The business of online gaming has grown substantially in India over the past few years after overcoming a phase of self-doubt and investor apathy. The demand for digital games is at an upward curve and the country now has more than 250 game development companies. The rise in the popularity of gaming is partly due to the increased accessibility that the public has to themselves - at the tap of a screen, one can download games onto a smart device. The country’s rising middle class is actually willing to pay for the content and the experience that they get from the online gaming sector in the form of mobile gaming. It’s time now for the real money gaming market which has developed rapidly and has made its distinctive place in the mobile gaming bastion.
Majorly attributed to the ease of accessibility, it can be actually attributed to the smart phone penetration and the growing awareness of the genre. India’s mobile phone penetration has outpaced several other countries with the introduction of mid-range phones. A mid-range smartphone has the basic features and specifications required to run a game decently on it and hence preferred by more than 60% of the Indian market. Moreover, India is counted as the 'youngest' among all countries in the Asia Pacific region, considering the number of its citizens below 30 which beckons a huge potential for the market. A strong data connectivity is another driver of online gaming in India. With quick internet accessibility and nominal cost of data, several tier II and tier III cities have emerged in online gaming space demonstrating the reach of internet connectivity in those cities. According to studies & various reports, the average time spent in a day for gaming apps is about 21 minutes, which is a considerable amount, reason being it is dedicated for that zone at that particular point of time. Otherwise users tend to switch between a lot of applications and have their leisure time or even using it for their productive purposes. Looking at this time, we understand that there is a huge interest in the minds of the player/user to invest their time, money & energy in online gaming.
Online Gaming & Real Money Gaming is a global game, the jurisdictions & regulations differ country to country. The ability to cash-in & out and the amount of risk involved in the play is the reason why the legislations have to be considerate & stringent. A lot of players are already emerging in the global space, a lot of countries have the market & scope for real money gaming market. Countries like Africa are witnessing new ventures in real money gaming market. The segment also taps the untapped market by planning to enter countries like Nigeria & Ghana where are there are clear regulations and a legal framework for real money gaming market.
The Real Money Gaming (RMG) online market in India is estimated to be around Rs. 2,200 crore and is pegged at a growth rate of 30% per annum. Rummy commands the largest share, followed by poker and then fantasy sports. Today, a consumer’s approach towards a game has changed tremendously. It is an exciting sector which has scope for multiple players catering to the needs of an entirely new audience consuming internet today. Games like fantasy sports (cricket, FIFA, etc.) and e-sports have emerged as the key driver for engagement and turnover. Real money gaming has evolved since the past generations with new trends and features, and is now the fresh brew of coffee that everyone wants to have. This has become one of most sought after channel of entertainment and fun.
Games like Rummy and Poker are actually skill-based games, which command dexterity. It is also grouped as “Games of skills” in the segment of Online Gaming, a game of skill is one where success depends principally upon training, attention, experience, knowledge, attention, personal attributes and capabilities of the player. The games predominantly demand those skills from the players and the mobile gaming platform gives them an environment to enjoy and outperform the opponent. Fantasy games, on the other hand, are games which involve users drafting fantasy teams based on certain conditions from a list of players scheduled to play live games.
The recent trends have evolved in skill-based games which are now uplifting the reach and creating a collective base for the players. For instance, a game of poker was never accepted by the Indian consumers as much as it is now. Today, a large section of youngsters do not mind trying a hand at poker and openly showcasing it to outside world too. During weekends or holidays, people now have a new thing to explore. During festivals like Diwali or the New Year, one can observe a host of poker players putting up their pictures playing poker on social media. New age online portals which cater mostly to millennials have also started featuring articles on poker and projecting the game as being skill-based owing to multiple skill sets acquired by players throughout the game. New age media channels are involving games into their visual as well as audio content to drive education and awareness. It is interesting to note that in IIM Kozhikode, the subject of competition strategy is taught using the game of poker. Likewise, the game of rummy has its own charm. Rummy has been played in India since very long. Considered as a family game, it is one game on which Indians continue to engage longer and the retention rates are higher. While it has been an offline, social game with involvement from family or friends, today a lot of people prefer playing this game online due to factors like lack of time, accessibility to gadgets, speed data packages, etc. All in all, the emerging segment of RMG, is taking its turn in a way that will be appealing for the audience while remaining guilt-free.
The gaps in technological advancements in the segment of online gaming are getting eliminated, you can now play efficiently depending on your 4G network. Internet connections are aiming to grow faster in the future and it is a trump card for the online real money gaming segment. Moreover, the segment is aiming to analyze & differentiate between Fantasy sports, eSports, Sports Betting & Card Games. The KPMG report as on 2019 from the Game Plan, has analyzed and understood patterns & preference of 336 consumers who have played the games in the last 12 months. The report aims to give an insight to the details of the same and help the players in the online gaming market to create a better experience for their users. Adding to this, factors like ‘Fun & Excitement’ is a primary motivator for users to experience online gaming. The ‘opportunity to win money’ is also a motivator for 30-40% of the users.
The key factors for people to stay hooked to an online fantasy sport is its easy-to-learn and attractive user interface, the concept of the game and the excellent gaming environment. This segment too has a great potential in India owing to sports frenzy in the country, especially the game of cricket, football, kabaddi and basketball. It does not come as a surprise then that every popular sports league in the world engages with their fans through fantasy sports. It is also interesting to know that most of the sports enthusiasts know about fantasy sports and in India there are more than 60 operators. An AC Neilson report suggests that there are over 20 million fantasy sports users in India and the country is fast catching up with western countries. The report also suggests that the fantasy sports also has a growing popularity amongst financially independent working professionals and mobile/tablets are the preferred devices for fantasy sports.
The developer community is an ecosystem which has a big role in augmenting the online gaming segment in India. As per a KPMG report, it is estimated that 100+ developers of online games will be added in the next four to five years. This will not only give a boost to the segment but also provide ample options to the audience. Through our several research and development programs, we have also identified a unique consumer behavior. Most players prefer localized games in the language they are comfortable with. This will give rise to gaming content and themes which are developed keeping in mind consumer preferences and their languages. The KPMG report also estimates that Indian language internet users are expected to rise to 540 million by 2021. The online gaming space in India is projected of hitting $1 billion by 2020. In the last 10 years, few companies in online gaming space in India have done a commendable job of creating the markets and nurturing players, creating forums that protect players interest. Such activities have improved trust among the online players and increased the pie.
There is a lot of scope to further this growth and reach out to the potential players in the market. This includes both education and handholding to make players comfortable in the ecosystem. As per a report by Deloitte, the skill gaming landscape is highly changing and transitioning in terms of participation & engagement. The need for social interaction is highly present in the youth right now, and they want to have multiple opportunities for their benefit. Also, the growth of this industry has contributed to the employment opportunities not only in this industry but across industries specifically IT and related services attracting millennials and creating opportunities in non-conventional sectors.
The recreational aspect appeals to the audience and digital gaming is witnessing a paradigm shift with respect to availability of online connectivity and also multiplayer feature in all above games makes a surge in the number of people playing it. The legislations have also been stringent with online gaming in India, so it is building a trustworthy community of people. Today we see a convergence of real money gaming in its multiple forms of entertainment, video streaming, live playing that involves real time money too. Users in the real gaming money market is growing at an average of 50 percent a year. The real money gaming market is witnessing tremendous growth and will even rise more soon, which is also driving in the access of technology, innovation and crafting a better experience for the consumption of players. The upcoming trends of real gaming market will also have VR, AR and AI that will drive through to make sure that real money gaming is not merely playing but providing an amazing transformational time for the users. The immense acceptance of these trends can be expected because of the target audience that they cater to are highly tech savvy and open to change. Investors are shedding out exceptional money to make it more interesting, create new trends & patterns, and the potential user environment is ripe for that! We hail a future turning more colorful with respect to new trends and higher revenues and faster conversions.
By Naveen Goyal, CEO, Khel Group
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