The return of PUBG will likely boost the casual gaming segment
Gaming enthusiasts will now be able to play PUBG in its Indian avatar. South Korean company Krafton has introduced the game in the country as Battlegrounds Mobile India, a year after it was banned by the Indian government over privacy concerns arising from its Chinese connection. It is noteworthy that the game has been credited for giving impetus to the mobile gaming culture in India as well as encouraging in-app purchases. According to a 2021 KPMG report, PUBG had 175 million downloads, about 40 million active players and had generated $40-50 million revenue from in-app purchases since 2018 in India.
India had the highest game downloads in the casual mobile gaming segment in the world (excluding China) in 2020, the report says. India alone clocked 7.3 billion downloads in the first three quarters of 2020, accounting for 17% of the global mobile game downloads during the same period. The market size is estimated to be around Rs 13,400 crore, of which casual gaming accounts for Rs 6,000 crore.
In the last week of June 2021, actor Kartik Aaryan became the brand ambassador for Brawl Stars, a multiplayer team action game from the creators of popular games like Clash of Clans, Clash Royale and Boom Beach. India’s gaming sector saw investments to the tune of $544 million between August 2020 and January 2021. The gaming user base is estimated to be around 433 million.
Abhishek Madhavan, SVP, growth and marketing, Mobile Premier League, observes that since the early days of the lockdown last year, the app witnessed an increase in not just the number of people who play games, but also the number of games played on average. “In 2020, some of our most popular titles like World Cricket Championship, Pool and Fruit Chop recorded a 400% increase in the number of games played,” he adds.
According to the 2021 India Mobile Gaming Report by InMobi, 80% gamers play at least once or more in a day with an average time spent of 20 minutes per session. Indian users prefer to play classic mobile games like Ludo and word puzzles, and consume less time per game, or battle royale games like PUBG and Free Fire. Most of the classic games depend on advertising revenue, whereas games like PUBG reel in players to make in-app purchases.
Indian users are not yet actively making in-app purchases; advertising is the primary revenue stream for these apps. KPMG found that in FY21, advertising revenue in the casual gaming segment amounted to Rs 3,600 crore (approximately 60% of casual gaming revenues). Average revenue per user in casual mobile gaming amounts to Rs 152 per annum. Vasuta Agarwal, MD, Asia Pacific, InMobi, says that ads in the mobile gaming environment see more than double the engagement compared to non-gaming apps.
“In India, most games that are popular are international games,” observes Piyush Kumar, founder and CEO, Rooter, a game streaming platform. To beat the popularity of international games, Indian game apps and studios will need to invest heavily in creating games that appeal to Indian cultural backgrounds, analysts say.
“This is why you see apps like Dream 11 and Paytm First Games investing in marketing — bringing on brand ambassadors and launching high-decibel ad campaigns,” says Prashant Rao, partner, Deloitte India. Game studios like Nazara Technologies have tie-ups with telecom service providers for distribution.
International game publishers are not known to tweak their offerings for India, which makes it fairly easy to launch here. However, games developed in India have not been able to capture the markets outside. “That is something Indian publishers can work towards,” says Rao.