Adopt, Adapt, Adept: India’s Growing Gaming Industry
India is currently going through what can very easily be described as a gaming boom. With huge increases in audience size stemming from more widely available devices and faster/better internet connectivity and more active developers currently working in-country than ever before, a whole new world of opportunity is opening up within India. For the early adopters out there, the best time to enter the Indian market was five minutes ago.
For those still considering the move, now is the time to be watchful and start considering how to take your first steps! To truly understand the scale of the impact India currently has within the games industry – and will grow to have even more so in the coming years – let’s example a couple of important statistics.
Crunching the Numbers
Earlier in 2020, India was listed as having 365 million active gamers. Most of these are gamers playing through mobile devices. With overall Indian smartphone and smart device users totalling 450 million, we can immediately draw a clear line between smart device ownership and gamer status. Considering just over 80% of all device owners are choosing gaming media, the potential for new gamers year on year is exponential as devices become more affordable and widespread.
For a little clearer context on the figure above, that 365 million places India second only to China in the rankings for largest mobile gaming audience globally. In terms of potential revenue, the gaming and esports market trends research body Newzoo estimated that in 2020 alone the Indian gaming market will generate more than $868 million (USD) and go on to elevate to a compound annual growth rate of up to 22%.
But things aren’t just growing on the player side. India has skyrocketed as a hot new location for developers too. Development companies and games start-ups within India have grown from only 25 in 2010 to more than 300 at present, and more continue to pop up all the time. For those with an eye for what the future can hold, this clearly signals one thing: opportunity.
The Time is Now
Though the revenue and income figures within India are still far lower than other top mobile gaming markets like China, Korea, or the USA, there is a clear and present opportunity for developers and publishers looking to expand audience, relocate to new operations locations, or otherwise diversify their portfolio. Almost entirely under the radar, gaming in India has gone from cult status to a sleeping giant in just under ten years. With this unexpected growth resulting mostly from native ingenuity and ad-hoc international investment, there is no telling what the next few years may hold for India if the wider gaming industry starts to pay attention.
Gaming is becoming an inherent part of Indian culture too. In 2018’s Asian Games, Indian gamer Tirth Mehta took home the country’s first the bronze medal for gaming (competing in the Hearthstone category), establishing India as a real player on the global competitive esports roster. Esports at large has also been booming within India, with up to 4 million active and casual viewers throughout the country tuning in for Indian and Asian esports events and game streams.
This combination of technical skill and innovation with cultural adoption is a clear sign of great things soon to come from the country.
Biggest Areas of Opportunity
As mentioned above, the mobile games sector is where the rawest potential in the Indian games market lies. In September 2019 battle royale phenomenon PUBG Mobile was India’s most in-demand game with a staggering 100 million downloads. In the time since, Garena’s Free Fire: 3volution has eclipsed that with over 500 million downloads – making up 16% of all new players to the game worldwide in the first quarter of 2019 alone.
Hovering just below mobile gaming within India as regards downloads are casual and online gaming. These are powered by the country’s culture of internet and cyber café use with reports claiming up to 40% of all customers utilising cafés for gaming. This is, in itself, where perhaps the biggest challenge for India lies in becoming a major player on the global stage. With fewer PCs and consoles per capita, the country is at a disadvantage when it comes to accessing AAA or single-platform only titles.
Despite this, there is still room for major adoption in this area too. With the opening up of cross-platform play and accessibility thanks to systems like Google Stadia and Xbox Game Streaming, Indian gamers will soon be able to take full advantage of AAA non-mobile titles too through their mobile devices (though, it is worth noting, India is not currently listed among the 22 regions Xbox Game Streaming will be available to on its September 15th launch).
Making the Transition
The question developers and publishers should be asking at this point is ‘how can I start preparing for the Indian market?’. For the most part, the hard work is done. Games are created and the audience already exists. But sometimes a little consideration and cultural appreciation is needed to fully penetrate a new market. Among the biggest considerations, of course, isn’t whether the games will be accessible to gamers but whether gamers will be able to understand them.
Localization and cultural adaptation are crucial to consider when approaching a new audience. A player’s experience is what’s most important to them when playing and so the biggest challenge in fully immersing them in the game is ensuring they can understand it fully through their own native language and cultural norms. Careful cultural translation of all gaming assets (from in-game text and dialogue right up to full voice-over recording) are crucial in establishing a foothold within a gaming culture and those who go the distance in a fully-resonant adaptation for the market will be the ones who reap the most in the long term, in terms of both reputation and revenue.
Equally, preparing the market with a strong player support and community management presence or focus testing campaign is key too in ensuring players their voice is being heard and that their experiences are valuable within the games they love.
The audience is ready and waiting, and they are hungry for more games. Now is the time to answer their call.