40M new online gamers to emerge soon: Here's why marketers need a game plan for the sector

Experts believe that with smartphones becoming accessible to the masses, gaming will continue to penetrate all age groups

e4m by Shantanu David
Updated: Jan 4, 2022 9:30 AM  | 4 min read

While 2021 had been a disturbing year for a number of reasons, it has been a boon for many tech giants and startups among the many sectors benefiting from increasing digital penetration and internet usage is the country’s gaming industry. 

“The year 2021 has laid down a decent foundation for the future of the Indian Video Games and the esports industry; 2021 can be called the inflection point of Indian Video Games and the Esports Industry,” says Lokesh Suji, Director, Esports Federation of India & Vice President of the Asian Esports Federation (AESF). He added, “For Esports Federation of India (ESFI) our key focus is to ensure that we identify the best of the talent to represent India at Asian Games 2022 (scheduled in the month of Sept 2022 in Hangzhou, China), which have 8 esports game titles to compete for and this time esports is a medal sport. We are already in the finalization stage with a lot of brands who have shown interest to partner up with ESFI for this prestigious event and for the glory of the country.”

Due to its widespread, the homegrown gaming industry has attracted investments and opportunities for a slew of businesses as well as professional gamers. Evaluated at $98bn in 2020, the mobile gaming market is expected to grow to $272bn by 2030, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11% over the period. With respect to the user base, the casual gaming market in India has 420 million users, according to a June 2021 report by KPMG.

Vishwalok Nath, Director, World Esports Cup, notes, “The surge in gaming continued its momentum from 2019 and 2020 while reaching about $534.1 million in revenue. This amounted to a 31.79 percent increase year-over-year. The trend was identical where India saw 339.9 million gamers enter the market making a 21.97 percent increase year-over-year as per a report from analysis firm NIKO.”

Nath says the report also noted that India is currently the fastest-growing market in terms of revenue, gamers as well as ARPU (Average Revenue Per Unit) in the Asia region. He adds, “A formal push or support from the government would go a long way in supercharging the growth of the industry. At the same time, the industry needs to ensure that it serves the gamers and the community and differentiates itself from other elements.”

Given that India is a mobile-first country, with the vast numbers of first-time users first engaging with the internet on smartphones, market forces are also propelling smartphone companies to concentrate on gaming power in their products.

Anish Kapoor, CEO, Infinix Mobile, elaborates, “India’s gaming community is evolving and the country is expected to add 40 million online gamers to emerge as a $2.8-billion online gaming industry. This will present tremendous opportunities for smartphone marketers to tap the sector. With smartphones becoming accessible to the masses, gaming will continue to penetrate all age groups, whether it is the millennials or adult veterans, all will be impacted by this growing trend.”

He adds, “In India, while in-game ads are not popular, game streaming platforms are dominating the industry to drive more audience through the smartphone industry. Smartphone marketers can team up with esports and game streaming leagues to reach out to the vast community of gaming enthusiasts and even pro-level gamers to scale their businesses. The rapid evolution of gaming platforms and also dedicated gaming communities both micro and macro is something marketers need to look out for.”

In his concluding lines, Kapoor says, “While the internet is already the cheapest in India, we as a smartphone company are trying to bridge the gap of quality smartphones and bringing value-for-money devices with the help of first-in-segment technology, to the hands of our last mile customers. These consumers have moved beyond casual gaming and there are more than 80% of committed gamers in India who are spending considerable hours playing games.”

And another market force driving growth is the increase of vernacular across gaming platforms, providing brands with an ever-growing pool of users to engage on a hyper-local level. Abhishek Aggarwal, Co-Founder & CEO, Trinity Gaming, India's gaming talent management company, observes, “Creators who have great command in vernacular languages and can stream in native language making their content more relatable to a classified section of the population is a great format to explore. We are on a mission to build a stronger esports community by supporting these talents. We want our creators to monetize through their passion for esports.” 

Aggarwal notes that Trinity Gaming has continued to support these burgeoning talents while associating them with brands like Truke, CellBell, Coca-Cola, etc. enabling them to monetize. And that of course brings us back to the devices they use.

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