Once frowned upon, gaming has acquired universal acceptance, with housewives, students and working professionals taking to it. Beware of the pitfalls, though
The three things that the majority of the people turned to during lockdown in order to ‘preserve their sanity’ were Netflix and OTT, Zoom chats and e-games.
From taboo to mainstream recognition, the Indian online gaming industry is growing in stature and volume, with over 300 million mobile gamers in the country. Prashanth Rao, Partner, Deloitte India sees the gaming industry growing at a CAGR of 40-odd per cent for the next two years, and says the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated its expansion, taking it two years ahead of its normal growth. Factors that have triggered a massive growth in online gaming include spurt in mobile devices, internet connectivity and availability of fast Wi-Fi, time on hands, convenience of gaming and a love for sports. Sentiment in the industry is positive with companies even going public. Recently, India’s esports company Nazara Technology’s IPO was subscribed 3.8 times on Day-1.
Mobile gaming takes the largest chunk of this market, thanks to access to affordable smartphones–the demand for which has been growing at 15 per cent YoY for the past five years in India–high-speed 4G internet penetration and the world’s lowest data tariffs. A greater willingness to pay for services comes from improved disposable incomes and wider adoption of digital payments.
Gaming has skyrocketed during the pandemic, especially the ones that connect you online with friends. Games over video chat have replaced in-person for many. The explosive growth of this market during the pandemic indicates that many have found a new outlet for much-needed connection in isolation. Fifteen-year-old Aditya Jaiswal, who spends four hours a day during lockdown says, “Gamers don’t just compete with strangers on the internet. We often end up forging genuine friendships and social connections. When we meet like-minded individuals and create communities, it is very comforting and reassuring.”
Action, adventure, sports, battle royal, racing games, puzzles, fighting, first person shooting, simulation-–there are all kinds of genres, but casual gaming takes the cake. Says Roland Landers, CEO, All India Gaming Federation (AIGF): “Casual gaming is gaining huge interest from the gaming community as per the report launched by KPMG in June 2021. During the past few years there has been growing interest for real-money games such as online poker, rummy and fantasy sports in India.”
So, who all are playing? While there is no age bar, the fact is young India is playing the maximum with interest coming from both smaller cities and metros. Says Sai Srinivas, Co-Founder and CEO, Mobile Premier League (MPL): “Our target audience is anyone over the age of 18 with a smartphone and a good data connection. Thanks to being a platform with gaming titles across categories, our user base consists of people from across age groups–above 18 and going all the way to 60-plus. That said, a big chunk of our users are between 25 and 45 years old. We see a large number of users from tier-2 and tier-3 cities and beyond, and we are present across 5,200 cities and towns in India.”
Everyone plays for his or her own reason–as a hobby, to gamble, to make money. Some even pursue it as a full-time activity. But the fact is for many people, gaming is much more than a mere pastime. Many believe gaming can be taken up as a profession, as the industry is growing exponentially.
Gaming as a serious business
Everyone from housewives to students are seen playing professionally. Says MPL’s Srinivas: “A lot of home-makers enjoy playing and winning rewards on games such as Fruit Chop, Bubble Shooter, and Runner No 1. Overall, it’s a mix of people from different backgrounds competing in a variety of games—esports, casual, fantasy. We have a lot of gamers who use MPL to supplement their income by winning rewards playing their favourite games. For example, one of our regular gamers from Delhi-NCR has been playing games like Fruit Chop to supplement her income and has won Rs 7 lakh on MPL over the past three years. We also award digital sports scholarships to deserving esports athletes and one of our first such scholars, V S Rathanvel, has won Rs 5 lakh in prize money on MPL in the Chess Mahayudh tournament conducted in July 2019.”
You needn’t invest heavily in order to make gaming and esports a serious profession. But you do need due diligence, knowledge and good wi-fi. Professional gamers usually compete around the world in major tournaments, and such a vibrant experience requires robust digital infrastructure. They must have a strong internet connection to stream their game live so that the enthusiasts can follow them and watch the game online.
They need to spend time on social media to create fan following. Much like other sports, it’s all about skill and practice and there is no standard formula.
Deloitte’s Rao shares some insights: “I know a professional who goes and picks up a tournament in, say, Kenya. He researches the game; the players and his approach is totally different. Normally one would load one’s team with fantastic players, but he uses probability theory, game knowledge and bets on not just one team but x number of teams. He chooses the underdog and balances between a few top stars versus the underdog team.” It calls for some dedication, practice and study of trends to make money.
For sports games, it is a good idea to go for practice sessions first. Most companies offer free versions of all games so that the users can get the hang of it and improve their skills before choosing to enter paid contests or tournaments. Users should try their games of choice for free once they come onto the platform.
How do people choose the games and platforms? The choices are based on various factors, and have much to do with the user interface and the online gaming experience for the enthusiast, and ease of transactions. Some opt for skill-based mind games, while others the want-luck-by chance kind. Sports fanatics like to play esports. Many people talk about how games impart life skills. Says AIGF’s Roland Landers: “As per the survey launched by AIGF in June 2021, casual gamers who usually play just for entertainment are now able to hone life skills. It has been found that these gamers can enable realistic exposure to challenges, enhance collaborative skills like communication, teamwork, time management, and negotiating deals, while preventing any negative outcomes.
Landers says 76 per cent of professional gamers develop strong analytical abilities by regularly trying to assess the best way to win. It is found that, when a professional spends time strategising and gaming with other individuals, he develops qualities such as negotiation skills, budget management, objective thinking, collaboration, self-discipline and spatial understanding.”
Different strokes for different folks
Casual gamers might choose a particular game to improve and hone skills apart from the entertainment value. Pro gamers will want to enhance their competitive edge in a particular gaming format and will be consistent with the preferred game, gaming format and platform. As per a 2021 KPMG report, the average weekly time spent on gaming is about four hours while the average revenue per user (ARPU) is Rs 156. A pro gamer, on the other hand, will spend more hours improving his skills.
The flip side
When there is excessive gaming there can be certain negative implications such as eye or mental health issues. The book lobby also sees gaming as an enemy of reading time. Says popular kid’s author Deepa Agarwal: “Gaming apps are indeed considered enemies of the reading habit. They encroach on children’s already scarce leisure time which could be spent reading. However, if the reading habit is established early in childhood and a child is provided with appealing and captivating books many kids will choose reading over gaming.”
Children need to be guarded against violence and adult content. Says Deloitte’s Rao: “Safeguards are being built in. Even the Niti Aayog has identified gaming as an important need of society today and is looking to put in some kind of a single national policy that should provide clarity of the platform, the users, the regulations, what is allowed, and what isn’t. There are rules and regulations but not in black and white. There is a need to strengthen these rules and ensure people below a certain age aren’t able to play.”
Rao adds that gamers must validate their identity with KYC and calls for a system to access and trace the cleanliness of money.
Finally, most people think that video games make you stupid. Studies prove that isn’t the case, and gaming done for limited periods can keep your mind healthy and active.
Tips for online gaming safety
- Use only official websites for purchases related to the game.
- Don’t divulge or entertain requests through emails or direct message asking for your banking, financial, or personal information.
- Don’t share personal information, identifying data, or account information online.
- Use a strong password with a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, plus numbers and symbols for the game login.
- Use two-factor authentication. This extra step such as with your password and your phone number makes it harder to hack into your accounts.
- Never click on any links asking you to reconfirm your password. Instead, delete any email that asks you to update your login information.
- Avoid using debit cards for purchases and use credit cards instead as they give greater protection.
Table: Top trending online games in India
|World War Heroes: WW2 FPS
|Rs 40 to Rs 8,700
|Rs 89 to Rs7,900
|Dream 11–Cricket and Football
|Premier League–Official App
|Rs 10 to Rs 13,500
|Yalla Ludo-Ludo & Domino
|Rs 90 to Rs 26,000
|Hero Wars–Ultimate RPG Heroes Fantasy Adventure
|Rs 50 to Rs 21,000
|Raid: Shadow Legends
|Rs 45 to Rs 8,900
|Shadow Fight 4–Arena PvP
|Rs 75 to Rs 8,500
|Marvel Contest of Champions
|Rs 60 to Rs 7,900
|Asphalt 9: Legends
|Rs 10 to Rs 17,900
|Need for Speed No Limits
|Rs 49 to Rs 4,449
|Battle Royale Games
|Rs 180 to Rs 8,100
|Guns Royale–Multiplayer Blocky Battle Royale
|Battle Royale Games
|Rs 140 to Rs 3,600
|Lords Mobile: Tower Defence
|Real Time Strategy Games
|Rs 10 to Rs 25,700
|Real Time Strategy Games
|Rs 80 to Rs 250
|Rs 90 to Rs 22,000
|Rs 89 to Rs 8,900
|Garena Free Fire: Rampage
|Rs 10 to Rs 9,000
|Call of Duty: Mobile-Season 4
|Rs 10 to Rs 7,900
|Rs 25 to Rs 4,050
|Grand Theft Auto: Vice city
|Rs 30 to Rs 13,000
|Rs 29 to Rs 7,900
|Rs 49 to Rs 5,500
|8 Ball Pool
|Rs 10 to Rs 9,600
|Rs 36 to Rs 8,900
|Candy Crush Saga
|Rs 29 to Rs 11,900
|Chess-Play and Learn
|Rs 55 to Rs 6,600
|Kaun Banega Crore Pati Trivia & Quiz Game
|Rs 140 to Rs 6,900
Credit: TechSci Research