Sports games are primed to take off in India: Paul Jackson, Akamai EMEA

Jackson, senior manager at Akamai EMEA’s media industry strategy team, speaks about the factors that drive gaming in India, rise of PUBG and the categories of games that are likely to succeed in 2020

e4m by Neethu Mohan
Published: Feb 26, 2020 8:32 AM  | 6 min read
Paul Jackson

Online gaming in India is on the rise. According to KPMG-IFSG India Sports Gaming report, revenues are expected to grow at 22 per cent CAGR from FY18-FY23. Mobile phones are the most preferred device amongst online gamers, with 85 per cent accounting for mobiles as their preferred device.

 Paul Jackson from Media Industry Strategy Team, Akamai EMEA and Industry Evangelist spoke to exchange4media on the factors that are driving the growth of gaming industry in India, spending capability trends, the popularity of PUBG, and categories of games that are most likely to succeed in 2020.

 Speaking about the factors that are driving the growth of the gaming industry in India, Jackson said, “There are more and younger consumers who are typically drawn towards gaming. Earlier an individual had to buy a gaming PC or a gaming console. Now, with a decent smartphone, you can play good online games. The mobile handsets have decreased the barriers for online game players and are the driving force of the online gaming industry. The availability and accessibility to these devices have taken the gaming industry by storm and also making the gaming industry change their business model -- from making a player buy an expensive game for $60 to ‘here's a free game, once you start playing, there may be some things you want to customize is an option for you to pay $1 or $2 to do those things’. So again, the barrier to entry has come so down.”

 India was generally not known to have a lot of players with spending capability. What is the reason for this changing trend? Jackson pointed out: “Classically, in mobile gaming, 90 per cent of players never paid anything at all and other 7-8 per cent would pay between $1- $5 during the lifetime of playing, and basically game companies survived on what they call whales, (players who spend a great deal on in-app purchases).

 “So, you know, certainly, there are some crazy numbers in some of the East Asian markets, people spending hundreds, thousands of dollars in free games. The spending habit is changing and is getting better, we're still unlikely to see everybody paying. But I think we will get to the point where maybe 25 per cent of players pay something and 10 per cent of those pay quite a bit. And then you still have the whales. The payments gateways are getting much more flexible. You can do advertising-supported to reduce some of those costs, you can do microtransactions, and you can do subscription services. For example, Apple Arcade-game-centric subscription service. The service is an all-you-can-play, buffet-style selection of games available for a set monthly price. The options like these are drawing more people who will eventually give you money.”

 Gaming is quickly catching up in India, as an example PUBG and PUBG mobile have completely turned live streaming around. Content creators are starting to earn from their games, live streams and the Indian audiences are hungry for more.

 Narrating his observations on the growing popularity of PUBG in India, Jackson said,” PUBG falls into that battle royale genre, which is popular everywhere. The games in this category like Fortnite and Apex Legends are PC or console games. PUBG has been the first game that's really pushed for the mobile and as we were saying earlier on, that's where the businesses are in India. We have got a huge audience of game players with capable phones and this is the first chance they've had to play a battle royale type game. So that's why it's had such a draw.”

 According to Jackson, if the gaming industry can regulate itself and present a responsible face to the government, then you handle a lot of issues faced by the gaming industry.

 “We always advocate for self-regulation because age control checks, implementing things which stop players playing after a certain amount of time, or make people take breaks, things like that, or police their communities very thoroughly to stop abuse or stalking is the optimal way of doing it, even then there's no guarantee that there won't be a highly publicized incident or a campaign from a pressure group to introduce regulation. The industry just has to cope with that as best it can. I used to look at the gambling markets, and it was very much like that. There's a lot of gray markets, where the government doesn't specifically prohibit gambling. So we came into the picture. The gaming industry should police ourselves.”

 One of the biggest challenges in the gaming industry are time and expenses. Some games are expensive to develop, case in point Halo or Call of Duty. “These games can cost up to $100 million and take years to develop. After you spending that much, these games can also sink without a trace. Gaming companies do what Hollywood studios do – a lot of sequels, reboots and non risk-taking,” he said

 It all boils down to the financial markets that are publically listed, according to Jackson: “That means $50 million which is not going to come in this quarter is going to come in next quarter, which is why game stocks are so variable. That's one of the key challenges. The other challenge is platforms.”

 Jackson also feels that India is a fertile ground for sport games. “They are primed to take off in India,” he observed.

 Speaking further on the technologies that will define the gaming industry in the country he said, “At the moment, the platforms are fairly stable. The gaming industry is relatively conservative. They're fairly conservative in terms of embracing new technologies, new platforms. The mobile devices, games consoles will continue to evolve. There is another generation of console games that are evolving, we do see those people who start on a mobile and then decide they just aren't getting the full gaming experience will move to a game laptop, particularly for those eSports. Most eSports games are on PC. The companies involved will stay the same largely aside from new companies that will emerge out of the local development scene of the local publishing scene. And the games will change genre slightly but will stay inside the real changing technologies. As I alluded to earlier on, 5g on mobile gets past a lot of those restrictions in terms of bandwidth. And potentially, like latency that stops truly good mobile experiences will take a long time to come and cloud gaming will happen, but it'll take a long time and it will take them an especially long time in markets which have poor broadband infrastructure or ironically, large populations trying to use the same service. So it will get there but it will take a long time.”

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