When it comes to earning real money by playing games or by publishing games online we always give a second thought. Thanks to the internet scams which have set our mindset like that. As the morning sun of digital age shining bright we are slowly changing our approach to earn real money online through gaming .
As we are stepping in the year 2020 we have realised that the Indian market size is huge and to serve it gaming content is a huge challenge. Taking it as the opportunity a lot of new players have emerged with a newer approach to engage the audience. We have discovered the WinZO Games android based gaming platform who has not only set its goal to serve the audience with ‘play and earn’ real money concepts but also has opened the opportunity for game developers with ‘publish and earn’ real money concepts under one roof.
In conversation with Animationxpress WinZO Games co-founder Paavan Nanda has expressed how gaming space in India has evolved with respect to language, region, game genres, devices and keeping that in mind how they have created WinZO Games. For in-depth insight here is the excerpt:
Can you share a brief history of the WinZO Games platform? How many people are there right now?
WinZO started with a beta in the space of a vernacular based gaming platform in early 2018. We raised our seed capital from Kalaari and early this year we raised $5MM in Series A, led by Kalaari. It is my second venture, after Zostel and ZO Rooms, which was a budget hotel aggregator – a platform solving for un-utilised inventories of budget hotels and creating standardisation. ZO Rooms was a Tiger Global funded venture and the second-largest player in the space.
2017, was a very interesting year for the country. Jio created a great infra that gave access to smartphones and the internet to 300 million people from Tier 2- Tier 5 cities of truly vernacular Bharat for the first time. This was truly a mobile-first audience, spending 45 minutes playing games on their phones. However, this massive engagement was not monetised to its potential. Talking of the gaming space over decades, you have the highest engagements and downloads from India, yet India clocks the world’s lowest revenue. In 2018, 20 billion games were installed by 300MM people in India only, that’s 20 games on an average per user. Monetisation fails in India because the country is very low with in-app-purchases. Ad Revenues for this audience is exceptionally low. Then how would businesses make sense?
As a result, gaming studios in India became merely back offices to generate content for the west- those geographies could monetize these assets. We decided to build a platform, a “Netflix for Gaming”, a social arcade app powered by micro-transaction, in your language. Micro-transaction for bite-sized entertainment just made the model very viable and monetisation easy. We were very excited about the fact our players were making their first M&E transaction on the app. Today we have 12MM registered users, spending 55 minutes on the App per day on an average. 90 per cent of our users are from T2-T5 cities, playing from 10,000, cities, towns, and villages across India. Our App is in 10 languages, and 80 per cent of our audience is playing in Non-English.
My co-founder, Saumya, a masters in Psychology, was also leading growth for ZO Rooms and was earlier a part of The Times Group. Today we are a team of 40 super ambitious people. Our team has people from top product and tech companies globally. An interesting fact, we were just a 9-member team when we raised our series A.
What is the catch of earning real cash by playing casual games? Will you share the business model?
The only big gaming company so far has been Dream11 and we are truly inspired by how they approached the space. Dream11 has truly shown the Indian Startup ecosystem how to solve for unit economic positive business from day 1 and build great value. We took on that ethos to build a micro-transaction based gaming platform. The model was immediately adopted by the T2-T5 audience who were today making 175MM-180MM micro-transactions on the platform every month. This suddenly made the loss-making game assets into profit-making assets, thereby uplifting the entire ecosystem. On WinZO, the games immediately saw a 100X spike in their revenues.
You can call our platform, WinZO, ‘Netflix of Gaming’, in its true sense. We aggregate third party games on our platform that would eventually have a common layer of social and money is flowing through.
This vernacular platform is not only personalised for your language but also pushes the most relevant content to the end-user (recommendation engine), making content discovery very easy. This truly solves for the mobile-first, first-time smartphone users. The platform allows players to participate in tournaments for games such as Quizzes, Carrom, Cricket, Chess, and so on. The platform takes platform fees. With this model of micro-transaction, we could bring people in tier two/three/four/five to the digital grid, and they make their first-time media and entertainment transaction on our platform, this is a revolution in itself to win the trust of those who have never made digital payments. We have one million bank accounts linked to our platform.
The revenues on the game started becoming 100x of what it was originally before they plugged on in this model. We have 70+ Games and at this scale, we could say the product could reach masses and the model works. We had set up a fund of $1.5 million for game developers in India, basically to improve the supply side, to support the creation of great content for our end users. This announcement attracted small and big developers from across the globe to India. Developers from Africa, Southeast Asia, Korea, they were intrigued, tried and saw different revenues on their game in India. With our past experience with Zostel and ZO rooms, we pretty much know how to solve for revenue maximisation for an under-utilised asset, that’s what we did with ZO Rooms for the budget hotels.
Does the player have to give any token money to play games or register to the platform?
WinZO is entirely based on the concept of bite-sized entertainment backed by microtransactions, where users can put in as low as Rs.2 to play games. The Idea behind promoting microtransaction is to build a stable monetisation model in the mobile gaming industry. This would facilitate the creation of quality gaming content for the Indian audience.
Is the platform accessible only on mobile? What about other devices?
We have to build WinZO keeping the 300MM mobile-first audience. 99 per cent of our audience is on android and accesses the product through their smartphones.
Do you think cloud/online gaming platform is the next big thing for the gaming industry? Why?
The rapid digital consumption in India is imperative for the growth of the Gaming industry. As per the latest report by KPMG on media and entertainment landscape 2019, gaming is growing at a rate of 41.6 per cent.
This highlights how gaming has changed the contours of the entertainment industry and the onus lies majorly on the easier availability and affordability of smartphones and cheap data rates in India. Today on average a user spent around 55 minutes on mobile phone playing games. The three key segments of online gaming, which have seen engagement include – real money games (RMG), mobile-centric/casual games and e-sports.
Are there any in house games that are available on the platform?
We are not a gaming studio, we are a platform that works in partnership with studios and small game developers to take their content to the audience in Bharat. Our personalisation engine and our scalable monetisation model makes it super attractive to the game developers to push their content on our platform.
What has inspired you to initiate a gaming console, where developers from around the world can connect, publish and earn?
With the WinZO Developers’ Console, we aim to support the game developer community by providing an alternative monetisation method for their existing games directly and help them earn 100x from the moment the game gets approved on the platform. This comes only a few months after WinZO announced its fund of $1.5MM that was set up to support the gaming community globally. The game developers will be able to unlock a host of features provided by WinZO Games for higher retention, increased reach, premium user acquisition and branding.
Does the developer have to give any token money to publish games or register to the platform?
No. It’s actually the opposite! We want the game developers to earn revenue out of their games! WinZO is just a way to monetise your assets better. The platform is simple and effective in tracking metrics and data such as the revenue generated, game sessions, unique users, user feedback, and much more for the published games. Developers can register and create their profile and get a unique ID to submit their game for approval. To further ease the process, WinZO is also providing integration kit and documentation for developers. Once the game is uploaded developers will be able to monitor the revenue the game earns through a multipurpose dashboard.
What audience can expect from the platform?
We at WinZO are constantly evolving and building a one-stop entertainment solution keeping in mind the audience of ‘Bharat’. We are focusing on creating a seamless experience for our users and adding quality and engaging games for our gaming enthusiasts. We have games across all genres and the platform experience is personalised for each user.
What are the challenges you have faced in the Indian gaming industry?
We foresee more opportunities than challenges in the mobile gaming industry in India today. India is steadily moving towards value-driven consumption, with an increased focus on local development. Earlier the challenges were restricted to limited local content and game development and stable monetisation model; however, with WinZO we are solving the issues and providing an all in one entertainment app, localised for Indian users.
What is your goal for 2020?
By 2020 we aim to add 300+ games in 15+ languages on the platform, expand our user base from 12 million now to 100 million by 2020, connect with game developers from India and around the world to bring the best gaming content in India. We aim to solve for a great mind share in Bharat.