Why is India Lagging Behind in Game Publishing?

Gaming in India has always been prevalent, so much so that it has caused the Mahabharata in the “Dwapara Yuga” (around 3137 B.C) when a game of “Chausar” turned sour between the Kauravas and the Pandavas. Games are always used as a tool to develop motor skills, improve concentration, and stamina. Over the years, the basic nature of games has changed from playing in a field – where you fight not only your opponent but also Mother Nature – to gaming parlours where you play in a dark A.C. room with neon lights around you.

Indians were introduced to the world of gaming in the mid-90s, which was too late because, during this time, the West was already organizing World Championships for Space Invaders, Sonic, and Street Fighters.

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The 90’s kids never had the opportunity to make a career in the gaming world because no one was aware of the technology during those years. It was the early 2000s during which the IT boom happened in India and it started producing world-class developers. This IT boom sowed the seeds for the next generation to make a career in gaming and by 2010, India had about 25 game publishing companies. Initially, these firms were taking small contracts, designing the environments, and developing small background characters.

According to the report of KPMG in 2019, India has now 275+ companies that develop games. This incredible rise in the number of companies from 25 to 275 can be accredited to the emergence of smartphones and cheaper data rates.

According to the report published by TUNE, 84% of the Indian smartphone users play at least one game regularly. These numbers alone are enough to motivate Indian game developers. But another number which might discourage them is that the ARPU (average revenue per user) in India is among the lowest in BRICS $0.78. This implies that we, as Indians, don’t like to pay for playing games on phones. When it comes to developing full-fledged AAA games in genres like FPS, MMORPG, and Battle Royale, it can cost a fortune even with all the resources. Just to give you a perspective, Crytek almost went bankrupt even after selling more than one million copies of a game called Crysis 3; there are chances that your game might fail too. 

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To check the ever-increasing cost of developing a game, companies have developed open sources like Unity. This will help the company to hire freelancers and cut the costs. Also, Steam has now developed an online marketplace where one can publish their games. If players like the games, they will buy it and you will get instant money. This step from Steam also helped to bring down the cost of games because huge marketing expenditure is saved in the process. 

India also has poor infrastructure when it comes to developing the game. The same goes for players. Indian players are mostly present on smartphones and the major reason behind that are the Indian parents who just hate the idea of buying a ₹40K gaming console. On the other hand, they might spend ₹50K on a computer because the word gaming; is not directly associated with it. Moreover, players who have smartphones have small to mid-range devices with RAM of up to 2-3 GB and ROM of up to 8GB on average. Therefore, you might have seen the lite; versions of many apps.

COD War Zone

After the entrance of the most infamous game PUBG (now banned), India has seen a sudden spike in Battle Royale games, which motivated games like Garena Free Fire & amp; Call of Duty to join the race. These games are also known as freemium and players can do all sorts of customization which will become the revenue stream for the companies. 

This has motivated Indian game developers to develop their own games. If you go to the Play Store/App Store, you can find all sorts of games like Chhota Bheem (Role Playing), Truck/Parking Simulator (Simulation), Dream 11 (Fantasy Sports) and many more. Another stream that Indian developers recently unearthed is RMG (Real Money Games) games. According to Naavkiran Singh, founder of Baazi games, the gaming industry has become a market of more than ₹1000 crores and more than 100 organizations are operating in the RMG area in the last ten years. 

RMG can either turn a single-player game into the multiplayer platform using a leader board system or two people can simply compete simultaneously in the single-player game and the one with the high score wins the match just like Space Invaders in the late ’80s or early ’90s. Also, Indian players belonging to middle-class families never want to deposit money in higher denominations. On the other hand, they are very comfortable with depositing money with a smaller denomination like ₹5 or even as low as ₹1. This RMG gives them the financial freedom to deposit whatever amount they want to deposit to play the games. Also, with the introduction of UPI and wallet system, it is easier to deposit money into RMG accounts. This freedom along with the easy-to-play games make the RMG into hyper-casual games. Rummy and even MPL, Pocket League, and Baazi are purely legal because they test players' endurance and analytical skills; one cannot simply win through sheer luck every time. If player A is better than player B, he will win 99 games out of 100. An average player spends 55 minutes on the smartphone playing games – this gives these hyper-casual game developers a whole new market. 

The market in the West has already reached the saturation point. The new upcoming market is concentrated in the Asia-Pacific region along with the other developing countries. That is why major firms like UBISOFT set up their offices in Bangaluru and Pune. Also, according to Xpheno, there are more than 20,000 jobs available in the gaming industry ranging from packages of ₹3 lakhs to just above ₹40 lakhs. Even companies like Amazon and Microsoft are buying and even developing streaming platforms for the players. 

The Indian gaming community is yet to see a full-fledged AAA title from the Indian company. Also, the environment with the ban on Chinese games favours the Indian game developers. With the presence of platforms like Unity or Unreal Engine and market place like Steam which promotes Indie game developers, now it is up to the Indian start-ups and game developers whether they will be able to milk the cow or not.

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