The gaming market in India, where a third of its population belonging to Gen-Z, is expected to grow to $3 billion by 2023 from the current $1.2 billion. Currently, India has around 365 million mobile gamers and their numbers are expected to grow rapidly.

The significant increase in gaming engagement levels amid the pandemic implies that the gaming industry has been a Covid-19 beneficiary. With the growing interest in gaming and an expanding ecosystem of professional gamers and viewers, industry experts expect even e-sports is likely to follow the same growth path as traditional sports.

App downloads

An analysis of app downloads during Covid-19 showed a 20 per cent increase in games downloaded from the iOS App Store whereas the Android Play Store witnessed an increase of 51 per cent in game downloads between the second quarter of 2019 and the second quarter of 2020.

“In India, the ecosystem has upgraded with 4G mobile networks, in conjunction with low data costs, rising smartphone penetration, and Covid-19, so mobile gaming is thriving,” a report by CLSA, an independent research firm, said.

The report accessed by BusinessLine said that for many years, the growth of digital services was subdued due to a lack of Internet access, high cost of smartphones, high data prices, and non-existent digital payment infrastructure.

“With soaring digital adoption, multiplying online population, affordable smartphones, and low data rates are drivers for the growth of India’s online gaming industry. There has been a significant rise in the personal computer (PC) and console gaming in India, though these are not as popular as mobile games in the country,” Deepti Chaturvedi, an analyst at CLSA, said in the report.

Top players

According to the report, India’s top mobile gaming players include Nazara (which has partnerships like Airtel eSports Tour for PUBG mobile), Dream 11, Games24x7, Paytm First Games, Mobile Premier League and JioGames. Nazara is also slated for an initial public offering and the company is Ebitda-positive and has invested more than ₹300 crore in gaming in the past five years. It has raised ₹100 crore at a valuation of $365 million.

Similarly, Dream 11 is a $1-billion unicorn backed by Tencent, sponsored 2020 Indian Premier League. Games24x7 is backed by Tiger Global and its portfolio spans skill-based and casual games.

Paytm First Games, a part of Paytm, has 300 games and gaming community of 45 million. JioGames, which is a part of RelianceJio and MediaTek, has launched a ‘Gaming Masters/eSports’ event and are partnering with Microsoft to bring Microsoft Cloud to India, the report mentioned.

Global gaming

The report said that at $166 billion, global gaming is among the fastest-growing segments of the media sector. Mobile gaming is now $74 billion ($41 billion in 2016). Due to competitive online engagements, it has gained from stay-at-home and is a key Covid-19 beneficiary, she said.

In China, e-gaming also benefits from 5G with premium games and enhancing network. In India, with the games themselves and online experience improving, gamers not only want to watch live events but also want to participate in competitions offering big prize money, the report said.