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Games People Play: Online gaming has seen a big boom in India during lockdowns

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In fact, the restrictions imposed to tame the surging second wave may have only aided consumption. (Representative image)

Locked inside houses and bored, people in India turned to online gaming with a vengeance, giving a fillip to the growth of the sector that is still in its nascent stages in India. The number of mobile game downloads in the country touched a significant 2.9 billion in the July-September period last year from under 2 billion in Q1CY20. From about 250 million gamers at the end of FY18, the number of Indian gamers grew to nearly 400 million by mid-CY20, establishing the country as the “second-largest base of online gamers in the world after China”, according to a recent report published by KPMG.

Analysts believe the trend is here to stay; though the pace of growth in consumption did fade to a certain extent after cities opened up post the first lockdown, most of the key business metrics like monthly active users (MAUs) still operated at a higher average as compared to the pre-Covid period. In fact, the restrictions imposed to tame the surging second wave may have only aided consumption.

India is estimated to touch 657 million gaming users by FY25. Sectoral revenues are projected to increase to Rs 29,000 crore by FY25 from Rs 13,600 crore in FY21 led by casual gaming, analysts said.

Better accessibility to smartphones and cheap data prices are helping the sector gain broader reach, thereby spurring its growth. “In addition to metros and tier one cities, penetration beyond tier two cities has also started taking place gradually. Further, there are an increasing number of women gamers and the social stigma and resistance to online gaming, specifically casual gaming, is gradually fading away,” analysts at KPMG said in the report. Not surprisingly, the theme of localised content is starting to get featured in the gaming playbook as developers look to tap into newer audiences. “Most popular games in India like Teen Patti by Octro, Ludo King by Gametion and others provide options to play games in local languages like Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi, etc,” say analysts. Besides, there has been an increase in the number of online game developers, specifically in the casual mobile gaming segment in India,” they added.

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Investors are also heavily backing the sector. An estimated $544 million was infused into the gaming sector during the August 2020-January 2021 period. The investments should help local companies to scale up their operations and cater to global markets, many of whom lack the wherewithal to fight global competitors.

Going ahead, cloud gaming is another segment that could gain prominence in India once 5G hits the country at scale, said analysts. “Cloud gaming will get redefined with 5G as it will provide better gaming experience and consumers can opt to pay more or switch connectivity providers for the new gaming experience,” they said.

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