The rise of smartphones and affordable mobile data plans have come in as boosters for the mobile gaming industry. But monetisation is still a challenge
With long commutes taking up a chunk of time for the average Indian, the mobile phone has become a one-stop destination to avoid boredom. And jostling their way through, competing with social media updates, news and videos for attention, are mobile games.
Mobile gaming is growing fast in India — currently at more than 200 million gamers, EY estimates the number to reach 312 million by 2020. Furthermore, it estimates the non-casino/lottery size of the industry to be around Rs 4,010 crore in 2018 and predicts it to grow to Rs 6,830 by 2020. In 2017, the size of the industry was Rs 3,040 crore.
The Indian gaming space is divided into three major categories: casual games, social card games, and real money games. “Predominantly, India is a casual gaming market where genres like puzzles, endless running and arcade are widely popular,” says Manish Agarwal, CEO, Nazara Games.
The game development cycle starts with investors approving the concept; the pre-producers then create the storyboard and decide on the game engine. Next,the developer picks it up and does the programming/coding, 3D asset building, etc.After that, in the post-production phase, sounds are recorded and the game is tested for bugs. It is then distributed to end-users.
“The game is put on app stores, but with many other games already out there, discovery is a big challenge,” observes Agarwal. “Therefore, there is a need to spend on advertising and acquire users.” After all, the more people download a game and play it, the better its ranking. For a developer without resources, it may be rather difficult to survive.
Apart from single player games, users may also like to contest it out with other players. Switzerland-headquartered Miniclip is one of the largest developers of free multi-player games. It’s 8 Ball Pool is the top game in the free category on Google Play. “India is one of the most important markets for Miniclip; it is at a tipping point and has one of the largest populations of young people in the world, with more than 40% aged under 25 — making it well positioned for gaming,” says Robert Small, founder and CEO, Miniclip. “Indian players love competitive games.”
80% of the consumption is driven by males while mobile gamers constitute of 83% of the total gaming pie, which as per the FICCI-EY 2018 report will go up to 93% by 2020.
Placing your bets
While domestic developers are starting out in India, international games dominate the market in the current scenario. Ludo King, Subway Surfers and Candy Crush Saga are the top ranked games in the country. A KPMG-Google report estimates around 100 developers to start developing games over the next five years. In-app purchases and advertising are the two main means for a developer to monetise the game. “Within advertising, there are in-game placements where a brand integrates itself into the game. And then, there are video ads,” says Rohit Sharma, CEO, POKKT, a smartphone advertising platform. Say for example, in the Chhota Bheem game, when Bheem is running and eventually runs out of energy, the user gets an option to watch a reward video and ‘earn’ energy.
Sharma estimates that 65-70 % of the mobile gaming revenue is contributed by ad dollars. “Brands use gaming to target particular audience sets. For example, they may want us to place them in a game targeting women of a certain age group,” he says. The advertising inventory in the gaming space is sold on a ‘Cost per Completed Video’ basis. For a completely viewed 30-second video, the developer makes around 60-90 paise depending on the popularity of the game. On the other hand, a game like Chhota Bheem or Real Cricket 18 costs the developer around Rs 30-40 lakh to produce it. So it is a volume game, quite literally.
Sure, the gaming space is growing and both advertising and in-app purchases are heading north but there are challenges that Indian developers need to overcome. “The gaming industry as a whole needs to create quality content that would compel Indian gamers to pay and buy items within the game,” Agarwal says. In China, the pay-versus-ad ratio would be 90:10 while in India, it is heavily skewed towards advertising.