Gaming an Insider's Perspective on the Indian Gaming Industry

Hrishi Oberoi, Founder & CEO, Photon Tadpole Studios An avid entrepreneur and a techygeek, Hrishi comes with varied experience in the field of technology and digital innovation

In early 2018, Nazara submitted their draft offer document to SEBI in preparation for an IPO later that year. This is a significant step in the gaming industry in India considering that it's the first IPO filed in India for a gaming company in any category. We've been looking at a 'hockey stick' moment in the industry for over 15 years, the inflection point so to speak, but the truth is that we always will be. Not to say that the industry has not seen tremendous growth in that time, on the contrary, we've seen some of the highest CAGRs in this sector over the past 5 to 7 years than we have seen in any subsector of the tech industry but nothing where the retail investor will get up and say "that was the turning point". Because the truth is that the growth will always be quite steady with some amounts of anomalies along the way, but nothing that looks like one seminal moment of inflection. Rather, a collection of on and off moments will combine to show a significant growth overall, which arguably is a much better(and more stable) way to grow than a single 'hockey stick' moment.

In 2017, we saw a 300% increase in downloads of games from the App Stores(Google and Apple) and close to a 150% increase in revenues accordingly. Jio entering the market in late 2016 now contributes to almost 40% of overall data usage for downloading of mobile games from these stores. Demonetization has led to a higher adaption of digital spending and more than a higher acceptance of spending for digital content, including digital games. Game developers and publishers in this space have consequently seen significant growth due to these factors over the past year, with many hitting unbelievable new heights(Ludo King staying at No.1 Top Downloads for almost the entire
year) and therefore turning profitable and creating sustainable businesses in this space. Whereas the current incumbents in the space(i.e. the current Teen Patti game companies) continuing to dominate and grow their revenues, therefore building a war chest to experiment with games like Baahubali: The Game and Alia Bhatt: Star Life. Regardless of the success or failure of these titles, the importance of risking new titles for monetizing in the local market is an important step.

While game developers and production houses stride up to profitability and start taking risks in their content, the external factors are continuing to grow steadily creating more profits in the space and more opportunities along with that

And yet we feel that we can do more. In every other sector in the media and entertainment industry in India, it is local content that dominates the industry like no other. The television industry has long been dominated by the daily soaps which have launched many a channel in this country. In the film industry, Bollywood(and even regional industries in some states) dominate over Hollywood blockbusters by factors of 3x to 5x. Jio looks to consolidate in each of these spaces, music being the latest example with their acquisition of Saavn. Even as the aforementioned television medium looks to be threatened by the streaming services of Hotstar, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, these services are now looking for local content to license and investing in original local content to grow. Even the small animation industry in the country which was very happy getting by with the dubbing of international cartoons like Tom and Jerry, grew its own local heroes in Chhota Bheem and Motu and Patlu who are now the most recognizable characters for kids in the country.

Tapping the Untapped Market
So clearly the space of the gaming industry still seems to be untapped enough to have a long hard look at it. While game developers and production houses stride up to profitability and start taking risks in their content, the external factors are continuing to grow steadily creating more profits in the space and more opportunities along with that. Currently, the top downloaded games charts in India have about 25% of content as local and only 8% of the top grossing games are local. Where as India has already reached the number 1 position in the number of downloaded games from any country, it barely cracks the top 40 as far as monetizing from those downloads. And this is not even considering the possibilities in the broadband space and home gaming (as opposed to mobile gaming), where players like Jio can easily disrupt the space once more. All these seem to be the untapped opportunities in this space. While the game developers and publishers step up to the plate and start taking these risks, as these points start turning from opportunities to growth factors, these factors will then each contribute to those on and off moments for steady growth as opposed to single moment inflection points. The future certainly looks bright.