Online gaming has become new social media now, say experts

The spectacular growth of the gaming industry, especially over the last few years has generated a lot of interest and investment. ‘Current reality of Gaming Industry in India: Size, Challenges & Opportunities’ was discussed at length in a panel discussion at the first ever GAMEXX 2021 Summit & Awards, held last week.

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The panel was moderated by Bijoya Ghosh, Founder and CEO, Adgully, and industry leaders who joined in for the discussion were:

Sidharth Kedia, Chief Executive Officer, Nodwin

Joe Wadakethalakal, Senior Vice President, Corporate Development and Investor Relations, MPL

Sumant Narayanan, Head of Client engagement, Akamai India

Shivanandan Pare, Chief Executive Officer, Gaussian Networks

Varun Ganjoo, Co-Founder & Marketing Director, Baazi Games

Manav Sethi, Chief Marketing Officer, Octro

Anurag Khurana, Co-founder and CEO, Newgen Gaming

Gaming is not a recent phenomenon in India, we have seen this industry grow from the stage of Pac Man to PUBG and beyond. From a very primitive style to highly sophisticated CGI and augmented reality enriched multiplayer platform.

Speaking about the progression of the online gaming sector in India, Nodwin’s Sidharth Kedia said, “Online Gaming that came from the dorms and video game parlours has become mainstream now. Everyone who has a smartphone, it’s very likely that they are gamers now. If you are playing Candy Crush on your phone, you are a gamer, if you are playing Battlegrounds Mobile India or Call of Duty mobile, you are a gamer. The definition of a gamer is very wide and gaming has become mainstream in India. So, if you are playing Candy Crush, you are a casual gamer; if you are playing a Call of Duty mobile or a Battlegrounds Mobile India, you have aspirations to be a professional gamer and you come in the category of e-sports. If you are participating in fantasy games you are a gamer, but you are a part of the full fantasy game segment. If you want to make a quick buck and try your luck in betting, you are a real money gamer. Those are some ‘verticalisations’ that are coming. Gaming in India is growing very rapidly and we have crossed about $1 billion in overall gaming revenues, which is very heartening for our country. This has been largely possible due to the mainstream digitisation that has happened, introduction of a more sophisticated and secure payment architecture and payment gateways, bigger, better and cheaper smartphones as well as cheaper Internet. With the digital economy getting a boost in the last one to one and a half years, gaming is now mainstream.”

Sharing his viewpoints, MPL’s Joe Wadakethalakal said, “I think gaming is the most natural thing to do, almost on a smartphone, especially when you're looking to kill a little bit of time. Which is why I have seen casual games explode in India, in particular, as more and more people get access to the phones. I think the other nuance that’s really interesting for gaming right now is that the quality of the smartphones that are coming out at such a low price point. You now have the ability to play really high fidelity on really cheap devices, on Internet that I think is really trending towards being free essentially. The intersection of all these three elements is like manna from heaven for gaming, and I think that’s why gaming is exploding in many markets as well as in India.”

Talking about his journey in gaming, Newgen Gaming’s Anurag Kurana said, “I got into gaming back in the late 90s, and during those days, there was no social media and the whole discovery for our games was happening on Reliance Network, which was No. 2 at that time. The growing Internet penetration and affordable smartphone devices are dissolving the boundaries and online gaming is being looked as a mode of social interaction; according to me, it’s the new social media right now. Everyone has a lot to choose from in terms of games and the offerings related to them, indicating that the growth and the potential of the industry.”

Sharing his point of view, Octro Inc’s Manav Sethi said, “I think globally gaming is already bigger than movies and music combined. Gaming is already acquiring or has acquired a significant chunk of people’s leisure hours, at least in the US. I believe that we are at the cusp of growth which is at the intersection of both sports, as well as entertainment and what we have seen is only the tip of the iceberg.”

Adding further to the conversation, Baazi Games’ Varun Ganjoo said, “I think the first point is how gaming is sort of a subset of entertainment, where people are now willing to move from the core entertainment segments to exploring gaming as a mode of entertainment. I feel Indians are gamers at heart – playing card games with our peers, street games, cricket, etc. This mobile culture has simply made it possible to revive that gamer in us, hence gameplay on mobile has increased. The gaming culture has picked up a lot and there’s a lot of growth coming in the future too.”

Gaussian Networks’ Shivanandan Pare observed, “I think the pandemic showed us that we are just scratching the tip of the iceberg as far as this industry is concerned. As far as the growth potential of the market is concerned, what we are looking at is at least a 10-fold from here in another seven years.”

Summing of the discussion, Akamai’s Sumant Narayan said, “At Akamai, we have the privilege of working across several industries. While the pandemic has negatively impacted industries like travel and hospitality, there have also been other industries that obviously benefited from this period, such as OTT, short videos and gaming. On our platform, we historically have had events like cricket or election results, which truly drive a lot of traffic on our platform. But now, we are seeing new game launches coincide with actual peaks on a traffic platform. And even if you look at any of the other business metrics in terms of the number of users and watch time like just investment clearly tells you that there has been a significant shift ever since the pandemic struck us. If you look at year over year growth, last year we garnered around 70 million viewership, which was almost double over the previous year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see current events, which are currently being driven by sports like cricket, being driven by esports tournaments and premier leagues in the next 3-4 years.

Watch the entire panel discussion below:


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