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The Rise of the Indian Gaming Industry: From Tekken to Ludo King

The Indian gaming market evolved from coin-based arcade games such as ‘Tekken’ in gaming parlors, to handheld consoles such as Nintendo followed by PlayStation and Xbox’s of the world. Online gaming has become a mainstream source of entertainment and has gained increasing acceptance in India with a massive growth in number of online gamers. According to a KPMG report, the number of online gamers in India grew from ~250 million gamers in 2018 to ~400 million gamers by the mid of 2020.The sector has witnessed tremendous growth in the last 5 years and is expected to treble in value and reach $3.9 billion by 2025. Over 50% of India’s population is below the age of 25, and 60% of the nation’s gamers are under 25 years of age too.

One of the main macro factors attributing to this growth is technology infrastructure development. In 2016, the launch of 4G services by operators ensured the availability of high-speed internet and affordable data prices for all. Further, demonetization enabled rapid growth in the digital payments infrastructure. The country witnessed an increase in device penetration, smartphones became more affordable and equipped with strong hardware to run games thus providing access to immersive gaming for the masses.

The Covid-19 pandemic along with its tragic consequences ended up providing a push to online gaming, both globally and in India. There was an overall increase in online media consumption owing to people staying home during the lockdown. According to a survey by an AdTech firm, nearly 45 per cent of India’s mobile users started playing games on their smartphones during the pandemic. Virtual social interactions became the new trend and manifested a strong interest in multiplayer games with a social element to them. The overall shift to digital transactions coupled with an increase in gaming consumption resulted in higher monetization for casual games. The pandemic also saw a shift in media and entertainment consumption trends and saw a contraction in typical segments such as film, TV, and print. People across demographics took gaming in a major way as a form of escapism and entertainment. It satisfied their demand for virtual entertainment with their family, friends, and peer groups. Influencers encouraged these games through online streaming thus providing another form of entertainment.

As compared to global markets, Indian online gaming market is at a nascent stage but is among the fastest growing online gaming markets in the world. India, while having the world’s second highest number of gamers, faces various challenges in the present world. The sector is significantly under indexed on monetization with low average revenue per paying user (ARPPU). Not many Indian studios have made a mark on the global stage due to low consumer spend on games and relatively lower game design capabilities. The negative perception of gaming in India adds to the barriers. However, things are expected to take a turn with the acceptance of gaming as a mode of entertainment and community building along with increased investments in the sector with marquee venture capital firms (VCs) making major meaningful investments to the industry. India’s gaming industry has attracted ~ $350 mn in investments from VCs between 2014 and first few months of 2020, growing at a CAGR of 22%, as per a report by Maple Capital Advisors.

As India moves up the maturity curve when it comes to online gaming, despite facing a number of challenges, companies need to seize the opportunities ahead which include cloud gaming, eSports, introduction of 5G and the use of blockchain to maintain player trust in order to prevail even in times of slower growth. With robust consumption, innovations around building paid game models and advertisers using gaming as a viable medium to advertise on, the sector is bound to witness unprecedented growth and emerge as a sunrise sector in India.

This has been co-authored by Simran Khurana and Tejal Mahindru

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