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How casual gaming in India is becoming a formidable force to reckon with

Online gaming is no longer at the periphery of the content/ entertainment space. This segment has grown at a rapid pace in the last 3-4 years and is now competing with traditional forms of entertainment for the share of time spent on media and entertainment in a day. According to a KPMG report, online casual gaming is pegged to be the largest sub-segment amongst the online gaming segment in India, contributing ~58% to the overall revenues by FY2025. KPMG expects India’s online casual gaming sub-segment to grow at a CAGR of 29% over FY2021-25 to reach a size of Rs ~169 billion.

According to FICCI-EY’s ‘Playing by new rules’ 2021 report, the online gaming segment is expected to reach Rs 155 billion by 2023 at a CAGR of 27% to become the third largest segment of the Indian M&E sector. Online gamers grew 20% from 300 million in 2019 to 360 million in 2020. Transaction-based game revenues grew 21% on the back of fantasy sport, rummy and poker and casual gaming revenues grew 8%, led by in-app purchases.

Online gaming was the fastest growing M&E segment in 2020, a year marred by the global COVID-19 pandemic and strict lockdowns. The FICCI-EY report further reveals that the online gaming segment grew 18% in 2020 to reach Rs 77 billion, aided by work from home, school from home and increased trial of online multi-player games during the lockdown.

As per the KPMG report, India recorded the highest game downloads in the casual mobile gaming sub-segment in the world (excluding China) in 2020, with Q1-Q3 2020 downloads standing at 7.3 billion, accounting for 17% of the global mobile game downloads. Further, the monthly active users for the top 100 mobile games and the time spent on online gaming, increased 10-15% post lockdown 2020.

The primary reasons attributed to the growth of online casual gaming in the country include: a tech-savvy young population, a steady supply of high-quality games from local developers, rising 4G usage, and expanding electronic payment technology.

Speaking about the growth in online gaming, Vaibhav Odhekar, COO & Co-Founder, POKKT, observed, “The year 2021 is likely to see a continued increase in growth of online gambling platforms and gaming apps. The gaming industry as a whole is also attracting new players and maintaining the interest of players by constantly innovating new game types and offering new gaming features such as multiplayer gaming.”

The online gaming industry in India grew at a rate of 21% during the COVID-19 pandemic period. Action games like PUBG (before it was banned by the government) and Free Fire, which are played by nearly half the people below 27 years, saw extreme growth during the pandemic. Launch of Krafton’s made-for-India game, Battlegrounds Mobile India, has also created a lot of excitement in this segment. Also, games like Subway Surfers, 8 Ball Pool, Ludo King, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang have been played by almost all age groups. Apart from this, an increased adoption of Puzzle games was also seen. Visiting childhood board games, card games, console games again back in today’s time with the convenience of playing online with their friends, relatives or other peers from their smartphone has been a favourite engagement of Indians confined to their homes amid the pandemic.

Speaking on the factors contributing to the growth of casual gaming in India, Mitesh Gangar, Co-founder and Director, PlayerzPot, noted, “Due to this factor of being at their place, but still getting connected to your connections and having fun over games, has made online casual gaming extremely popular in India. Apart from this, the approach of senior age people at home towards online games has brought about a significant shift. This has helped the newer generation to easily get engaged with online gaming with responsible playing.”

Online gaming is no longer limited to young males. According to InMobi's 2021 gaming report, titled ‘Everyone's Gaming Among Us - Mobile Gaming through the Pandemic and Beyond’, women constitute 43% of the Mobile Gaming audience in India, of which 12% are in the age group of 25-44 years and 28% are over 45 years. Industry reports state that 50% of all the gamers in the world are women, with 95% of the women mobile gamers playing games for up to 2 hours on their smartphones. According to Google and Niko Partners, women currently account for 40-45% of the Asian gaming population in Asia, which accounts for 48-50% of the global gaming income. From players to broadcasters to game creators and entrepreneurs, women are increasingly handling several professions in the gaming business. In fact, women have been outnumbering male gamers at a higher pace, particularly during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Varun Puri, Founder & Chairman, Dangal Games, commented, “We are observing a positive trend in women’s participation in online gaming. The industry is slowly and gradually becoming more diverse. Popular women gamers are serving as idols and helping to break the traditional norm of gaming being a male dominated arena. A healthy number of female gamers are also considering it as a career path.”

(Edited and additional inputs by Shanta Saikia.)

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