Casual to serious: The effects of the lockdown on gamers

As we self-isolate, we are seeing an increase in both participation and viewing in gaming. Reports from Verizon show gaming usage went up 75 per cent in the week after quarantine went into effect (Verizon Usage Report, March 2020), and on the 15 March, the gaming platform Steam hit an all-time high – with 20 million online concurrent users and 6.2 million in game (Steam Stats Figure, March 2020). Twitch has also reported a 10 per cent increase in viewership week on week and YouTube Gaming is up 15 per cent (StreamElements and Report, March 2020). Casual games have always been a very popular leisure activity.  Initially this was the only category through which gaming companies made money. The segment has further expanded according with the increased affordable smartphone penetration  and cheap data connection , resulting the longer life cycle games more accessible to users. In conversaion wih AnimaionXpress,  Paytm First COO Sudhanshu Gupta shares “With the advent of esports gaining popularity, users not only play these games for fun but also graduate into pro players by improving their skills and participating in competitions. Moreover, gaming which was assumed to be a solo activity has started becoming more social and spectator friendly. With more investments coming into the industry by way of high-quality tournaments, organisers, higher prize money and sponsors, both publishers and users taking a keen interest in such games.” It is obvious the change in number of casual gamers and the revenue  earned depends on the behaviour change of the gamers. Many gamers who used to take gaming as a leisure activity today they are taking it with a tad bit f seriousness. Not only that they are aiming to take gaming as a career option and this transition of gamers interest has been visible in the gaming tournaments and  esports. As  Gupta shares, “We have seen two transitions during the lockdown. Firstly, a lot more users have been onboarded into playing games as it became a popular option of entertainment within a limited set. In fact, in the peak of lockdown, we had more than 1.5 lakh users joining our platform daily. Secondly, we witnessed a section of the casual gamers graduate to pro levels and more serious gaming. While Ludo is a popular casual game, we had more than 1 lakh users participating in our Ludo tournament, and the various esports tournaments we have done have broken records in terms of participation in the country already.” The rapid expansion of an already growing audience stems largely from the casual gamers. These are the people turning their console on to kill a few hours here and there, but who wouldn’t label themselves as ‘gamers’ but today they are slowly stepping into the stone to earn money through their gaming skills . According to  Gupta “Casual games always contribute to > 95 per cent  of the country’s gamers in terms of the number of users and ~ 50 per cent in terms of revenues. During the pandemic, casual games have grown by a minimum of 25 per cent across genres spanning from battle royales to simpler multiplayer board games like Ludo. On our platform too, over 85 per cent  of the gamers engage with casual games with Ludo being the most popular choice. Post the lockdown, while there’s been a slight dip in time spent per user, we have not seen any significant drop in the number of users. On the other hand WinZO co-founder Saumya Singh Rathore have noticed that  “surprisingly the lockdown led to an uptick in metro traffic on our platform indicating this category of audience is also getting hooked to casual games. There was a 3x increase in game plays and 30 per cent higher traffic.” With more time inside and a lack of physical, social connection, it is no new that ‘casual gamers’ are looking for their connections elsewhere, by increasing their time online. Rather than turning on their console every few weeks, they are finding themselves playing or viewing every day. They are connecting with friends and building new relationships through games and challenges – immersing themselves in a community that is there all the time and easy to access.   WinZO have also noticed that due to the country lockdown substantial users are joining them from Hindi speaking belt (UP, Bihar, MP, Delhi, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh). They also have a significant footprint in the other regions of the country as well as with users from Maharashtra, Gujarat, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. According to WinZO games such as Candy Match, Bubble Shooter, Carrom and Ludo are actively participated games on their platform and  have also observed  1.5x boost in gameplays by our female players on the platform.As the number of users increased and retained post lockdown it is expected that the gaming industry will continue to grow more in the coming years and this results that casual gamers are taking gaming seriously after their continuous practice during lockdown. Thus gaming has become lifestyle today for many. This has may be changed the size and nature of the gaming community for good. In addition, it has expanded an already growing audience, normalised gaming as a mainstream cultural passion point and helped to dispel myths about what it means to be a casual gamer.