How India’s online gaming industry fueled growth trajectory during Covid-19

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According to the ‘State of Online Gaming 2021’, a report commissioned by Limelight Networks Inc, gamers across the world are spending an average of eight hours and 27 minutes each week playing video games, while Indian gamers spent more than eight hours and minutes.

During the pandemic, when most of the industries were suffering heavy losses, online gaming was at an all-time high. According to a KPMG 2020 report titled A Year Off Script, the overall user base for online games in India has increased from 269 million in FY 18 to 365 million in FY20.

Real Money Gaming

Real Money Games is one segment that has witnessed an unprecedented surge in both investments and players. According to figures compiled by gaming organizations, the number of real money games has substantially increased. In the month of May 2020, about 150 million games were downloaded.

Giving the estimation as to how much the gaming sector is valued as of today, Roland Landers CEO All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) 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.”

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During the initial nationwide shutdown, time spent on gaming applications climbed by 21%, with a total customer base of 300 million people and there was a significant increase in the number of real money game (RMG) players aged 35 and over. Ludo King, Rummy 13 Cards, and Bubble Shooter were among the most popular applications during the first weeks of the lockdown.

Baazi Games co-founder Navkiran Singh, in an exclusive chat with G2G News, shared, “RMG is a fast-moving sector in the country today that in the next 12 to 15 years, we will witness a golden period of gaming in India.”

According to a Deloitte India report, the online gaming sector is anticipated to grow at a 40 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) to $2.8 billion by 2022, up from $1.1 billion in 2019.

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Mukesh Ambani, 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 spate of fundraising rounds with a winning score of three unicorns emerging from the online gaming pace already.

Courtesy of smartphones, cheaper internet charges, and rising disposable income, the fast rise is expected to increase the sector’s share of the entire media and entertainment business by 45 percent.

The Covid Impact

The onset of Covid-19 forced the world to remain indoors for a long time. It resulted in users inundating online gaming platforms in the absence of other entertainment choices during the lockdown. During the lockout, the gaming sector in India grew at a CAGR of 21%.

Reflecting on the impact Covid-19 has had on Gaming24x7 founder Bhavin Pandya told G2G News, “The whole space went into 6th gear. In our case, once the lockdown hit, we did see that through the months of April and June, there was significantly more activity on the platform because the advertisements drew a lot of fringe players who had perhaps dithered initially due to lack of time. But now once the lockdown came in June 2020, they had all the time now, so they took to online gaming.

Speaking about the growth in the real money gaming segment, subject matter expert and Senior Advocate Gopal Jain notes, “I think the sector has seen an exponential growth quickly and that’s a great sense of acceptance so first the moment you have a large number of you users and viewers, It’s a good sign that there is healthy acceptance.”

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In India, online games already have over 300 million users and are continuously increasing. Industry executives said that skill games, in particular, have offered the competitiveness and thrill that real-life sporting activities offer. India has a history of cultural and social games used for social interaction and recreation. Games such as Carrom, Snakes and Ladders, Ludo, and even Chess. Modern-day technology has only furthered the tradition by digitalizing these games, making them more palatable and accessible.

Skill-based games are gaining popularity in recent years. India being a mobile-first country, mobile devices are predominantly being used to play online skill games, and India accounts for 13% of the worldwide market. Some emphasize that winning such games require a certain amount of skill, understanding, and mental application.

While Covid has led to a surge in the online gaming interest, some states who view them as ‘gambling’ have taken decisions that have certainly been detrimental to the skill gaming space.

“A complete regulatory and policy support is the need of the hour for a solid framework that supports these growing multi-million dollar businesses. The significance of being able to consume sports and entertainment while sitting in our homes or at our doorstep has been sharply realized over the past few months of the Covid-19 era,“ Jain shared.

Rummy is one such popular card game that has been played for many centuries. As per statistics from Traffic Analysis, due to the second COVID-19 wave and subsequent lockdowns, search interest for Rummy increased by 90% between March and May 2021.

The rise in popularity can be attributed to India’s long-standing fascination with traditional games which have now been given digital wings. Despite some impediments, Landers believes that 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.