The pandemic has accelerated gaming globally and in India, the increased gaming time over smartphones has spurred the growth of hardcore gamers, even as casual games still remain the most popular genre.
Affordable smartphones, a young population and a new breed of developers and designers have led to a rise in gaming startups.
India is currently home to over 430 million mobile gamers and the number is estimated to grow to 650 million by 2025. Currently, mobile gaming dominates the sector, contributing more than 90 per cent to the current $1.6 billion gaming market in the country, according to a latest report by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI).
The pandemic has accelerated the organic growth of digital games as mobile app downloads grew by 50 per cent and user engagement went up by 20 per cent.
“The Indian gaming ecosystem consists of gamers of all ages, game developers and designers, investors and marketers all working together to come up with the latest cutting-edge games, concepts and offers for players,” Sean (Hyunil) Sohn, Head of India Division at Krafton, Inc, told IANS.
Krafton has introduced Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI) which has garnered more than 50 million users in the country.
Gaming startups in India attracted $1.6 billion in the first nine months this year, according to a report by investment banking platform Maple Capital Advisors.
Nearly 90 per cent of the investments went to two large players in the fantasy sports and platform gaming sector – Dream Sports and the Mobile Premier League (MPL).
Top venture firms have also invested millions of dollars in other gaming startups like PlayShifu, Zupee and Winzo.
PUBG Mobile developer Krafton invested $22.4 million in the home grown e-sports company Nodwin Gaming.
“Younger people are also more likely to play online games, particularly on their smartphones and with 60 per cent of India’s online players between the ages of 18 and 24. India is a great country for the growth of online gaming,” Sohn said.
Smartphone usage, more internet access, a larger assortment of mobile-first games, and the rise of gaming streams and influencers have all aided gaming in the country.
Over 40 per cent of hardcore mobile gamers are paying for their games with an average spend of Rs 230 per month.
“Affordable smartphones with high-speed internet access have made it easier and convenient for a user to consume their favourite format of interactive games from anywhere,” Paavan Nanda, CEO and co-founder of social gaming app WinZO, told IANS.
Ludo King, which was launched in 2016, surpassed top games like Candy Crush Saga, PUBG, Clash of Clans, Subway Surfers, Temple Run, and others in monthly active users in India last year.
Sohn feels that the Covid-19 pandemic and country-wide lockdown fuelled the Indian subcontinent’s unparalleled rise in the gaming industry.
“The years 2020 and 2021 have been very prosperous for the gaming industry, with a large rush of games, gamers and developers,” Sohn told IANS.
Indian gaming has joined the mobile gaming bandwagon due to the rapid increase in smartphone penetration in the country, with large console and PC games now being curated for mobile platforms. The sector is also attracting investments, with nearly $1 billion being invested in the sector in the last six months.
“Over the past few years, the e-gaming industry in India has grown tremendously, driven by the rising avenues for digitisation and improved accessibility centred around innovation and affordability by OEMs (original equipment manufacturers,” according to Navnit Nakra, OnePlus India Vice President, Chief Strategy Officer and Head of India Sales.
Smartphones have become more affordable and pack strong hardware that are equipped to run games which may require medium to high specifications. This has opened accessibility to more immersive gaming for the masses.
“In the last 12 years, we had to update our GPUs (graphics processing units) over 700 times, that’s the demand coming in from the consumers,” Qualcomm Vice President and President, Rajen Vagadia said.
E-sports has also witnessed a huge surge within India, leading to the rise of employment opportunities.
Recently, the Asian Games Committee and Olympic Games Federation recognised online gaming and included it as an official sport at the Asian Games 2022, which is a watershed moment for the online gaming industry.
“While game development earlier was primarily dependent on international publishers, there has been a seismic shift with an increased focus on local development which is of high quality in nature,” Nanda said.
“This has catapulted India towards value-driven consumption,” Nanda added.