The Evolution of the Online Gaming Industry in India

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The Indian online gaming industry stands at $356m and is set to grow to $896m by 2021.

What India has seen in the past few years is a steady evolution in the Indian digital ecosystem that is mirroring the global market models. This has been possible due to the rising and affordable internet reach and a fantastic rise of smartphone penetration.

What started with games like Snake and Tetris on mobile phones has now moved to more fun and strategy-based games like rummy card game, Ludo, Bahubali, fantasy eSports and more. The gaming ecosystem has spread across games, real money tournaments, social media, eSports, fan forums and even competitive events. With such a robust ecosystem in the making, the online gaming market made impressive volumes with 245 million online gamers in 2016.

Understanding the Indian Gamer

So, what’s that the Indian gamer is looking at? An average Indian player is a 15-24 year old male and has been introduced to gaming through their social network. What keeps them engaged in a game is the ability to destress and to socially interact with peers. What truly clicks with these players are puzzle, adventure and strategy games. Mobile phones are the most preferred medium for playing online games thanks to their simplicity and ease of use.

Real money games are what resonates with the players the most. The real money games have grown at 50-60% CAGR in the recent years and contribute to over 46% of the value of the market. Other than affordable smartphones that make playing games easy, there is also a rise in disposable income. One interesting thing to note here is that it’s the casual gamers that engage with real money games as compared to the serious ones. These players spend an average of 30 minutes a day playing games and want to make the most of their time. The players focus on puzzles and skill-based card games like real cash rummy that make over 14% of these gamers. However, games that have an element of chance like poker have just 7% penetration.

What time really clicks

There is a variance in gaming behaviour between males and females when it comes to selecting a time when they are most engaged. While on one hand, a male prefers games that may involve complex game play, the females target games that are casual and require limited session requirement. The male players enjoy games during late hours, mostly post dinner. But, females prefer games during their idle hours or small breaks. So, what games are picked up at which interval of time, becomes a very important factor in the popularity of the games.

The love for mobile

Until now, it was quite clear that mobiles are the most preferred device to play games. 90% of online players use smartphones and tablets to enjoy their favourite games. The different gaming categories like strategy, action and role playing MMOs that are generally enjoyed on large screens are enjoyed equally on mobile handsets in India. However, PCs and laptops are preferred for card-based games like real cash rummy. Big screen size in low cost mobile devices, high compatibility of games with the mobile screens and the ability to play games anywhere are the most important reasons for the popularity of mobile phones in the country.

What’s interesting to note here is that a new player is more likely to play laptop or PC. With higher engagement, a player identifies new modes of gaming and starts using mobile devices for gaming. A gamer also evolves with his games. So, a gamer with more than 18 months of online gaming experience is three times more likely to play on PC or laptop due to the more complex games they pick up they become more familiar with the medium

Where’s the revenue coming from?

For India, the Google App Store gives 90% share of all game downloads. One of the main reasons for it is the penetration of low-cost Android smartphones and mobile internet in lower socio-economic groups, leading to the bulk of online gamers in India.

However, the majority revenue comes from premium smartphone owners. As per a study conducted by AppAnnie, iOS comprises of less than 10% share in game downloads and yet contributed to nearly 70% of revenues in 2014. Now, it contributes to around 50% revenue, thanks to the increase of premium Android devices in the market. The other reason that has contributed to this change is the new pricing strategy from Android that reduced the minimum tier for apps and in-app purchases. This automatically lead to an increase in the number of transactions, giving a similar revenue like iOS games.

Real money games take the industry forward

Now the gaming industry is all set to take revenue to the next level and this is happening through the online real money games. This segment is dominated by males with players in the mid-age group of 20-40 years. This group comprises of mostly working population and have a higher propensity to engage in real money online activities. Even though one third of women show propensity to play real money games, their share of total real money gamers remains small. Card games like poker, rummy and fantasy sports are the most preferred choice in real money games.