In the last two decades, many interesting game developers and their publishers have appeared in India. For now, their offer lacks epic productions. Titles for mobile devices dominate, transferring well-known board games into the digital world. However, there are also strategies, RPGs, and educational games.
It seems that publishers are trying to get as many people as possible into the world of video games for now. These users may develop an appetite for bolder titles over time.
According to a widely cited joint Google and KPMG report from last year, the Indian gaming market should reach a value of over USD 1 billion in 2021 and break the 300 million player mark. At the same time, according to TRAI, the Indian telecommunications market regulator, over 743 million subscribers have potential access to the Internet. Gaming in India after the Jio revolution is based on young consumers playing on mobile devices.
Video games from India – optimism, and caution
For Indian game developers and publishers, these figures are both very optimistic and cautionary at the same time. Undoubtedly, they are happy that an increasing number of compatriots use this form of entertainment. The prospects for growth in the number of users seem to be the most promising on a global scale.
On the other hand, the profit per player is meager for now, and it is not known if and when it will increase. Although the chairman of the Indian industry organization All India Gaming Federation, Roland Lauder, predicts that the value of the market should increase by 25-30 percent. Per year, many factors are independent of gaming, such as the speed of economic recovery after the pandemic or the number of consumers able to spend on something more than basic needs.
Hence the apparent paradox: despite the populous domestic market, for Indian game developers and publishers, abroad is very important. Especially among the former, who often create custom-made applications, gaming is sometimes only a supplement to the offer of other IT products. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the lists of Indian game developers include such global IT outsourcing giants as Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and Infosys. Slightly less known Zensar Technologies, Hyperlink Infosystem, Fgfactory, or Unanimous Studios can also boast of thousands of employed IT specialists, offices in dozens of countries around the world, or gaming applications numbering in the hundreds.
None of the above application developers have released titles that would win the hearts of global or Indian players. In India alone, until recently, foreign games were very popular, including Chinese publishers, such as PUBG Mobile, who know the specifics of the market from their own backyard, where the Internet can be unreliable, the equipment available to players is not always of the highest quality, and users applications can rarely afford a separate corner for this type of entertainment.
Gametion Technologies is ludo king
This does not mean, however, that the Indians did not get their own game publishers who would create attractive titles. According to a statement based on the data of the Statista portal, Gametion Technologies, with its hit “Ludo King,” is currently reigning above mainly Chinese competitors. The total number of downloads of the title since its release in 2016 is already approaching 0.5 billion worldwide, and the company recently boasted an increase in average monthly users from 110 to 142 million, and daily active users (DAU) increased from 15 to 32 million.
The success of the game had quite one amusing consequence. Many Internet users thought that “Ludo King” – like other valued titles – was a Chinese production. Thus, they were afraid that it would disappear from the AppStore and Google Play stores last September, along with other titles produced behind the Great Wall. The Indian government has banned the use of several hundred Chinese apps of various kinds, citing national security concerns.
However, even this turnout success translates into profits to a moderate extent. As recently admitted by Vikash Jaiswal, the president of the company, last year, the company earned USD 20 million. Importantly, users in countries such as Singapore and Australia brought in the most. Indians most often downloaded a free program simulating ludo, a popular family board game (resembling “Chinese”), but rarely bought paid functionalities.
Just like the competition, the company tries to increase profits by selling additional services while using the program, develops income from ads displayed while using the application, and tries to retain users by offering audio and video chats during the game. In addition, it tries to attract with a shorter, 5-minute version of the game. During the relaxation of pandemic restrictions, hardly anyone can afford a full half hour or 40 minutes of the game.
American capital and native culture
The second Indian publisher, after Gametion Technologies, with the largest number of downloads according to data from the App Store and Google Play, is Games2win. This Mumbai company, present on the market since 2005 and financed in the first years of operation by American venture capital, has not yet acquired a game symbol.
However, its various titles taken together can boast, according to the company’s data, a total of over 175 million downloads and an average monthly number of users of 15 million. It usually offers simple games based on simulations of cricket, which is very popular in India, or car racing simulators. Other games deal with fashion and the stars of Indian cinema (Bollywood). The original production is a parking simulation (“Parking Frenzy”), where the player can test their skills on different vehicles in different countries and weather conditions. It must have enjoyed success since it went through several editions.
The third largest player among Indian publishers in terms of the number of downloads of its products is Moonfrog, founded in 2013. An interesting strategy is described in the company’s mission statement, whose task is to make the use of video games more inclusive in India. So this means such compromises in their design so that the application works flawlessly on simple devices and the built-in multiplayer option.
In addition, there is a fairly frequent use of threads of native culture. In addition to subsequent versions of the popular ludo (this time under the name “Ludo Club”), poker (“Teen Patti Gold”), Moonfrog also proposed, among others, the real-time strategy “Baahubali” (based on a Bollywood film) and “Kalyug” RPG based on mythology Hindu.
Ambani’s profession and minor players
Last year, only the fourth place in terms of the number of downloads went to Reliance Games, the company of billionaire Mukesh Ambani, who is rather used to dominate the markets in which he operates. His Jio company sparked India’s Internet boom.
Reliance Games is also the most global Indian publisher, cooperating with leading studios such as Sony, DreamWorks, and Warner Bros. At least 70% of the company’s revenues come from the USA, Korea, and Great Britain, and only about 20 percent. – from India. By publishing standalone titles, it focuses on simple games, such as boxing, running, or car racing. He boasts of a total number of 500 million downloads of titles released by him.
Next on the list, Black Light Studio Games is a small and relatively young company. During the eight years of existence, the focus was on publishing puzzle games and another installment of the ludo game, this time under the name “Ludo Superstar.” It focuses its forces on maintaining a million users every day and generates revenue mainly from advertisements appearing on players’ screens.
The sixth publisher in terms of the number of downloads in the App Store and Google Play is RV AppStudios. This company mainly offers educational games to develop math skills and help you learn English, which remains the most important language of the middle class and elite in India. The company boasts that 10 million children use its products monthly. These do not contain built-in ads and the need to pay extra while using the application.
Rendered Ideas is proud of the large number of awards won at industry events. Its flagship product, which distinguishes it from other Indian publishers, is “Jungle Adventures.” The player plays the role of a small caveman and has to overcome successive levels, collecting rewards and avoiding various monsters. So far, the game has had three more editions.
Gameberry Labs ranks eighth. It is another publisher that owes its place to classic Indian board games transferred to the digital world. Again we meet the immortal Indian “Chinese” (ludo, this time under the name “LudoStar”) and the even older game parchisi (“Parchisi Star”), from which the former probably derives. According to the company’s data, this is enough for 125 million downloads and the maintenance of 100,000. Players per day in front of the screens.
The ninth publisher on the list, GunjanApps Studios and Solutions LLP, comes from outside of Mumbai (Bombay) or New Delhi, where most of the companies on the list are based. Studio in Kolkata is the second-largest publisher of games and educational programs for children. In addition to language and math applications, it also offers coloring books, sudoku, piano basics, puzzles, and even song lessons.
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Video games from India – a strong move by the Swedes
The list should be closed on a strong note. At the beginning of July, Play Simple, a company specializing in word games (such as “Word Wars”) and crossword puzzles, was acquired by the Swedish MTG. Europeans were attracted by the originality of the production, a total of 75 million downloads of the company’s products, and over 7 million active users.
There are two aspects to the transaction. The first is the amount that the Swedes decided to spend, i.e., a considerable USD 360 million. The second is the fact that it allowed them to cover 100 percent of company shares. It is worth recalling that until recently, comprehensive acquisitions of Indian enterprises were very difficult if the buyer was a foreign entity.
This transaction can be read as a sign of the times. India, from game developers published by other publishers, is slowly becoming an important market for global tycoons. The latter, on the other hand, sees the potential of the Indian competition, which, knowing the domestic market, can also offer interesting titles to foreign gamers. Perhaps this Swedish purchase should also give food for thought to Polish publishers and developers, who are currently focusing on the markets of developed countries.