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Making India world's mobile game hub

India’s gaming industry is ready to step into a bigger and better arena.

Modi

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  21 Sep 2020 2:20 AM GMT

Swakkhyar Deka

(The writer can be reached at swakkhyar@gmail.com)

India's gaming industry is ready to step into a bigger and better arena. Today the country is a game content programming and development nucleus for several western countries. This prominent trend has been observed both in the mobile and online gaming sectors. There have also been strides in original Indian content in recent years to add a new dimension.

With a drastic fall in the prices of Android-based handsets and tablets, gaming has become inevitable, especially amongst youth and teenagers. This has proven to be a great boon for game development companies in India! These advances in the gaming industry have been motivating for game designing and development as a lucrative career option in the country.

In his last 'Mann ki Baat' address, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said it was time for startups to be "vocal for local toys" and also asked them to develop computer games in and based on India, citing the nation's rich heritage and traditions that can drive innovations in the toy and gaming industry.

"Our country has so many ideas, so many concepts; our history has been very rich. Can we make games based on that I call upon the young talent of the country – make games in India and make games based on India too. It is said that let the game begin! So, let us start the game," he said.

The global gaming industry which comprises game developers, service providers (outsourcing companies that help with art creation, testing, localisation, audio, visual effects etc.), and hardware manufacturers is currently pegged at over $150 billion globally. Gaming is the largest segment within the Entertainment industry, far exceeding Movies (Hollywood + Bollywood), Music & Animation across the world. While 45% of that $150 billion comes directly from mobile games, this tremendous growth (10.2% YoY to be precise) has resulted in a flurry of investments and acquisitions, everyone wanting a cut of the pie.

In India, while the industry is at a relatively promising stage and China has been in this business for far longer and is currently the number one globally in sales, India is being looked at increasingly as a viable alternative for global game art development.

Today, mobile games account for 33% of all app downloads, 74% of consumer spending and 10% of all time spent in-app. In fact, 50% of mobile app users play games, making this app category as popular as music apps like Spotify and Apple Music, and second only to social media and communications apps in terms of time spent.

In the U.S., time spent on mobile devices has also officially outpaced that of television — with users spending eight more minutes per day on their mobile devices. By 2021, this number is predicted to increase to more than 30 minutes. Apps are the new prime time, and games have grabbed the lion's share.

In 2016, India had about 201 million users of mobile games across the country. This was projected to reach about 370 million users by the year 2022, marking a considerable increase in the number of users. Overall, Indians preferred to use the mobile games than computer or console games.

Currently, mobile gaming is driving strong engagement and high growth rates due to the sheer penetration of the category being far greater than PC and rapid penetration of better configuration processors/GPUs over lower price points. Many gaming publishers have now launched mobile optimised versions of console and PC games. For example, the in-demand multiplayer battle royale games such as PUBG Mobile (now banned in India) and Call of Duty: Mobile, which were initially PC & Console games have seen their usage growth explode once extended to mobile.

Games on the mobile platform now look increasingly realistic and very new generation 'console-like'. Not just the graphics, the game play mechanics - thanks to multi-point touch screens - are cutthroat and complex, enhancing game play like never seen before on a handheld device. Advancements in the GPU have truly unlocked the potential of the mobile gaming market, allowing AAA titles to make better entry as well.

The Indian gaming industry is currently valued at over $890 million (approximately Rs 6,000 crore) and accounts for roughly 1% of the global gaming industry and is poised to become one of the world's leading markets in the gaming sector. India got off to a very slow start in the business of outsourcing of game development and got a foothold barely a decade and a half back. However, India has done extremely well since then and inched very close to China, which has been the dominant player in this space.

Outsourcing has allowed Indian game developers to get exposure to work with some of the best creative talents in the world, pick up new skills and work to international standards, which has helped in creating a solid base for future home-grown game development companies. If one has any doubts about the quality of game development talent in India, one might want to look at the fact that top international studios such as Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Rockstar and Zynga have already set up development centres in India.

India is already one of the top five markets for mobile gaming in terms of user base which is, driven by the proliferation of smart phones and democratized data. For the year 2020, NASSCOM data estimates that the Indian mobile gaming market will reach 628 million users. The market value of mobile gaming in India is estimated to reach approximately USD 405 million by 2022, according to Statista. However, it seems the COVID-19 lockdowns could help it gain even more users.

Various studies indicate that 20 per cent of the installed smartphone base is the serious gaming market i.e. around 75Mn+ users. Nearly 50 per cent swing between serious and casual gaming, which is over 200M smartphone. Over 40 per cent of the gamers spend more than an hour per day playing mobile games. Today gamers are multi-genre gamers, like action and adventure, racing and sports, puzzles, quizzes, strategy and role playing, and casino and betting.

Falling under the 'Action and Adventure' genre, in which 10s to 100s of players compete in real-time to be the last player standing, games like, now banned, Player Unknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG), Call of Duty, Free Fire which feature fast-paced, hyperkinetic action and movement are trending in India. More and more casual gamers like to play multi-player games that do not last more than 15-20 minutes. This allows them to spend some well-deserved recreation time deploying real-time skills and strategies without hindering their schedules. Moreover, smartphone makers delivering competent hardware even in mid-range smartphones has helped in accelerating the appetite for mobile games in the Indian market and shows immense potential for mobile game publishers.

This also brings forward the keen interest in Esports - yet other facet of online gameplay. Today's youth is as or more engaged in Multiplayer online mobile games as cricket. Non-Endemic Brands like Mountain Dew, Flipkart, Microsoft, Mercedes, Redbull, to name a few, are investing in Esports gaming. Along with them, companies like ASUS, Tencent are also playing their part in the growth of Esports in India.

'In game art' development is one of the biggest challenges in India. It has been constrained by the lack of adequate trained people. But, the scenario is changing for the better. There are lots of initiatives all round like the Gaming Council of Government of India. One of their focus areas is game art and they are trying to groom talents with collaboration with industry players and National Skill Development Council (NSDC). There are also private players who are looking to develop this area who have their own academies.

Indian gaming platforms such as Paytm First Games, Gamerji and Loco are looking to push their products following the ban of popular Chinese e-sports app PUBG Mobile and PUBG Mobile Lite by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology which dominated the India market. But India companies still have a long to go in competing with global gaming companies in multiplayer online shooting game genre.

The increasing number of smartphone users coupled with access to improved technologies and data connectivity has led to India emerging as one of the biggest centres for esports globally. Industry estimates suggest that India alone is expected to have 628 million online gamers by 2023.

The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) held in 2019 said, "India has become the centre for outsourcing work, such as game development and game support services. In the coming years, the country is expected to become the hub for development, porting and dubbing of various games across the globe due to low costs and the easy availability of game developers with world-class game development experience."

So the there is vast possibility for game development in India and the burgeoning youth population of the country where over 75% of its population is under the age of 45, it goes without saying that it is one of the largest potential markets for online gaming in terms of volume. Indian game developers are also building games in multiple languages and themes acclimatized to the tastes of the local gaming audience which is very important to achieve the PM's vision of India becoming world's gaming hub.

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