Year Ender: Indian gaming and RMG market players share how the year has been and the trends to follow

The Indian gaming sector has reached a tipping point and the market has seen an incredible growth as the habit of playing games continues to rise and experts believe that it will grow even further beyond. Since the ecosystem is transforming at a fast pace, players are also becoming mature in respect to pay to play or in game purchases. Experts believe that the propensity to pay for games is driving the growth. As per KPMG report, currently there are 420 million casual games users, 92 million RMG card and casual based users, 60 million RMG card and fantasy sports users. As per ‘India Gaming Report 2021’ by Lumikai and Redseer, there were 80 million gamers in 2020. Paid gamers will be driving further growth as paid gamers in India are set to approximately become 235 million in 2025.

Earlier the growth of the sector was measured only with the number of players and now also with paid users. In the last one year, online gaming in any form gained a lot of interest from the audience because of which the gaming landscape has been constantly shifting in 2021. And immersive technologies like AR, VR, cloud, blockchain, NFT and metaverse have played a crucial  role in changing the gaming industry parameters.

From the explosion of the gaming user base since the pandemic to the potential of cryptocurrency in gaming to tips for new entrants, here’s what industry experts have to say:

Online gaming and card games

As the years pass by we are becoming more internet dependent. In fact as of January 2021, 624.0 million internet users are there in India and India is set to reach one billion internet users by the year 2025. Our country’s smartphone base is estimated to reach 820 million in the next two years. As the number of smartphone based internet users are rising, it is resulting in a massive leap in the number of Indian gamers as per AIGF recent report.

India’s robust and booming IT sector is one of the most vital driving forces for the growth of the gaming scene. It has become a competitive landscape for the gaming industry. While still young, it never fails to show its potential by undergoing constant evolution; from new genres, unique gameplay, characters and artwork, Indian-origin games have also started attracting users – old and new – massively. 

A paradigm shift witnessed in the Indian gaming industry is the fresh focus on game development. In the past two to three years, countless game development companies have come up, creating their own intellectual properties (IPs) in games. With one of the world’s largest youth populations appreciative of the gaming scene, India is expected to become one of the world’s leading market destinations in the gaming industry.

As the consumer base is becoming more internet friendly, technologies which were almost untapped in the past by the Indian gaming companies, have now become part of their business plan; be it blockchain, cloud gaming, metaverse, AR, VR and so on. Earlier parents were concerned about the game time of their children, and now they have a framework to follow so that their kids enjoy the game time and not fall prey to gaming addiction.

Vishal Gondal

GoQii founder and BAFTA Breakthrough supporter of games, Vishal Gondal shared few trends that have shaped the gaming industry-

  • Falling data costs coupled with the outbreak of COVID-19 has seen Indians spending more time on their smartphones, PC or gaming consoles playing games. Although competing with other forms of artistic media and generating a sizable revenue globally, gaming is comparatively a young industry still on its way to reaching its potential.
  • The Indian gaming landscape provides great opportunities to build games for the Indian players. On top of that the technological landscape is evolving, with platforms such as cloud and mobile gaming on the rise. To enhance gamers’ experience, game developers are launching new games for various consoles/platforms such as PlayStation, Xbox, and PC.
  • Cloud gaming is an emerging technology, allowing gamers to stream high-end games across hand-held devices – such as laptops, tablets, and mobiles – with fast network connectivity. This eliminates the need for a regular hardware upgrade or a gaming console/PC/laptop.
  • Accessibility and representation are also becoming a focus for game developers – for instance, LGBTQ+ characters The Last of Us II and Gone Home, to name a few.These are some trends that will definitely have a positive impact on the gaming industry’s growth.
Vaibhav Odhekar

POKKT. COO and co-founder Vaibhav Odhekar shared future trends for 2022. They are:

  • The audience will continue to diversify in the coming years. So, instead of a male/female audience bias, we’ll have a nearly 50-50 gender split, with a lot more older people joining the online gaming space. 
  • From a marketers point of view, we are bullish on Native / In-Game advertising picking up and a lot more brands experimenting with this format. As server side integration and viewability support come to this format, it will start gathering more interest from brand marketers.

Here are the experts insights on how has the year been for them and their plans for 2022:

Roland Landers

All India Gaming Federation CEO Roland Landers said,The Indian gaming industry along with the M&E segment has now become one of the fastest growing sectors in India with around 7.3 Bn downloads in recent years. The Indian gaming industry is expected to reach 3 billion by 2025 and is now projected to grow faster than the global online gaming segment. The industry currently employs 40,000 people in direct jobs and by 2024 the online skill gaming industry is expected to employ around 2 lakh people. This growth will further lead to revenue generation for the country, driven by ease of payment, better security and instant withdrawal of winnings etc.

As the regulatory landscape is also evolving and positive judgments are expected from many states, we as an industry leader look forward to an exciting year for this sunrise sector. With its exponential growth, the gaming industry will also attract international investors to invest in the Indian market.”

P.R. Rajendran

Next Wave Multimedia co-founder and CEO P.R. Rajendran shared, “The World Cricket Championship 2021 has been a busy year, where we have gained some good momentum. This was also the year after the pandemic led lockdown we saw many important cricketing events like the IPL, World cup and other series. Early 2022 Nextwave is planning for some beta launches of new titles.”

Hareesh Mothi

Breakout founder Hareesh Mothi shared, “We were apprehensive about 2021, given what happened in 2020 to the entertainment industry. In 2021, many global corporations found keeping a team connected in a work-from-home environment challenging. A strong demand arose for quality experiences that can be fun, novel, and engaging. Our GEN – 4 virtual escape room really did the job. We now work with over 120 companies, and over 20 per cent of the Fortune 50 companies are our clients. We plan to build on the momentum in 2022 with the hybrid model. With both our physical and virtual experiences, we have what it takes to drive meaningful experiences to people across sectors.”

Vaibhav Odhekar

POKKT COO and co-founder Vaibhav Odhekar  further shared, “2021 saw the return of certain normalcy in terms of pandemic, but the big jump seen in 2020 did not fade away, so the hypothesis that we had about user stickiness towards gaming was validated. In India, we now see upwards of 300 Mn unique users coming to our platform on a monthly basis. This shows almost doubling the number of users in the last 18 months. Revenue has been steadily going up and large numbers of brands (quite a few have been smaller /regional players who have also adapted to gaming) have been spending. Today gaming as an industry is “mainstream” when it comes to digital spends, we think OTT and Gaming will continue to grow and gather a significant share of the digital ad spends pie.”

Stewart Neal

“2021 has been a fantastic year for Sumo India despite the challenges of the pandemic. We were involved in the development of Hood: Outlaws & Legends and Forza Horizon 5 and one of our main goals was to expand. In September we announced a new studio in Bangalore and expansion for our Pune office. We worked from home for the safety of our people, supporting them with equipment to work and care packages. In 2022 we will continue expanding our teams. We’re excited to meet everyone and to continue working on amazing AAA games (hopefully in person!),” shared Sumo Digital Group studio director of Sumo India Studio Stewart Neal.

Siddhartha Mukherjee

“LiveOps is the single most powerful tool for engagement and monetisation in video games today. However, instead of running a big LiveOps team, invest in creating tools that help manage the LiveOps responsibilities of your portfolio. Empower your team and use their expertise in creating newer products and features instead,” shared Playco director of product management Siddhartha Mukherjee.

Sunit Warraich

“With a lot of household casual card games finding their way to the online sector, users have opted in for these games as a source of entertainment and recreation. Users are a lot less averse to transacting on online portals which adds an element of thrill while they are engaging with these games. With games starting as low as Re 1/- has attracted a wider audience in the space which is set to only grow in coming quarters. Tech has enabled smooth onboarding & shorter learning curves that build trust with the brand and we are able to retain users for a longer time. There is immense untapped potential in the Indian market that we expect to unfold in 2022. Most importantly, the change in perception for skill-based card games in RMG space, will be driving a lot of new players in this space with a wide variety of user cases. Our vision with is to cater to players from core professional to casual recreational players by offering a wide variety of card games under one roof. We will be bringing in more engaging card games that resonate with our user base. With this structure, we are expecting 30-40 per cent growth in our user base by the end of 2022. I think we have the technology and product to deliver world class services to card lovers in India,” shared CardBaazi CEO Sunit Warraich.

Herat Maniar

“Gaming is the only segment of e-commerce apart from ticket booking that has been profitable. One of most notable developments from the gaming industry is dislodging the dependence on app stores for distribution and discovery,” mentioned Herat Maniar, who held leading positions across gaming companies.

Pranav Panpalia

OpraahFx founder Pranav Panpalia said, “We at OpraahFx are working towards blurring the lines between gaming and entertainment, thereby disrupting the gaming content ecosystem.”

Aarhan Siddique

OpraahFx talent representative and OP gaming Aarhan Siddique said, “Gaming has emerged as one of the fastest-growing pop-cultures across the world in 2021. Representing India’s leading gaming talents, I believe that the concept of ‘gamers and gaming influencers’ was widely accepted and welcomed in India in 2020 and 2021. Many creators grew by 10-15 times in 2021 alone. Kids moved away from TV channels to YouTube gaming content, therefore, I believe gamers have now evolved to be the next-gen superheroes in the country. 2022 seems to be the year that would further shape up the gaming industry by many folds and will provide national and international level opportunities for gamers to explore and grow.”

Fantasy sports

According to the Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FiFs), fantasy sports have emerged exponentially in the last few years, so much so that it has contributed to the growth of the overall sports ecosystem of our nation. OFS engages fans with real-life sports such as cricket, volleyball, football, basketball, kabaddi, and so on by providing a platform to create their own virtual teams containing counterparts of real-life players from both the teams participating in an upcoming officially sanctioned match. The Indian fantasy sports continued to grow in 2021 as a lot of sporting events were aligned this year from IPL to World Cup. The cricketing season helped the sector grow voluminously. This year, in May, IPL was temporarily banned due to rising covid19 cases but the sector continued to grow as a lot of other international sporting events were happening. As per the fantasy sports operators, the lockdown time has helped them to advance their technology, expansion of various other sports as well as attracting newer players on the platform. The education and awareness of consumers in the fantasy base is also growing which has opened potential opportunities for new players with funding behind them and so on.

As per our previous interaction with Roland Landers, fantasy gaming is one of the fastest-growing gaming segments in India with a user base of around 100 million, expected to reach 150 million in the next few years. It is poised to become the fifth-largest fantasy sports market in the world. As fantasy sports are linked to live sporting action, cricket, being the number one sport, gains dominance.

Ravindra Kumar

Here’s are the fantasy sports experts insights on how has been their year been and plans for 2022:

In the year 2022 we are adding sports like football, baseball, rugby so on to our fantasy sports app, adding more games to casual games app, and expanding to markets in Asia, Europe, North and South America. Developing countries are a primary target as people there now have good internet connectivity and need a stable source of income for the younger population. By 2024 we plan to present in most countries with good internet connectivity and acquire 30 million users that want to earn a stable income via gaming,” said One to 11 CEO Ravindra Kumar.

Varun Mahna

“The year 2021 proved to be quite a game changer for us. The biggest highlight being the launch of our unified multigaming platform — Dangal Games, which emerged as one of the most preferred apps amongst online gamers, registering  record-breaking numbers of five lakhs users in three months. In addition to this, launching 15 games in tie-up with international studios, success of Fantasy Sports and collaboration with Sanjay Manjrekar are the feats we are really proud of. Speaking of the year 2022, it is expected to bring more innovation and expansion of the user base, along with multiple collaborations and game launches. And with exponential widening of our various verticals, we are sure to set a new benchmark in an already progressing Gaming industry,” said Dangal Games founder and CEO Varun Mahna.

Ankur Singh

Witzeal Technologies CEO and founder Ankur Singh said, “2021 has been a golden year for the gaming community. The massive influx in the industry showcased how gamers are now keen on the quality, transparency as well as user experience on the platform.  Moreover, we have observed a trend on how the gaming sector is becoming more gender fluid and has seen a sharp increase in female players. They are overcoming the stereotypes and turning into pro players amongst the large spectrum of players. At Witzeal we look forward to an exciting year for this sunrise sector. Due to the tech innovations, we are witnessing robust growth on our platforms with the gameplay being increased over three folds and reporting four times more user engagement. We foresee increased investment opportunities, more transparency and superior immersive and interactive experiences. While technology in the gaming sector continues to grow, innovation and personalization of experiences will be the game changer. Overall, we believe the gaming sector is at a cusp of massive transformation.”