Boom time during COVID-19: Gaming sector eyes 50-100% growth in the next quarter

With people confined to their homes due to the nationwide lockdown, content consumption across mediums is growing. This also includes gaming. According to a report by POKKT, a 39 per cent increase was seen in global mobile game downloads in March 2020. Comscore reports that between the weeks of February 10-16, 2020 and March 16-22, 2020, visits to online gaming websites or apps increased by 24 per cent. Meanwhile, engagement, as measured by time spent on gaming sites or apps, increased by 21 per cent during the same time period.

According to BARC-Nielsen report, on smartphones, 4 hours a week on VOD is the new normal, even as gaming continues to add more users. Compared to the pre-COVID-19 period (60% users per week), the number of users per week went up to 66% in COVID-19 disruption Week 2 and further to 68% in COVID-19 disruption Week 3. Time spent on gaming per user per week during the pre-COVID-19 period was 2 hours & 31 minutes, which went up to 3 hours & 11 minutes in COVID-19 disruption Week 2 and further to 3 hours & 38 minutes in COVID-19 disruption Week 3. The number of users with 3 or more apps (15-24 years) went up from 33 per cent in pre-COVID-19 period to 40 per cent in COVID-19 disruption Week 3.

Even without the COVID-19 disruption, gaming has been on the growth swing. As per FICCI-EY’s report, titled ‘The Era of Consumer A.R.T.’, the online gaming segment grew 40 per cent in 2019 to reach Rs 65 billion. The report projected the segment to reach Rs 187 billion by 2022 at a CAGR of 43 per cent. The number of online gamers in India grew 31 per cent in 2019 to reach around 365 million and is expected to reach 440 million by 2022. India contributed 13 per cent to global game app downloads in 2019, even as online gaming in India is projected to grow faster than the global online gaming segment. Gaming contributed nearly 6 per cent of time spent by users across content categories on mobile devices. This is approximately a fifth of the time spent by users on entertainment on their mobile phones.

Gaming > Coronavirus

While apps like ‘Ludo King’ (The most downloaded mobile game in 2019, according to the FICCI-EY report) have emerged as the most favourite ones during the lockdown, even higher skilled games like Poker and PUBG are also seeing an increased traction.

A week into the lockdown, PUBG had even hosted its PMPL South Asia competition with top players from nations like India, Nepal and Bangladesh, who took part in it. Keeping social distancing in mind, the competition was completely online. The lockdown didn’t slow down the tournament and it garnered over 2 million views on "Mortal's" YouTube Livestream.

PUBG Mobile was the first ranked game in terms of users and consumer spends in India. It was also the second most downloaded game of 2019.

Poker has become another favourite amongst gamers amidst the lockdown. Poker platforms allow the user to play with real money. The user pays the platform in return for coins, which allows the player to take part. On winning or losing, the player can then cash out the coins that they have.

Sudhir Kamath, CEO & Founder, 9Stacks
Sudhir Kamath, CEO & Founder, 9Stacks

Talking about the traffic on their platform, Sudhir Kamath, CEO & Founder, 9Stacks, said, “We see a greater surge on our platform in the midst of the lockdown. A big driver for us is that the existing users are now spending much more time on the platform. We have seen an increase of 20-30 per cent in terms of time spent.”

Ashish Bhakuni, Head Of Marketing, Adda52rummy
Ashish Bhakuni, Head Of Marketing, Adda52rummy

Furthermore, putting the surge in true perspective, Ashish Bhakuni, Head Of Marketing, Adda52rummy, informed, “In these COVID-19 times, we’ve seen a jump of 50 per cent in terms of revenue, 70 per cent jump in daily active users and the number of gameplays has increased by 30 per cent,”

Varun Mahna, Founder and CEO, PokerDangal
Varun Mahna, Founder and CEO, PokerDangal

Poker and other gaming platforms have also seen huge traffic on their platform apart from the peak hours. Since people are restricted to their homes, the 9 am – 7 pm time band has seen great traffic, which normally wouldn’t be witnessed in a normal scenario. Talking about the hours spent and also the daily active users, Varun Mahna, Founder and CEO, PokerDangal, said, “We had daily active users of 5,000 before the Coronavirus outbreak and now there are 6,000-6,500 people playing on our platform on a daily basis. Earlier, time spent was 2 and a half hours a day, now it has increased to somewhere around 4 hours.” At the same time, he added, that while it was too early to comment on the overall impact, they are looking at a 50-100 per cent increase in the coming quarter.

A time for "noobs" to be "champs"

Debashish Bhattacharya, CMO & Co-Founder, Pocket52
Debashish Bhattacharya, CMO & Co-Founder, Pocket52

Apart from existing users, several new players have made their way to these platforms. Even skill and real money games are witnessing a surge in new users as they try to master the game. Debashish Bhattacharya, CMO & Co-Founder, Pocket52, said, “We have seen a great number of new users on our platform. At Pocket52, we have acquired many non-poker players too, who are practicing the skill of poker and getting better over time.”

However, these numbers aren’t restricted to the metros or Tier 1 cities alone. As Bhakuni shared, “At Adda52rummy, we would normally see traction from the Southern states like Tamil Nadu and Kerala. We would also see traction from Maharashtra. However, amidst the lockdown, we are seeing newer markets in Gujarat, West Bengal and other Northern states open up, with newer players coming onto our platform.”

The inevitable

The above statistics don’t come as that big a surprise even in a country like India, where the gaming industry and culture is still in its infancy. When China first witnessed the lockdown, gaming companies like Tencent saw great traction, not only on their platform, but also the number of downloads of their games like PUBG increased tremendously. In its own satirical way, the day Italy witnessed the maximum number of COVID-19 related deaths, Poker platforms across the nation saw a surge in active users.

Staying indoors for the long-term can be taxing for anyone. The gaming sector, in its own way, can keep people occupied and also let them earn – both money and skills.


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