COVID 19 has been actively contributing to the physical isolation of people, especially the younger generation in our country. However, to this ghastly downside there has been an upside in the proliferation of e-Sports which are turning out to be big public gaming events, where thousands of people play, and millions watch them through online streams.
According to the FICCI-EY ‘Playing by New Rules’ report 2021 that focuses on the Indian media and entertainment (M&E) sector, e-Sports grew in the country by 12% in 2020. The report highlights that there was a 90% increase in the number of people playing e-Sports compared to 2019. Also, e-sports in India saw viewership double to 17 million in 2020 as it became available across 14 broadcast platforms.
“Global gaming firms, such as Activision, Garena and Supercell, which publish Call of Duty, Free Fire and Clash of Clans, are lining up to invest in India’s e-Sports ecosystem after PUBG Mobile had to exit late last year due to the Indian government’s clampdown on Chinese or China associated apps,” says the report.
The most attractive thing for e-Sports players today is the multiplayer facility of playing and the possibility of social interactions between the players in a virtual environment. The participants in e-Sports are striving to fill the void in their lives, fulfilling the social need of belonging to a group. Through e-Sports it is being satisfied through communication with or belonging to a team with other players of similar orientation and aspiration. Thus, online games bring people together virtually and provide them a shared purpose.
The virtual presence of spectators caters to the need for socialization and social networking. Even though in physical isolation, it also provides enjoyment, or more precisely the ability to immerse oneself in the content of the game.
Not only are they fulfilling their social need of belonging but as players they are also trying to measure and compare their abilities with other players in the sports oriented competitive spirit. Therefore, it is not surprising to see India ambling it way in its 2020 global ranking and occupying the 16th spot in the e-Sports industry with a total revenue of Rs. 8,000 crores (approximately $1.17 billion).
The e-Sports industry is not just about players playing video games and millions of users choosing to spend their time watching others play video games through live internet broadcasts, referred to as streams. Attached to these streams are streamers.
Streamers are e-Sports enthusiasts serving viewers with daily streams on Twitch or YouTube. Streaming platforms are also acquiring large number of streamers. As there is tremendous growth in e-Sports streaming, many streamers are leaving their day jobs and becoming full-time streamers.
These developments have been facilitated by mobile phone-based gaming and watching games through affordable handsets and data costs. BARC and Nielson report clearly indicates an upsurge in smartphone-based game users during the COVID lockdown and the aggregate revenue reported by e-Sports companies in India was $68 million in 2020 projected to grow at the CAGR of thirty six percent in the next three years. The audience has reportedly grown to 17 million in 2020.
The employment scenario has also been positively impacted. There are opportunities to work as data handlers who manage the latency and connectivity related issues present in a game or as a game developer for writing codes for AI integration into a game, or an in-game commentator who can do voice-overs for different characters present inside a game.
There could be growing opportunities in the hospitality industry .One way of further developing the community, especially In India, could be opening food/beverage serving facilities with social distancing on the theme of e-sports or video games belonging to e-Sports. This would allow e-sports enthusiasts to have a place where they can gather information, share it and watch e-sports, or even organize something on their own. An established e-sports enthusiast base represents the target market.
There are also nearly 100 gaming cafes and less than 1000 non-exclusive cafes. Today, more Indians in the age group of 18 to 24 play video games than go to the movies and global revenues were an estimated $67 billion for console and portable hardware and software.
Recent reports indicate 2.5X surge in traffic post the lockdown, with 150K new users a month. Higher player engagement in most platforms could potentially boost e-Sports value chain, as most sponsors who would usually partner other sports events such as cricket or other major sporting events are considering e-Sports to promote their products.
E-Sport entrepreneurs must consider using platforms like TwitchTV, Microsoft’s Mixer or You Tube– more precisely to stream personal e-Sports related content and to use already popular and proven successful monetization model in the form of subscriptions for access to additional content, as well as donations and digital marketing.
The focus to create and manage e-Sports-related programs, particularly focused on the target market, whose viewers, even though they are familiar with English as a language of communication may prefer vernacular or local language to follow programs. Needless to say, that e-Sports is at an inflection point of breaking out from a niche category opportunity to a blockbuster.
Though all industries faced a major hit due to the Covid-19 pandemic, mobile game advertising revenue jumped by as much as 59% in April 2020 compared to April 2019 as the Covid-19 pandemic led millions of people to spend more time playing video games on their smartphones By Dinesh Gupta
The Covid-19 pandemic has dominated 2020 like nothing else ever before. It took weeks to spread across the world, with global infections exceeding 11 million and deaths well beyond half a million mark so far. Worldwide lockdowns to contain the pandemic spread and fatalities have severely affected daily lives of consumers with majority of businesses impacted severely. IMF’s World Economic Update predicts the world economy to contract by close to 1.9%, with 2021 world GDP projected to be about 6.5% below the pre-Covid-19 projections. Compare this to the Great Recession of 2008-2009 where the world GDP fell by less than 1%, making the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic a crisis like no other with a very uncertain recovery.
The Media & Entertainment industry, like any other industry, is facing unprecedented impact from the spread of pandemic like all other businesses. Ernst & Young’s latest report looks at the impact of Covid-19 on the media and entertainment industry in India where it evaluates the current patterns and compares the pre-Covid-19 consumption patterns with how it can revive based on its strengths.
The report studies the meteoric changes in consumer behavior and consumption, stoppages in content production, cancellation of live sports and events and cuts in advertising spends that are impacting companies across the Media & Entertainment ecosystem. Brands, Media platforms and Media agencies which are struggling to maintain media spends due to operational volatility face severe loss of advertising revenues. Films and Television producers are ailing due to the stoppage of all productions and closure of theatres until further notice. These are truly unprecedented times, or times that no industry could have been prepared to handle. The same report also mentions massive growth opportunities in video gaming, online education, shopping and banking platforms.
Unity Technologies, a Danish-American video game software development company based in San Francisco, released a study that clearly establishes Gaming as one of the very few industries to have witnessed positive and astronomical growth in this pandemic. The study is based on mobile games that use Unity’s monetisation platform that helps over 60,000 game developers make money from over 300,000 game titles.
During the early days of the pandemic, the mobile gaming activity rose 17% in the US alone. Amongst the mobile gamers that watch ads, the average number of ads viewed rose 14% to 3.8 per day
Mobile game advertising revenue jumped by as much as 59% in April 2020 compared to April 2019 as the Covid-19 pandemic led millions of people to spend more time playing video games on their smartphones. This made the ad impressions surge over 57% during the pandemic
In-app purchase revenue growth for mobile games jumped 24% to record highs in March-April 2020 far exceeding numbers typically seen during the holiday period
eCPM (effective cost per mille) for the average ad in a mobile game fell almost 20% in late March 2020 compared to January amid a dip in brand and non-gaming marketing campaigns. As per study, the eCPMs typically decline in the post-holiday period before leveling off in March
The volume of ads and conversion rates increased. The pandemic led to spike in ad revenues and impressions on mobile devices for the gaming category. The jump in ad revenue more than made up for the decline in eCPMs as many marketers suspended or delayed ad campaigns during the pandemic led lockdowns
While the data from Unity Technologies study largely indicates that mobile gaming ad revenue peaked in mid-April before drifting downwards, it may be too early to depict or project actual numbers in May, June & July 2020. There is a high likelihood that the lockdown period will remain encouraging for the gaming industry. As the spread of pandemic is increasingly contained and recoveries dominate, with people leaving their homes, we will witness the numbers falling back to historical pattern that is more regular.
Statista’s Global Digital Market Outlook pegs the digital media market at US$ 172,502 mn in 2020 with a 9.8% year-on-year growth projection. This forecast was adjusted for expected global impact of Covid-19 pandemic. Video Games share with a projected market volume of US$ 92,633 mn and 11.41% growth over previous year dominates the digital media market with a close to 54% worldwide share. This makes the Video Games industry much bigger than Video-on-Demand, ePublishing and Digital Music put together. Majority of the revenues for video gaming are contributed by mobile gaming which is likely to contribute as much as 60% in 2020.
Dinesh is a Director & Co-Founder at Sacom, a tech-based content distribution company that does content licensing, runs content platforms and enables monetisation for some of the top gaming publishers & SVoD apps through digital subscription products in Asia. He can be reached at email@example.com
Gaming may become India’s biggest vehicle to shine as global soft power, says Manish Agarwal, CEO, Nazara Technologies
What is the state of gaming industry in India? How do you see its growth and development in the coming years?
It is phenomenal. India has been fastest growing mobile gaming market by downloads and number of mobile game downloads has doubled in 2016 over 2015 on Google Play. India now stands at the fi fth position in terms of downloads (Source: AppAnnie). This growth will only get better in the coming years but there is a long way to go before the industry competes with Japan, China and US. Therefore, its future will be a mixed bag where quality consciousness will grow and investments will increase
How do you view the CII-organized exhibition of India Gaming Show and its potential?
Indian ecosystem needs massive exposure and knowledge sharing with much evolved gaming ecosystem of Japan, Korea, China, US & UK and other European gaming power houses like Finland and Germany. India needs as many high quality content shows happening in India offering an opportunity to Indian ecosystem to network with gaming industry experts who have seen multiple cycles even in relatively nascent mobile gaming industry. NASSCOM, Pocket Gamer Connect and now CII Gaming show are all great initiatives and I am hoping that these shows will keep growing in size and stature.
In a short period Nazara Technologies has carved a niche in the Indian gaming space? What’s working for Nazara?
Nazara is the fastest growing publisher in 2016. I am personally very satisfied in sowing seeds of great partnership with some of the developers globally and locally and I am confident that this would be a highly satisfying journey to grow while Indian mobile gaming grows at breakneck speed.
In addition to mobile gaming, what are the platforms that have potential for growth?
Smartphones have changed the way in which Indians consume content. We believe interactive content creation apps, videos and gaming would take over all other formats and deep integration with messaging platforms will drive the growth of the entertainment very heavily. We also believe that the way sports is viewed today will change drastically in coming years and it will change from passive viewing to highly interactive viewing with deep personalization for each spectator
How do you see the potential of skilling and employment opportunities in the Indian gaming arena?
Indian gaming could be the biggest vehicle for India to shine as global soft power as mobile gaming has potential to cross global barriers. Hit games not only generate massive revenues for local governments but also create country brand, as is the case with Finland. However, for globally successful game, massive amount of focus needs to be done on creating right skills. For this, we would need courses specifically designed for gaming and partnerships with countries like Japan, UK, Korea to help in creating curriculum and providing teachers.
What kind of policy interventions are needed for gaming?
I think gaming needs a mindset change first at the decision-making levels where it matters. To start with, I think that people who matter need to understand what is gaming and what is its potential. Once we get over the mindset of “how many jobs can this industry create” and believe in soft power which a globally successful IP brings to a country, we can move forward with more meaningful discussion on what needs to be done to make it happen.
Has launch of 4G impacted gaming in India?
The number of 100 million casual gamers in India is set to explode with 4G adoption and is set to cross 300 million mark in next 3 years. In terms of content, global games like Candy Crush, Temple Run, Subway Surfer still dominate the market; however, in the last year, Indian gaming market has seen emergence of multiple local genre based games.