2019: Five reasons why this was the year of gaming for India

Indian gaming industry is spurring the growth story of Indian media and entertainment industry in 2019. This year’s growth story is not only limited to game-creation and profitability but also the increasing fertility of the gaming landscape which has eventually seen the rise of newer avenues in the ecosystem.  Although this year has brought economic slowdown, pulling down India’s GDP growth under five per cent, however the domestic gaming industry continues to leap in 2019 in terms of reach, innovation, global recognition and so on. In India nearly three-fourths of the market is occupied by online and mobile gaming platforms. Online gaming, as a segment, is estimated to be a $1.1 billion opportunity by 2021, according to Google-KPMG. By then, India is expected to have more than 628 million gamers.  In a separate report, the All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) projects that there will be around 300 million online gamers by the end of 2019. “The evolution of digital and online gaming models is leading to a surge in the number of online gaming players over the last couple of years,” AIGF explains. Over the last decade, especially in the last 5 to 6 years, Facebook games like Farmville and Candy Crush have been a rage. Games like Clash of Clans and most recently PUBG, CoD have caught the imagination of the young Indian crowd – extracting hours at length on the interface. The in-app purchases in these games present the developers with great financial viability. NASSCOM data suggests that India’s mobile games market will be worth $1.1 billion by 2020, and number of users projected to become 628 million by then. With this increased headroom for growth, major players in the gaming industry are more willing to invest a substantial amount in the country. Industry big-wigs like Alibaba and AGTech Holdings have already invested in the market. Tencent too has evaluated its opportunities in India. StomStudio partnered with mobile game publisher Gamesbond to create mobile games in India. Considering most of the aspects we have listed  five reasons which we think are responsible for to make this year of gaming: Rise of the fantasy sports : The fantasy sports segment in India, has witnessed a massive transformation since the last two decades of its launch. Indian fantasy sports platforms accounted for 80.62 per cent of all investments until Q1-2019 and  thus  there  has been huge rush of fantasy sports platforms in India. The journey of fantasy sports platform started with Dream11 with the tag as the game of skill and not the game of luck . Despite that the platform has underwent various hurdles to prove that how the gameplay of  ‘game of skill’ is completely different from the ‘game of luck’. As soon as Bombay highcourt gave the clean chit after dismissing the PIL which  claimed that the promoters of Dream11 were encouraging gambling and also not paying Goods and Services Tax (GST), Indian fantasy sports industry kept blooming. Fantasy sports brand Gamezy founder and CTO Prithvi Singh said “We are happy and welcome the decision taken by the Bombay High Court. This move would be an impetus to the fantasy sports market in India. Fantasy gaming users can now continue to enjoy the sport without any apprehensions. The nature of this sport basically arises out of user’s superior knowledge, judgement and attention thus labelling it as skill based games. Additionally, users have protection guaranteed under the Article19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India.” Although before that there were plenty of fantasy sports platforms who have emerged with Dream11 following the game of skill gameply came under uncertainty, post the verdict it was sigh of relief for the platforms. Today from one ( which was Dream11) fantasy sports platform  India now  have emerged into 70 different platforms catering various  games  and not just limited to cricket. Also this year Dream11 has expanded its wings as well in March Dream11, has launched FanCode, an ad-free multi-sport aggregator platform, offering a wide spectrum of content, commerce and community engagement. The platform has already amassed over one crore users. Dream11 CEO and co-founder Harsh Jain said, “It has been fascinating to witness the evolving landscape of Indian sports and the rapid rise of fan engagement. Our latest offering, FanCode, aims to be the single aggregator platform that will connect the evolved sports audience with relevant sports products and services. Under the capable leadership of Colaco and Krishnan , we can expect to see FanCode changing the way an Indian sports fan consumes sports online.” Also this was the year of cricket because of ICC cricket World Cup 2019 and IPL 2019 was around and for Indian fans, cricket is like religion. “WorldCup is a special tournament, all Indians wait for this for four years. Fantasy sport gave these fans an option to express themselves off the field” said fantasy sport game My11Circle head of business, Saroj Panigrah. And thus most of the fantasy sports brands has rolled out various campaigns by investing on celebrity sports ambassadors, tournaments to attract audience. Because of sports enthusiasts and the huge market possibilities many platforms have attracted decent amount of investments as well. This includes Mobile gaming startup Nazara Technologies along with listed casino gaming company Delta Corp, have together invested Rs 40 crore in fantasy sports player, Halaplay Technologies. Also most recently Minneapolis-based fantasy soccer platform Starting 11 receives $5 million dollar investment from Indian investor Brand Capital as we are approaching to the year 2020 which possibly will be the year of soccer because of FIFA World Cup 2020. Game creation This year the game developers have put their best foot forward in the creation of the games with innovative designs, engaging gameplay, attractive interface and so on. From cooking games to war games to VR games the domestic game developers have explored it all. Starting from Green Gold animation have have played the gaming card in 2019 pretty well  with their animated IP Chhota Bheem. Firstly the launch of their new game Chhota Bheem Swachh Bharat Run in collaboration with Nazara technologies  before the republic day.The game was inspired by prime minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. This was a part of Nazara’s Play4Good initiative wherein a mobile game is being used to educate young children with good values to keep their surroundings clean.   Secondly they have rolled out Chhota Bheem Kung Fu Dhamaka game  on Andriod, iOS as well as VR devices in  collaboration with Gamitronics just before the launch of the movie Chhota Bheem Kung Fu Dhamaka . As Green Gold Animation founder and CEO and TVAGA president Rajiv Chilaka stated that with “Kung fu Dhamaka game, our expectation is to set a new benchmark for Indian games.” Speaking of VR games JetSynthesys launched India’s first multiplayer VR cricket game, Sachin Saga VR  along with a VR set. As JetSynthesys vice chairman and managing director Rajan Navani “for the first time in India and around the world, players can experience cricket in VR in physical locations wherever they are, since it’s the most portable and lightweight headset they can carry around and play with their friends. We have seen great consumer feedback so far and these consumers are now craving a new form of gaming which didn’t exist before among millions of gamers in India” Apart from that  the indie gamers  have shown what can be achieved  with proper game designs   taking example  MuktiIn the shadows,YodhaCursed Arena, Bonfire 2 Forsaken, Gamedev Beatdown, Yodha, 1971: Indian Naval Front and many more  have raised the bar in the ecosystem. In addition to that one of the unique expansions around the gaming ecosystem named  Ogre Head Minis were the launch of small games they create in the studio as prototypes and play during their free time just for fun. As the series name suggests, these were small games made in the span of a couple of days or a week by the studio and are fun-sized packages of thrill and entertainment. Also Indian hyper-casual games have taken a platform Pocket League has witnessed 100,000 registrations, with over 20 million game replays and average time spent per user per day of 30 minutes. Pocket League’s co-founder Karan Khairajani shared the journey of hyper-casual games platform has been marvellous. They have launched the hyper-casual game platform Pocket League android app in early November where one can earn real cash by playing hyper-casual games available in the platform. International recognition of Indian indie developers  It has always been a proud moment for all when Indian indie game developers received recognition around the world.  It is very inspiring to witness when an Indian game developer receives international recognition despite all the struggles and the hurdles they face while developing a game. This time at Casual Connect Europe 2019 an Indian Indie studio Street Lamp Games bagged ‘Best Mobile Game’ award for the game BOMBARIKA designed by Mahesh Athirala. Not only that the game has been nominated for four other awards as  Street Lamp Games CEO and founder Deepak Gurijala expressed “We never expected that we’ll be in the nominations among this tough competition but our game BOMBARIKA end up getting nominated for four awards – Best Game Design, Best Game Art, Best Innovative Game and Best Mobile Game’.” Not only that playbae’s games In The Shadows bagged the “Best Puzzle Game” of 2019 accolade at Tencent Gaming Without Boundaries (GWB) Awards. PlayBae founder Nakul Verma shared “To my extreme surprise, ITS had won the “Best Puzzle Award” beating a lot of unique games in its category. Unfortunately, I could not go to the event to collect the award but Tencent has offered to help in the journeys of developers like me in promotion and development.” Not only that at the GameDaily Connect Asia 2019 In The Shadows was also nominated for the prestigious IndiePrize Awards and was awarded with the Most Innovative Game Title. In addition to that IAF game featuring Abhinandan nominated for ‘Google Award. As part of the 2019 Users’ Choice winners, the official Indian Air Force Android game has been nominated among the top 10 most popular games of 2019. However Call of Duty Mobile grabbed the top spot and won the Users’ Choice award. Although we have mentioned few of them but if the that hardwork everyone  pays off behind creating a game  worth an award hope to see more and more in near future. Also BigCode Games managing director Vaishnavi Palleda being invited as a speaker in Mobile Growth Summit (MGS) 2019 in San Francisco. In fact, she is the only woman entrepreneur representing India alongside top gaming companies across the world. She said “I feel so proud to represent India at the Mobile Growth Summit 2019, San Francisco. It’s a proud moment for our country and also for me to be the only woman entrepreneur. I am very happy and excited to showcase our game from India on global platform, one of the largest summits in the world. I am grateful to MGS 2019, for selecting me as a speaker at the conference.” Innitiatives Game development scene in India is constantly leaping and the Indian gaming enthusiasts are diving into gaming as a viable career option. Games for the wellness of society are one of the areas where game developers have been exploring over the years. Being one of the gaming hubs, Hyderabad has recently launched four-day program  Games for Good: Designing Games with a social impact at T-Hub in the association of the U.S. Consulate General Hyderabad and the Indo-American Centre (IAC). On hand to open the event were U.S. Consul General in Hyderabad Katherine Hadda and Government of Telangana IT Secretary Jayesh Ranjan. The idea of the workshop is to communicate and inspire more video game designers to use their skills in creating video games that address social issues. In a candid conversation, Animation Xpress spoke with U.S Embassy and Consulate India assistant public affairs officer Akash Suri said, “Diplomats are always thinking about how we can get our messages across to people. Countries like India, our messages are often the same as what the Indian government wants to talk about. We also want to talk about trafficking, water rights, water scarcity and so on. We typically might use stuff like film diplomacy or music diplomacy and others but in this case, we thought why don’t we try gaming diplomacy for the first time?” Apart from that Telengana Government has played crucial role and IndiaJoy is the most visible aspect of Telangana’s drive in the AVGC sector. It has a very aggressive AVGC Policy which it drafted  two  years ago in order to attract investments. In addition to the industry beacons, the present Telengana government is playing a pivotal role in supporting and developing the animation industry  with various policies  among which the proposed plan of creating IMAGE Tower which will be “the ultimate destination for animation, gaming and entertainment in the country,” Chilaka expressed. The state policies and the creation of IMAGE Tower will aim to transform the animation ecosystem as it aims to create job opportunities, new investments and the rush of creating more and more animated fresh content. Some of the highlights of other policies are :
  • Reimbursement of GAME production cost for GAMING Companies which has developed online, mobile, console Game upto a maximum of Rs.5 lakhs per Game for one company per annum. (For SC/ST and Women Entrepreneurs – Rs.10 lakhs per game).
  • 25per cent subsidy on lease rentals up to Rs.5 lakhs per annum up to a period of 3 years (For SC/ST and Women Entrepreneurs – 50 per cent subsidy on lease rentals up to Rs.8 lakhs per annum).
  • 100 per cent reimbursement on first transaction and 50 per cent reimbursement on 2nd transaction of stamp duty, transfer duty.
  • Admissibility of Industrial Power category tariff for AVGC Companies.
  • For creating public awareness and creating employment opportunities for Youths in
  • Animation, Visual effects, Gaming & Comics industry, Government will conduct stateof-the-art national/ international scale events, conference and exhibitions on annual basis. Example: IndiaJoy the largest congregation of gaming, animation, VFX, esports and entertainment events in India have attracted delegates from around the world.
  • Participate in national/ international conferences and exhibitions conducted by industry to promote this sector.
Indian Cosplay  With the esports rush in India Costume play or ‘cosplay’ has become an indispensable part of pop culture celebrations in recent times and taking gaming avatars has become one of the biggest trends in the gaming industry as well. The International known as the biggest cosplay competition across the country it was a surreal moment for the Indian Cosplay Community who’ve made their mark in the biggest stage of Dota 2. The International usually features the most talented of the lot. But this year, it was exceptional. For India This was by far the most impressive cosplay contest in the history of TI as two Indians made their mark at TI. Rohit Kailashiya aka Redemption Props took home the ‘Best in Show’ category with his impressive Treant Protector’s Boreal Sentinel Cosplay. Another Indian Cosplayer, Medha Srivastava won the ‘Best Technique’ category with her surreal Legion Commander – Seige of the Artic Hall Cosplay. Like China and South Korea, India is experiencing strong growth in online gaming. With between 35 to 50 million internet users, the country is attracting interest from the online video game industry, which is difficult to hack. To conducted by KPMG, the number of game development companies in India today stands at around 275. This number was a mere 25 in the year 2010.One of the factors driving the growth of the video game market is its large number of cybercafés with more than 100,000 in 2006, 40 per cent of which are used to play online.KPMG indicates that India is already the largest emerging market when it comes to gaming industry. As investments continue to rise, the video game market is expected to grow rapidly in India.