We are halfway through the year 2020 and we have seen a lot of transformation, innovation in the gaming market. As we all know that businesses shape according to the current condition and gaming is no exception. Midway to Q1 15 March, the Government announced nationwide lockdown due to COVID-19 pandemic which has impacted businesses largely. When most of the businesses witnessing the descending curve, the gaming industry has witnessed an upsurge. By the end of Q2 businesses are aiming to normalise the workflow with partial lockdown and gaming aims to maintain the upsurge curve with new innovation and technology advancement. Here are the reasons why we think 2020 is the year of gaming and what has kept the industry growing amidst COVID-19 pandemic:
Gaming platforms on rise: During the Covid19 period gaming platforms have seen an uptick. According to data from Arsenal.gg in collaboration with streaming tools platform StreamElements found that global viewership has increased by 10 per cent on Twitch and 15 per cent on YouTube Gaming. They have pointed out that Facebook Gaming’s market share spiked quite a bit in year-on-year. While Facebook had around 3.1 per cent market share in December 2018, it grew to 8.5 per cent in December 2019. The reason behind the growth of the gaming platforms is that people are getting chance to interact with people of common interest. On the other side, Indian gaming platform like Paytm First Games which is a multiplayer gaming platform sees over five million app download during COVID-19 period and have also seen a 200 per cent increase in its user base betting March and April and More than half a million daily active gamers on the platform have spent anywhere between 30 to 45 minutes at the platform. WinZO a vernacular social gaming platform, has seen a 10X increase in the game play of age-old board games including Ludo and Carrom during the lockdown period. The concurrent users are increasing at 30 per cent-40 per cent day on day and the paid conversions have increased by 20per cent on the platform. Online searches for Mobile Premier League (MPL) saw a 406 per cent during lockdown. Nazara saw an increase of 20 per cent in time spent on its network platforms during the first couple of weeks of the lockdown and a five-time increase of in-app purchases during the period. Also Sports technology platform Rooter, which has engaged and retained audience through various sports content from quizes, debates, discussion, and so on, is now aiming to expand its platform for gaming and esports content. Surely the growth gaming platforms have surely.
Real money gaming continues with upward surge: Due to house arrest boredom and urge of earning extra cash in lockdown has driven the players to play more real money gaming (RMG) in lockdown , and this has seen a surge in the sector . Spartan Poker, have seen greater traction during the lockdown with 100 per cent increase in acquiring new customers and overall 25 to 30 per cent growth, mostly from Tier 1 and tier 2 cities. Poker Dangal has witnessed growth in its user acquisition and time spent per session by the users skyrocketed. 9stacks witnessed 30per cent uptick in the number of concurrent users, and in total games played each day, referrals and new sign-ups have also increased by almost 100 per cent as compared to the pre-COVID period. We are seeing explosive growth in Tier 2/3/4 markets. Thus the industry believes lockdown has helped many to build a very solid foundation for the future. Due to pandemic more and more people are seeking thrill and entertainment in the world of online gaming and casual gamers turn into serious ones. However, in the real money section where fantasy sports sees a dip due to cancellation of sporting events other game of skill games like Rummy, Poker sees an uptick. Poker platform PokerSaint has recorded 15 per cent MoM growth in its user base amidst the lockdown period. Even the Rummy Circle has recorded a significant rise in the downloads on both — Play Store and iOS amidst the coronavirus lockdown. According to Paytm First Rummy has gained maximum traction with users and games played doubling every week, said the company, adding that every month it gives out rewards and gratification worth more than Rs 10 crore.
Surge in growth of gaming tournaments and esports: Where all big sporting and gaming events were cancelled India has been bustling with gaming tournaments hosted by gaming platforms and the esports organisations. The tournaments are meant to engage more users and to retain them in the respective platforms. If we take example Paytm First Games and Riot Games team up to bring “Teamfight Tactics” tournament in India after it recorded over 11,000 gamers registration for esports tournament during the lockdown. Garena partners with Paytm First Games to host Free Fire esports tournament and then it launched free to play Ludo tournament Ludo lakhpati with over Rs. 1 Lakh prize money daily. Then Paytm First Games brought Clash Royale Championship to India, offers a prize pool of Rs. 10 lakhs during lockdown. Also, gaming startup EWar unveils season one of EWar PUBG Mahayudh esports tournament, Microsoft is hosting new Halo tournament from 23 May to 18 July, Asus organised weekly Rog Phone users only Battle of Gods gaming tournament, Facebook Gaming introduced tournament feature as part of its social distancing campaign, ACT Fibernet introduced CS: GO online gaming tournament for their internet users, WinZO brought PUBG MOBILE online tournaments in 10 regional languages for Indian gamers and so on.
Apart from that esports organisations have hosted various charity tournaments to accumulate relief for COVID-19 fighters for example IGL organised Quarantine International Gaming Tournament to raise funds for COVID relief for example Global Esports hosted Overwatch charity tournament for Covid-19 relief raised more than Rs. 50,000, Sky Esports hosted a PUBG Mobile charity tournament for COVID-19, Fnatic teamed up with Loco and organised #GamingForGood, a charity event for the Indian esports community and so on.
Increase in new users and daily active users: According to Nelsen report gaming apps and platforms seem to be a clear winner as time spent on them has increased from 22 per cent to 30cent even as the share of social networking remained flat during the period. Interestingly, the report states that there has been a greater increase (55per cent over ) in the times spent on gaming platforms by older females as compared to the average smartphone user (49per cent over) in the last six to seven weeks. As users are explored and experimented more and more gaming during lockdown the number of users base as well as the DAU rate have been increased. For example, LUDO King has recently crossed 50mn DAU with the daily installation of 20 to 25 mn during lockdown according to Gametion founder Vikash Jaiswal. Next Wave Multimedia co-founder and CEO Rajendran PR said in their cricket game time spent have gone up average user session time has gone up by 25 per cent, the number of new users has increased with 30 per cent more. 75,000 new users joining the Paytm First Games platform every day according to company COO, Sudhanshu Gupta. Even games with Vs-Mode on the app has observed a 35 per cent spike considering people are playing with their friends online amid the lockdown according to WINZO spokesperson and more. The lockdown has made a huge impact in the mindset of people are consuming more gaming content than ever to overcome the boredom they are facing right now.
Investments in gaming startups during a pandemic : Ever since the Lockdown 1.0 was announced, several gaming platforms and apps witnessed a surge of players and saw a 21 per cent growth in user engagement. According to a report by Investment firm Maple Capital Advisors titled – “Gaming – India Story”, the Indian gaming industry is currently valued at $930 million and is expected to be valued at $ 3,750 million by 2024 with an annual growth of 41per cent. During Pandemic Pocket52 raised $1.75 million as series A funding from Gameskraft, Rooter, has raised a Pre-series A round of $1.7 mn. The key investors in this round include India’s leading financial services platform Paytm, leAD Sports- Adidas Family backed Fund, Rockstud Capital, and Founder Bank Capital- early stage arm of RB Investments. Anthill Ventures, Venture Catalysts, and a few more current angel investors also participated in the round, Indian esports platform Gamerji raises $400K funding from La Gajjar Group and more. Apart from that there have been various strategic partnership among esports and gaming brands with undisclosed amount or barter which has helped the gaming startups to grow more. For example In10Media, Gameloft have signed strategic partnership with Zee5 for expansion of gaming businesses, MMD and Red Bull announce new partnership to bring enhanced console gaming experience and so on.
The Covid-19 period has not been easy for fantasy sports, where it was skyrocketing in 2019 and has seen a dip due to cancellation/ postponement of sporting events in 2020, also in terms of monetisation the Indian gaming industry has seen a depression but exceptions are there. Apart from that considering all other factors we can definitely say 2020 is the year of gaming in terms of new game creation, expansion, experimentation rate of new users, and retention.