From 250 million gamers in 2018, the gaming user number in the country has leaped to more than 400 million last year
By Shaan Raza
In recent years, like the rest of the world, Indians too have been hooked on gaming like never before. Poised at the intersection of all-round digitisation in the economy, deepening smartphone penetration with high-speed 4G internet and lowest data tariffs, and last but not the least, a youthful population, the Indian gaming industry is raring to go. With covid inducing a broader shift in the media and entertainment consumption trend, there has been a tangible and a more favourable turn towards gaming and digital media away from traditional film and tv viewing. The emerging technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality along with AI have further catalysed this popularity and enhanced uptake.
And on the business side, like all industries and sectors increasingly employing the power of digital and performance marketing in their effort to gain customers and increase revenues, the gaming business has not remained immune to the trend. And as such has not only taken to traditional digital marketing techniques but gone a step beyond into the realm of performance marketing with an eye on estimating concrete conversions and customer stickiness. In fact, besides the inherent gaming content design, the theme, the flow and the relatability factor in terms of culture and localisation, employing a concrete data-based assessment of gamer/user engagement journey through relevant metrics, there is a lot more that a gaming company/publisher can do to sharpen its product engagement capability as well as enhance revenue. In other words, performance marketing can lead the way forward for gaming businesses.
Extraordinary jump in user/gamer traction
From 250 million gamers in 2018, the gaming user number in the country has leaped to more than 400 million last year. In fact, in the first nine months of covid year 2020, India became the top mobile game downloading country in the world with 7.3 billion installs cornering 17% of global market share of the installs volume. It is no wonder that in another estimate, the national average gaming time has increased to 4.1 hours as against pre-covid figure of 2.5 hours.
Gaming, a natural fit for performance marketing
Because of the very nature of gaming as a deeply engaging and immersive activity where even a casual user/gamer is actively and continually engaged or even engrossed as opposed to say skimming a news snippet, there is immense scope for carrying out targeted ads in different ways and therefore opens it up for performance marketing activities. Moreover, the retentive and repetitive nature of game-playing itself is apt for targeted ads and concrete ROI-based performance marketing strategies. So every step of the user engagement or user trigger – from installing to playing the game to making in-app purchases of currency, coins and other virtual goods to progression to next levels in a game to upgrading to full subscription services – provides valuable user insights which can then be employed to measure actual ROI by a gaming publisher or a distributor company. Importantly, the gaming company could be any one of the critical value chain players such as the gaming developer/studio or the publisher or even the distributor. With the emergence of independent game-making developers and studios which are also setting themselves up as independent publishers in their own right, often bypassing the traditional and arguably monopolistic app stores while allowing sideloading of their gaming applications, the role of performance marketing becomes even more pivotal.
Games of skills have a ‘chance’ with Real money games
While casual gaming – involving non-real money and largely operated on free-to-play or freemium models with revenue mostly generated from ads – may have been the largest consumption segment in the country, the real money games in the form of fantasy sports and Esports have made an equally forceful and formidable appearance on the Indian gaming landscape in recent times. In fact, for FY 2021 according to a KPMG report, the market size was $50 billion for real money games, very close to what was $60 billion for casual games, with less than one-fourth of casual games user numbers. According to a FICCI-EY report, transaction-based online gaming grew by 21% in 2020 and is expected to grow at a healthy 27% y-o-y to touch Rs. 13,300 crores in revenues by 2023. Games and platforms such as Ludo King, Teen Patti, MPLL, Dream 11, HalaPlay, PayTM First games, among several others, have been runaway successes. So even as we wrestle with the socio-moral, legal and regulatory intricacies related to real money games many of which still lie in the grey zone as of now, the high stakes nature of these games for businesses themselves (apart from players) makes for a fertile ground for employment of performance marketing tools.
Mobile phones, the popular gaming device apt for performance marketing
With a staggering 94% of gaming activity being conducted on mobile phones as estimated by KPMG, India is a predominantly mobile first gaming market. This is of course partly also due to high entry costs of other devices such as a console and even as PC relatively speaking. Moreover, mobiles are not only a naturally more personalised device providing continual companionship to a user as opposed to a personal computer and other devices, they are also a more receptive medium to gaming app installs and subsequent use. This coupled with the way the modern mobile advertising technologies have evolved making the device far more conducive to tracking and advertising purposes – notwithstanding Apple’s iOS 14.5 IDFA update mandating user consent – a mobile device is tailor-made for performance marketing purposes. As tracking in-app response becomes easy, the gaming publisher companies can now graduate from accessing data on the traditional digital marketing metrics such as impressions and clicks as index of awareness and interest to the higher levels of accessing conversion-related KPIs such as user volumes and rates by channel as well as gaming engagement-based data such as retention rates, repeat rates, lifetime value (LTV) and return on ad spend (ROAS) apart from many others.
Therefore, as gaming attracts more and more patrons, investors and fans, gaming businesses armed with appropriate performance marketing strategies and well-defined KPIs can achieve wonders in terms of their business volumes, value and ROIs. After all, in a world of high precision mobile advertisement tracking and measurement technologies, their success is no more a matter of chance but simply of skill and judgment.
The author is CEO of Optimise Media India. Views expressed are personal.