Where is real money Poker heading post COVID-19 lockdown?

The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent country-wide lockdown has affected many facets of Indian society, including the gaming industry. When  1.3 billion people went on nationwide lockdown the gaming space changed completely. Publicis Groupe India reported that gaming saw a 41 per cent increase in time spent in March. According to findings of the research firm Niko’s series of interviews – a 21-year old male who mentioned that he used to play games for around two hours per day before the lockdown. He now plays between four-six hours per day due to the lockdown. Ludo King, PUBG Mobile, Clash of Clans, and Teen Patti and Online Poker are among the popular titles that gain more playtime during the lockdown. Growth story of Indian real money Poker Online Poker which involves real money gaming and sheltered under game of skill umbrella, has experienced the Covid 19 growth surge tremendously like Rummy. Speaking with few Indian poker industry players like Spartan poker, PokerDangal and 9stacks we have figured out due to house arrest boredom and urge of earning extra cash in lockdown has driven the poker players to play more real money gaming (RMG) in lockdown.Thus it has not only boosted new user rates, download rates but also impacted DAU rate. 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. Spartan Poker has observed a downward trend in terms of volume and spend around the lockdown period as compared to the time before the lockdown. “Since there is a considerable drop in ARPU, Spartan Poker plans to compensate by aggressively acquiring more users. In addition, with the analysis of the past three months, we have been trying to leverage this outcome through project restructuring and existing operations to provide the best experience to all the gamers,” said Spartan Poker founder and managing director Amin Rozani. As mentioned earlier users want to engage with platforms that are not only a source of entertainment but also rewarding their time and effort in lockdown so they landed on RMG in lockdown. Experiencing the same PokerDangal CEO and founder Varun Mahna says, “The challenge with RMG gaming platform is the disposable income of the users. As the economy suffers there is a trickle effect on all the sectors. An operator has to provide the best service during these times to ensure the users are engaged on the platform and the user acquisition also plays a very important role in a time like this.” Taking advantage of the players’ interest in RMG 9stacks  launched a number of new promotions, contests, and tech features in the last few months itself to engage the audience said 9Stacks CEO and co-founder Sudhir Kamath. Where it is heading post lockdown? The COVID-19 pandemic, while responsible for deaths and socio-economic problems for India, also created an avenue of opportunities for the gaming industry in the country. More exposure on video games and esports to the general public during the lockdown could lead to the mainstreaming of the industry in India. As Mahna  added “The sector will continue to grow at a rapid pace in the months to come and will become mainstream soon.” Furthermore, the increasing popularity of gaming in the country could also increase the industry’s potential to be recognised and supported by the government. Although many are not able to pursue or attracting any investments in the real money gaming space, because “ the spike in numbers experienced over the past three months will go back to normal (it already has more or less), Rozani said. Therefore Spartan Poker is aiming to focus on operational standpoint by incorporating better technology for their communications, as a lot of their staff will be working from home over the next four to six months. Whereas on the other hand Kamath believes coronavirus lockdown will be going to have a lasting long-term impact on online gaming. “We think that the gaming hours would hardly vary by one to two hours as it is right now, since the new users will become more acquainted with the online gaming features. Overall, we think while the current 100per cent increase in usage and revenue is transient, there will probably be a lasting uplift of 30 to 40per cent for online poker companies,”he added. Since coronavirus pandemic having a catastrophic effect in the entire economy, as the six-member monetary policy committee (MPC) of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) was deeply concerned about the economic wreck that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused, and which is expected to take several years to repair. As long as the gaming industry is concerned the scoring user and DAU numbers might start reflecting on revenue numbers once everyone find ways to face the dawn of new normal.
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