The online gaming industry in India is worth Rs 21 crore, according to a report published by IMRB International on behalf of the Internet and Mobile Association of India. Just as is the case in more developed markets, the school and college-going youth in the age group of 17-25 have been identified as the key drivers of this segment.
According to the report, online gaming is defined as ‘Gaming that requires the use of a PC and Internet connectivity, either played online or downloaded, and played online later, capable of supporting either single or multiple players, where the player(s) is in India’.
At present, most of the revenue in this segment is from organised cyber cafés (Rs 12.17 crore) and from subscription-based revenue (Rs 6.6 crore). The contribution of advertising (Rs 2.24 crore) is currently low, but the report observes that it could go up over the next two-three years, similar to developed gaming markets such as the US where it accounts for close to 40 per cent.
Almost 20 per cent of this revenue (Rs 4 crore) currently accrues directly to international players not based in India. It is expected that over the next two-three years, this proportion would go down as more Indian gaming portals come up and establish their presence by providing localised content.
Currently, most are on a free model and are looking at advertising revenues to sustain the first phase of growth. There are plans to introduce monthly subscriptions or subscriptions to higher levels as users become more comfortable. The study also reveals that at this point in time, most Indian gaming portals are evaluating various alternative strategies for long-term monetisation. “Most portals acknowledge that advance advertising options such as in-game placements will take some time to enter the lexicon of mainstream advertisers, most of who are just beginning to experiment with online advertising,” the communiqué noted.
The Indian online gaming market is rather miniscule, as compared to developed gaming markets like Korea, China, Japan and the US. But the growth is a sure indicator of the vast commercial and social potential of the segment.
Commenting on the study, Dr Subho Ray, President, IAMAI, said, “Online gaming is at a very nascent stage in India. Our aim in conducting the study at this early stage was to bring to light the current status. We believe that early interventions can enable the industry to achieve maturity in a shot span.”
He added, “Online gaming is one of the major drivers of Internet adoption and use, and it is necessary that this segment is given all the necessary encouragement that it deserves.”
According to Ray, there are three broad issues that could act as impediments to the progress of this segment: the negative perception of gaming, especially online gaming among parents; the poor enabling infrastructure, including connectivity and hardware constraints; and recognition of the importance of this segment in increasing the penetration of Internet by the government. It would be a great advantage to the gaming community in India, for example, if online gaming were to be declared as ‘e-Sports’ and all the advantages that accrue to sports currently are extended to online gaming as well.