In 2015, 66M households were part of the ‘consumption class’ with annual household income greater $4000, which is 27 per cent of India’s total households. The consumption class will rise to 53 per cent of total households in 2025, implying a mammoth 800M+ individuals belonging to the consumption class with access to smartphones and improving data speeds that augurs well for gaming in all forms — PC, Mobile and even AR/VR. Let’s look at some of the emerging technology trends that are changing the face of gaming in India.
Higher data speeds & mid-end smartphones will create demand for high graphics games
India is ranked 67th in the world in February for download speed over fixed broadband. As per Speedtest Index, download speed in India is around 9Mbps, much behind the global mobile internet speed of 22Mbps. With the entry of Reliance Jio, the average monthly data consumption went from only 0.26GB per person few years back to over 4GB at the end of 2017 and average data tariffs fell from Rs 269 to Rs 19 per GB of data.
Indian users are also shifting to mid-range smartphones. According to Cybermedia Research, 38 per cent of the phones sold in 2017 were in the range of Rs 10,000 and Rs 20,000, compared with 24 per cent in 2016. The users on these mid-end phones will demand sharper graphics and mobile games will move towards HD realistic graphics as brand new phones will now have the processing power of an average 3GB RAM. Higher speeds will also enable app size of up to 500MB for new games and game developers can now focus more on real-time multiplayer games in the new data horizon.
Mobile games “Made in India” for the next billion users
Despite the rage for smartphones in the country and over 30 million smartphones shipped quarterly, India accounts for 43 per cent of total global feature phone shipments. From 3 per cent in 2016 to 13 per cent growth in 2017, the feature phone market has exploded in India so game developers targeting this segment can develop gaming apps keeping in mind app sizes and performance in low-end phones.
In 2017, Google announced the Android Oreo (Go Edition) meant for the next billion users. The new apps in Android Oreo Go, will have a sub 5 seconds startup time, use limited on-device RAM under 100 PSS and have an install size of sub 30MB in the phone. Not only will this open up 100 million potential new customers, but also open doors to create local Indianised content suited for Rural and Tier 2, Tier 3 markets in India.
Artificial Intelligence is an equally important stepping stone in making our gaming experience more interactive and realistic. AI in the form of machine learning, context-sensitive behaviour, neural networks, natural language parsing been playing a huge role in gaming for years now. Today, it has the potential to develop and improve characters and environments in a way that users experience challenging and unique gameplay that is high on quality and visual experience.
Besides improving a gamer’s experience, AI is also helping production studios produce games on lower budgets as algorithms are scaled up to design stages and run hundreds of simulations and scenarios. With more complex machine learning systems evolving and ever-growing data at our disposal, we think things could greatly change for games over the next few years as developers embrace them.
VR/AR adoption awaits the next killer game; New platforms for AR from Google and Niantic
Developed markets last year saw a notable uptick in interest in the Nintendo Switch while game makers’ waning opinions of VR, and a move away from purely mobile to focus on PC and home consoles. HTC Vive overtook the Oculus Rift as the most popular VR platform.
VR adoption which is quite low globally and even more in India depends on that killer game that becomes a must have at the same level of interest as say, Minecraft or Halo for the original Xbox to create a large enough player base to support full-time VR development. Also in the current state besides pricing, VR needs more accessible hardware and space requirements, and better ways to involve a group of people in the living room before it can take off. Facebook’s Oculus headset, which was launched at $1,200 two years ago, has fallen to $300 today. Google and Apple are also coming up with headsets which means VR adoption is likely to be on the rise for entertainment use cases in physical locations.
Games like Pokemon Go have shown that it's possible to have mainstream appeal in an AR game, however, more releases of AR games involving Google Maps, that Google calls Real-World Games for game developers, will go a long way in the market seeing newer AR games. The technology allows developers to create games with 100 million buildings and backed by the Google infrastructure supporting over 1 billion monthly active users.
In Real-World Games, roads, buildings, and parks are turned into game objects in Unity (game development engine), where you can customize any game element. Fill parks with trees, oceans with waves, and beaches with umbrellas. Customize colours, textures, and the sizes of objects to create a game all your own.
With recent announcements of Niantic, of an open real-world platform for AR games will be available to third-party developers. What is exciting is that this technology relies on neural networks, and it works in real time on your device. The Real-World Platform can understand the world, even when objects and people move around. It also has a technique for multiple phones to communicate directly via cell tower transmission rather than going through a centralised server making it super-fast and interesting. These new announcements hold a promising future for AR based games in the Indian context.
Digital payments and digital streaming
India is amongst the most cash-driven economies in the world. On a positive note, mobile wallet transactions in the country are set to reach Rs. 80,000 crores in 2017, a growth of 113 per cent over the previous year. The rise of wallets and digital payments in general with Government’s UPI scheme augurs well for monetisation of India’s 100 million plus mobile gamers.
Not only is digital technology improving monetization but also game discovery. Most eSports fans use both Twitch and YouTube to consume gaming content. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds one of the eSports hits was 2017’s breakout success, generating $712M in revenue in just eight months. The title reinvigorated player interest in the battle royale genre, paving the way for similar games like Fortnite and Knives Out. Digital Streaming of games is also coming to speed in India with Cloud-Based Gaming and may take centre stage with millennials as India’s broadband ecosystem and smartphone adoption evolve.
—by Rajan Navani, Managing Director and CEO, JetSynthesys...