied content to their audience. 

For now though, Loco is fully focused on gaming and esports, and while it is open to explore adjacent markets such as IRL streaming and chess it certainly is not in the cards at the moment. “We want to build a gaming platform first and then see where we want to go. We don’t have to go the Twitch route as we have our own consumers with their own behavior, who we want to cater to.” Loco’s focus, he says, is going to be the Indian consumer and features they build on their platform will reflect this. 

The Impact of Covid

The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to have consequences that will change the future for humanity, and India is no different. With the second-highest number of cases in the world, many parts of India are still under some form of lockdown and for most, life is very different than what it used to be. On the positive side of things, the pandemic and subsequent lockdown accelerated the growth of internet users, digital content consumers, and audiences across almost all digital platforms. 

 

“The lockdown has certainly had an impact on the platform. In the short term, we’ve seen people installing and playing more games which has allowed the market to expand. What could have taken two-three years has happened in a matter of months and has directly resulted in the increase in viewership. In the long run, live streaming has become more commonplace and more mainstream. From schools and colleges to meetings and seminars, a lot of people are now exposed to the internet and live streaming.” 

Loco is one of several big players in the Indian streaming space vying for the attention of the audience. The platform’s past experience in the digital entertainment space, understanding of the Indian consumers needs, and focus on creating solid content makes them an important name to watch for in South Asia. With the Indian esports and gaming industry in a transitory phase brought on by the PUBG Mobile ban, how platforms and creators are able to keep their audiences engaged is going to be important. 

Shounak Sengupta is a staff writer for AFK Gaming.

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