By Varun Ganjoo
The real money gaming sector in India has seen significant growth in recent years, driven by a combination of factors such as the increasing penetration of smartphones, the growing popularity of e-sports, and the favourable regulatory environment. The sector has also witnessed a shift in perception, with real-money gaming increasingly being seen as a legitimate form of entertainment and a potential source of revenue.
The COVID lockdowns catapulted the Indian gaming market to a once-in-a-generation inflexion point exceeding previous estimates on sophistication, scale, growth, and propensity to pay. With 400 million gamers in 2020, India’s gaming market is the world’s second-largest by volume; and is expected to reach 700 million gamers in the next five years.
The unprecedented boost received by the sector during the lockdown was capitalised upon by real money gaming companies in India, by turning to digital marketing and online channels to promote their product. This included strategies such as social media advertising, and influencer marketing among others. The use of digital marketing coupled with product innovation helped companies reach a wider audience and maintain engagement with customers during a period of limited physical interaction.
The Indian real money gaming sector is coming of age. The market is not just booming from a demand (gamers), but also a supply (game developers) perspective. The industry clocked a market worth $2.6 billion and is forecasted to grow faster at a CAGR of 34%. One thing is for sure, real money gaming is a crowd favourite and is here to stay.
The beginning of the golden era of real money games in India
Since real money gaming was relatively new for many, the journey began with pure brand awareness and building the trust of millions of Indians while battling social factors. Tactical marketing campaigns were designed to support the overall business strategy of generating awareness. At the same time, brands had to be agile and flexible, adapting to trends and consumer feedback. These focused goals with targeted marketing efforts gave the sector a leg-up in creating a measurable response toward the brand.
With a small portion of a sizeable audience captivated, it was now a matter of the multiplier. The biggest drivers included OTT, social media platforms, and mobile marketing that enabled reaching out to a broader audience with customised user profiles, preferences, geo-locations, and other data, in a cost-effective manner. The mobile-first Indian demographic allowed the most efficient market penetration, with mobile marketing providing the best brand reach, engagement, and retention.
In a bid to gain credibility, grow the player base, and add further credibility – the next leg of the brand journey was sponsorships and association with popular sports. Signing on a celebrity was the safest route for quick reach and top-of-the-mind brand recall. Propped up with volume campaigns during the Indian Premier League, and through other sports sponsorships – brands were able to reach a wider audience.
The future is more than just a game
With the growth of real money games and the buy-in of the generation, what’s next? A treasure trove of data gathered over the years combined with technologies will give us the precision to reach audiences while maximising our ROI with innovative solutions. Target audience demographics have gotten a lot more accurate with age, geography, gender, device, language, and interests, giving way to personalised marketing trends that are on the rise. Powered by AI and ML, we are all set to amplify the gaming experience at a very personal level.
Real money gaming is experiencing a bullish period, and entering the metaverse is on the horizon. The possibilities are endless with the growth of NFT, blockchain technology, and the play-to-earn entertainment model.
In an era of digital marketing, consumers are hit with a tidal wave of messages on every platform. Conversational marketing is a great way to cut through the noise to become ‘top of mind’ of your audience. Brands can build more meaningful relationships through dialogue and messaging, creating a personalised experience.
The creator economy sits at the crux of this digital sphere, and leveraging influencers and gamers to pique the interest of an audience is a winning formula for a high conversion rate. Winning in the digital world is critical for a brand, but ignoring physical touchpoints is not strategic. IPs and events go a long way in brand building and community outreach and more so in the era of revenge outing post the pandemic.
While ticking all the boxes, the most important one to focus on is social responsibility. Social responsibility in real money games marketing involves being mindful of the potential impact of marketing practices and taking steps to ensure that players are treated fairly and responsibly.
The end, but the beginning
The true beauty of a niche sector like real money gaming is in its transformation journey. It started from being a taboo to capturing the minds of millions to surfacing as a powerful entertainment channel.
The journey has been gradual and focused on equitable efforts to bring a brand’s vision alive. A story of user engagement eventually driving organic acquisition. A story of shifting perception with a credible celebrity association and buy-in of the influencers. A story yet to realise its full potential with another powerful story to be told.
The author is the co-founder and chief marketing officer of Baazi Games