With mobile gaming expected to boom in the country after RJio launches, internet companies have India on their target.
Over the past year or so, every other smartphone manufacturer or internet company I speak to keeps alluding to the big growth India is going to see when Reliance Jio finally launches its consumer services. While smartphone companies are expecting a big jump in the number of 4G devices sold, internet companies are certain that consumption of all types of content, especially video, will see an unprecedented spurt.
Also licking their lips are gaming companies and those who want to invest in gaming companies. Across the world, gaming is considered one of the pillars of the internet economy, along with e-commerce and, of course, online ads. However, India hasn’t quite achieved its full potential thanks to issues with connectivity and the payment infrastructure. People like Alex Qian, now the vice-president of internet company Leomaster, think that Reliance Jio will fix the first issue to a great extent. Even otherwise, he hopes the gaming industry in India to grow to around $1 billion by the end of this year, almost double of what it was in 2015.
“India is now where China was seven years ago, when you look at the market size. China currently is home to 23,700 gaming studios, most of which enjoy 90% net profit,” he says. Leomaster has some very popular apps, but is banking on its gaming platform Joy Plus to reap rich dividends in India.
Alex explains that unlike e-commerce, which is a monopolistic market, gaming gives a fair chance to everyone to survive. So, Leomaster is keen on collaborating with local gaming companies and is even open to investing in good ones. Alex says partners will benefit from the 10 million daily active users Joy Plus has in India already. “What we need is a local IP like a Chhota Bheem or Dhoom and we can import successful game plays from China,” explains Alex, who has worked in India for many years with companies like Huawei.
He sees India propelling into the big league of top five gaming countries within five years, and that is why, unlike a lot of other companies, Leomaster is willing to support Indian gaming companies before the real boom kicks in. “We see a lot of potential, which has so far been confined because of network problems. However, network problems will be solved this year or the beginning of next year,” Alex is confident.
LeoMaster is not the only company rooting for gaming. Rovio Entertainment, the Finnish company behind mobile gaming legend Angry Birds, has just launched another version to coincide with the release of the Angry Birds movie. It is not just another game, because it has never been seen before offline elements that add value to both the movie and the game. Rovio is going full throttle promoting both in India.
Anurag Sachdeva, country director (India and South Asia) at Rovio Entertainment, says India is up there on top for his company when it comes to audience. “Angry Birds still commands over 450 million annual downloads and India is an important location for us,” he explains. Sachdeva says it is wrong to generalise that Indians won’t pay for content on mobile, when they actually don’t have the means to. “Even if we believe everyone with a credit card has a smartphone, there would still be millions of people who don’t have access to a payment ecosystem,” he says, adding, “We will know if the Indian consumer actually pays only once we have operator billing in place. The consumer always throws up surprises.”
Another factor that has been holding back gaming growth in the country for many years is the size of games. Heavy games, let’s say above 25MB, were never much popular because people did not want to spend their precious data downloading these.
However, that could also change if data from the pilot run of Reliance Jio is any indication. The company, in its earnings release last week, said that average monthly downloads on its internal testing systems were as high as 18GB per user. This indicates that a cheaper, faster and unfettered data ecosystem could get Indians to consume much more content than before.
And finally the competition from Reliance Jio, whenever it launches, could lead to a price war between telecom companies, resulting in cheaper data plans for the users. It is certainly game on for Indian customers.