A Glimpse Into the Changing Gaming Landscape in India
Before the pandemic struck, technology companies would actively introduce features to enable users to reduce screen time. All that changed with COVID-19, which led to the increased time spent staring at screens, with education and work going online. The gaming industry has benefited greatly from this trend, boosted by the wide proliferation of smartphones and cheap data plans in India over the past few years.
According to a recent study by global audit firm KPMG, the Indian mobile gaming industry raked in a revenue of Rs 136 billion, or Rs 13,600 crore, last year and is projected to earn Rs 290 billiion, or Rs 29,000 crore, by 2024-25. The report notes that this will be buoyed by an increasing focus by game developers on the pay-to-play or freemium models. Freemium is a model under which a game is free to play, but additional features must be purchased.
The user base, too, is projected to increase from 433 million last year to 657 million in 2025 — an over 50 percent increase. These include casual gamers who play to kill time; real-money gamers, who wager real money in online games; online fantasy sports, in which players build their fantasy teams and win money based on points earned; and e-sports, which is professional gaming, with players taking part in competitions to win prize money.
"This growth can be credited to the increasing number of mobile games and affordable smartphones catering to the gaming needs of Indians," says Yash Pariani, founder and CEO of House of Gaming, an e-sports company that boasts of 1.5 lakh active users on its platform.
According to the report, there was a sharp increase in screen time — time spent gaming on mobiles, to be specific — when the nationwide lockdown was imposed in late March 2020. Before the lockdown, users surveyed would spend an average of three-and-a-half hours gaming. This increased to an average of four hours and six minutes in April 2020, and dipped by an hour by June 2020, when things had begun to open up.
The effect of the pandemic — and subsequent multiple lockdowns across the country — was also seen in the number of games downloaded: from 1.8 billion in the first three months of 2020 to 2.8 billion downloads in the third quarter of the year.
Gaming companies are quick to cash in on this, quite literally. According to the KPMG report, the average revenue per user stood at Rs 152 in the 2020-21 fiscal and is projected to increase to Rs 268 by March 31, 2025.
From in-app purchases to ads during gameplay, developers deployed a myriad of monetisation models to fill their coffers, as illustrated in the table below:
TOP GAMES PLAYED BY INDIANS
According to the report, Candy Crush Saga was the top-played casual game, while Tambola topped the chart among Indian-made games. Other Indian games like FAU-G (the Aatmanirbhar version of PUBG), Ludo King, and World Cricket Championship 2 were among the most downloaded games in their respective genres.
Indian gaming studios like Gametion, Reliance Games, and JetSynthesys got in on the action, developing and releasing games to suit the Indian gamer. Games released by these studios are as diverse as they come, genre-wise: Ludo King, Sachin Sage Cricket Championship, WWE Mayhem, Chhota Bheem Jungle Run, etc.
NFTs ARE THE FUTURE OF INDIAN GAMING
Several companies have mushroomed over the past couple of years, looking to capitalise on the intersection of the gaming boom and the rise of Web 3.0. Some of these companies, such as House of Gaming, FanClash and MetaOneVerse, have integrated cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens into their offerings.
House of Gaming's Pariani said his company offers Hefty Games, which he claims is India’s first NFT marketplace dedicated to e-sports competitors and content creators, and GameGods, a social networking platform that caters to gamers and Web 3.0 enthusiasts.
"E-sports and crypto-adoption are the biggest two consumer trends among Gen-Z, with both industries exploding globally and in India," says Rishabh Bhansali, co-founder, FanClash. Bhansali says his company enables e-sports players to earn cryptocurrency while competing in tournaments.
"Globally, fans spend more than 10 hours a week watching and playing e-sports, yet, with no way to further engage in or monetise all of this passion. FanClash provides a platform which allows e-sports viewers to engage actively with the world's leading tournaments and earn crypto," he adds.
Abhay Sharma, CMO, of MetaOneVerse, says the gaming industry outperformed movies and sports combined last year, in terms of revenue. He expects blockchain-based gaming to increase 30-40 percent in the next few years. MetaOneVerse has launched the M1Verse token just about a month ago and is deploying it in blockchain-based games they are developing.
"We are developing play-to-earn games, which will be blockchain-based. Any user who holds M1verse tokens will be able to play and earn NFTs, which a player can use upgrade their game-based avatar," he says.
Sharma claims they have more than 2,000 token-holders right now and expect to cross 1 lakh users in a year.