AIGF’s Roland Landers on future of online gaming in India, esports, and real money gaming

Published on:

The gaming business in India is soaring high yet verticals like real money gaming have seen some rough and tumble on the way. As per the EY-FICCI Report of 2021, the online gaming segment grew 18 percent in 2020 to reach Rs 7.7 billion, as online gamers increased by 20 percent from 300 million in 2019 to 360 million, transaction-based game revenues increased by 21 percent due to fantasy sports and casual gaming revenues increased by 8 percent, led by in-app purchases. It is estimated that the online gaming industry will continue to grow and reach 500 million gamers by 2025 to become the third-largest segment of the Indian M&E sector.

Having paid rich dividends overall, the uncertainty and obfuscation around the online skill-based games have warranted definitive conversations with experts to settle the famous ‘ambiguity of perception’ question.

In episode five of G2G news’ flagship video series “Game on with Jay Sayta”, the host explored the entire spectrum of the gaming industry ranging from growth triggers, real money gaming, and future projections with none other than the CEO of the oldest online skill gaming industry body, the All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) Roland Landers.

Outlining the mission and the progress of the All India Gaming Federation, Landers shared, “It started with the objective of bringing these stakeholders of this sunrise sector together on a common platform and create awareness about the sector that was fledgling so to say at that time about six years back.” Ronald informs, the gaming industry had envisaged a similar journey that new-age sectors in the I.T and content space had gone on to witness.

The growth story of the gaming sector is attributable to a multitude of factors. Lander shares, “Right from the growing number of operators to the stakeholders to the adoption by new gamers to newer gaming platforms into the fray down to the newer gaming formats and the online skill gaming space adorning the landscape; all of it backed by tech support and affordable data led to the rise of the gaming industry.”

Landers informs that the entire digital India initiative actually enabled this industry to grow to where we are today. The need to create a mechanism to give the industry recognition and bind the stakeholders together is what spurred on the concept of a federation.

Stating some of the objectives that characterize the association, Landers shares, “We are focused towards the businesses in this industry and how we can support them to expand and grow their businesses. That is why those skill game charters were put into place. Then followed by the audits or the members. Most of these take care of the elements of responsible gaming and player protection to a large extent.”

He informs that the entire gaming industry could be valued at around 9000 crores as of today. With the subscription-led (Real Money Gaming) or transactional led online skill gaming could be close to 7000 crores while the remaining 2000 crores could be made up by the in-app purchase market.

Due to the dearth of sporting events in the pandemic-stricken times that we live in, categories like fantasy sports have witnessed naturally witnessed a loss. While the pandemic has acted as a catalyst for some gaming categories, it has also sent a few segments reliant on other enablers into a downward spiral. However, the overall picture of the online skill gaming industry has been propelled to the number one destination for entertainment but skill development.  Ronald shares that the ‘movement from pure entertainment to being an enabler for helping people with life skills like adroitness, agility, concentration, etc.’ is a notable evolution.

Mukesh Ambani, who is India’s richest man, had recently said that the online gaming market could be bigger than all other forms of government. Over the past few years, there has been a flurry of fundraising rounds with a winning score of three unicorns emerging from the online gaming pace already.

Landers informs that the Indian gaming industry is expected to reach three billion dollars by 2025.

“We’ve been industry and knowledge partners to some of these reports and you know we’ve also spent some time with the investor community and I think the overall sentiment has been extremely positive from the investor community despite the challenges. I think from a numbers perspective, clearly, in the last six to eight months, I think about half a billion-dollar worth of investments have already happened in this sector in the span of six months,” he shares.

Giving their estimation as to how much the gaming sector is valued as of today, he details, “Suffice it to say that in our estimate the entire online gaming industry or skill gaming industry would be somewhere in the vicinity of about 9000 crores thereabouts with the subscription-led or transactional-led online skill gaming (loosely translated to Real Money Gaming) being close to about 7000 crores and the remaining 2000 crore being made up by the in-app and you know the ad-driven space.”

So where is the next spurt of growth in the gaming sector going to come from? Landers lauds the country’s creative talent and technological abilities which he regards as a winning combination for future growth. Segments like casual and hyper-casual games have fared tremendously in the mobile-first country that India is.

“For all we know, we could be exporting gaming formats to the world. The problem arose when we looked at the behavior of the Indian consumer when it comes to spending but with the online OTT platforms coming in, that has changed. Now people are buying subscriptions and that behavioral change is going to come to the gaming industry too,” he posits citing the digital India renaissance that has been unfolding.

On the challenges associating with state-specific bans imposed on online games, Landers suggests, “There needs to be awareness and advocacy programs on a continuous basis. That’s what we strive to do regularly. On the positive side, we feel that hopefully some of these matters should take a favorable turn.”

And a favorable turn it has takes even as we write this since the restrictions are now lifted for the best.

As a self-regulatory body, Landers informs that they have always strived to find support with the nodal ministry for solving these matters. There is no denying the fact that despite some impediments, the online gaming market is all set to rapidly grow at a 40 percent rate and touch a whopping 11 billion rupees mark by 2025.