Average Indian gamer spends less than an hour/day, less than Rs 100/month: ESYA Centre Report

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Esya Centre, a tech & policy think tank, released a report titled “New-Age Digital Consumption: A Survey of Social Media, OTT Content and Online Gaming”.

The report examines users’ consumption and engagement patterns across three digital entertainment avenues, including online gaming.

An academic version of this report is published in an IIM-A working paper co-authored by Rajat Sharma, Associate Professor, IIM-Ahmedabad and Vikash Gautam, Adjunct Fellow, Esya Centre. The paper outlines that policy concerns around unwanted user actions, especially in online gaming, are not supported by user time-spend or money-spend data.

The report delves into data gathered through a nationwide survey conducted across major cities. This survey involved 2,000 respondents and was further supported by in-app data from over 20.6 lakh users across 143 mobile applications.

Below are the key findings of the report:

Behavioural lock-in: Daily engagement in terms of time spent is the highest for social media at 194 minutes daily. This number for OTT and Online Gaming is 44 and 46 minutes, respectively.

Time and use pattern: A median user spends less than INR 100 monthly and less than an hour daily online gaming. The corresponding number is INR 200-400 for OTT.

Price Sensitivity: Users say that a 30% increase in participation fees for online games may lead to a 71% dip in engagement, indicating a high price sensitivity. This number would only be 17% for OTT.

User Motivation: While OTT is a significant stress buster, 28% of Digital Nagriks consider online gaming important for their employment prospects.

User Stickiness: While all users are active on Social Media once a month, the corresponding number for OTT and Online Gaming is 60% and 40%, respectively. 89% of users are active daily on Social Media, while only 22% and 12% are active on OTT and Online Gaming, respectively.

Commenting on the critical insights from the report, Amjad Ali Khan, Director at the Esya Centre, said, “There is a lack of research examining both policy and user adoption trends in key digital markets. We believe that the findings of the report are very relevant, especially at a time when the Government is in the process of formulating user-centric policies for the digital industries. We hope that the insights from the report will help inform a forward-looking policy stance that focuses on user protection over paternalistic interventions and blanket bans.”

Further, calling India’s regulatory landscape more progressive than its peers, Rajat Sharma, Associate Professor, Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIM-A) said, “India is moving from a command-and-control model of regulatory oversight to a light touch model for new industries. While technology is dynamic, consumption patterns are more predictable. Therefore, building a profile of Digital Nagrik and their consumption patterns can form the crux of an agile policy ecosystem for the three sectors. An attempt our report aims to make.”

The report comes after the GST Council’s meeting that changed the GST levied on the online gaming industry from 18% on Gross Gaming revenue (GGR) to 28% on deposits, leading to a 350%-400% jump in the industry’s GST outgo. User addiction and money loss were key reasons for this steep hike. Interestingly, MeitY earlier this year published rules to regulate the industry. The rules were hailed as balanced and laser-focused on user safety. The ministry is soon expected to notify Self-Regulatory Bodies for the regulatory oversight of the industry.

According to the report, user safety, grievance redressal, and cumbersome KYC requirements are the three critical points of concern for users across Social Media and Online Gaming. However, OTT users describe their experience as smooth on almost all accounts – a testimony to the standardization of quality of service in an otherwise heterogeneous digital entertainment industry.