Mobile gaming in India has been steadily growing over the past years and the onset of COVID-19 pandemic has pushed this growth even further. With people bound to the confines of their homes, virtual entrainment has become paramount. Mobile gaming, in particular, has attracted an even larger number of people and given them an opportunity to not only pass the time, but also enjoy themselves in the safe space of their home. Multiplayer games have also allowed players to stay in touch with their friends virtually at a time when we're all feeling cut off and isolated.
To understand how this is affecting the games industry in India, Gadgets 360 spoke with Rajan Navani, vice chairman and managing director at JetSynthesys, the developer of games such as Sachin Saga Cricket Champions, WWE Racing Showdown, and Ludo Game : Super Ludo, to discuss the landscape of mobile gaming in India and the impact of COVID-19 on the mobile gaming industry.
Gadgets 360: How has the landscape of mobile gaming changed? How much do you think COVID-19 is responsible for the change?
The lockdown has further propelled this industry. People have turned to the virtual world for work, entertainment, and to stay connected. Owing to this, an increasing number of older people have also been playing games as compared to the youth during this time. A recent Nielsen report shows that use of smartphones among Indians has increased 9 percent to over 3 hours 40 minutes daily compared to pre-lockdown times; gaming platforms seem to be a clear winner as time spent on them has increased from 22 percent to 30 percent. At JetSynthesys, we have seen consumption for our products shoot up between 40 percent to 60 percent per user on an average during this period.
What is the role of the Indian Digital Gaming Society?
CII's Indian Digital Gaming Society (IDGS) was founded in 2018 as a not for profit organisation to provide a platform for stakeholders across the ecosystem, including the Government, to nurture and grow a global opportunity for the Indian gaming market across mobile, PC, console, and e-sports. IDGS acts as a catalyst to the Indian Digital Gaming industry, effectively contributing to India's economic growth and becoming a trustworthy global partner. The Society also works closely with the central and state governments and academia towards enabling the growth of the digital gaming industry. IDGS has setup a strategic direction for envisioning future opportunities for growth, capabilities, and competitiveness, etc in gaming and opening new avenues of skilling and helping create more job opportunities in India. By creating an International network of industry associations, IDGS has enabled access to state –of – the -art technology and helped to Incubate locally developed technologies in public and private sector. It is also a platform for the young start-ups, gaming community and the youth to unleash their creativity and contribute towards the digital economy of the country.
Do you still have Sachin's IP and which is your most successful game?
Yes, in an exclusive partnership with Sachin Tendulkar, we created India's first motion captured cricket game - Sachin Saga Cricket Champions (Review), the ultimate Little Master cricket experience that comes packed with a host of exciting modes, 108 iconic cricket matches, and stadiums located across the world and Sachin Saga VR, India's first Virtual Reality cricket game which lets consumers play cricket as the legendary Master Blaster right on the cricket field. Sachin Saga VR is a first of its kind innovation in the gaming industry that brought gamers closer to their favourite sport and its legend through an immersive social and virtual reality experience, blurring the lines between real game and mobile game. Sachin Saga Cricket Champions was the first cricket game to have over a million pre-registrations and, in just a month of its launch, the game surpassed 2 million downloads on Google Play Store, making it one of the most downloaded cricket games on the platform and the fastest cricket game to reach this milestone. Currently, the game has witnessed 15 million+ installs and counting. It is one of our most loved games, however, our biggest success lies ahead of us.
We have continuously been innovating and investing in technology, talent and quality content and are enabling the development of world class mobile games with high fidelity and network play, deepen our presence in global e-sports, and help us create large global IPs and forge new strategic partnerships with gaming powerhouses across leading markets like Japan, United States, and Europe. In an exclusive partnership with WWE, we shall be launching ‘WWE Racing Showdown', a one-of-its-kind, high-octane, vehicular combat game featuring the best of mobile action, sports, and racing. We aim to create success stories at scale, across varying demographics, geographies, and socio-economic classes.
What are the differences you've experienced between the iOS App Store and Google Play store? Which do you prefer publishing on, and why?
For our products, we leverage both the App Store and Google Play store to expand and diversify the audience we're able to reach out to. We want to ensure that consumers across the board can access all our offerings, seamlessly. Unique in their own way, both platforms offer cutting edge technology that allows us to manage in-app purchases and subscriptions, configure distribution, and provide the opportunity to beta test our app before releasing it. Both the platforms offer unique advantages and technical capabilities and as a game developer and publisher, we want to give the best experience by reaching maximum consumer base that these platforms offer.
What is the state of mobile game education in India? Do you have to train your hires?
Gaming is the fastest-growing entertainment industry in the world, surpassing the movies and music industry. But, in India, the industry did not gain traction as early as the western markets and countries like China and Japan. Gaming in India is a comparatively new industry and started getting some recognition just about a decade ago. We need a formal educational curriculum in gaming, making it a mainstream choice for students in India. The CII's Indian Digital Gaming Society has been promoting Digital Gaming technology and management as an integrated multi-domain curriculum and facilitating Skill Development programmes for the digital gaming industry through partner organisations.
A professional working in the gaming industry needs to keep learning throughout to match the market quality and rapid innovation. Hence, to ensure that our employees deliver the best on the products that they are working on, we keep conducting customized internal trainings from time to time to help them upskill and gain knowledge and education on the subject as well as employ talent from the globally matured gaming markets.
Is eSports increasing mobile game popularity?
Due to the current pandemic, the world of sports has largely gone virtual, with athletes now competing through online games.
Additionally, during this time of social distancing, an increasing number of consumers are playing games online and watching other people play them from computer and TV screens at home. In fact, the eSports Federation of India reported a phenomenal 264 million Indian gamers, with almost half of those logging in to battle online. To keep this audience engaged, gaming companies across the country are also increasingly organizing e-sports tournaments. Apart from offering cash and other prizes, these tournaments offer consumers an opportunity to interact and compete with friends without stepping out of the comfort of their own homes.
At JetSynthesys as well, we have been exploring newer formats through the e-sports venture that we co-founded - Nodwin Gaming, by allowing users to watch other people play and introducing a subscription-based model for certain games.
What are you working on currently?
We recently announced an exclusive partnership with WWE to launch WWE Racing Showdown, a unique, high-octane, vehicular combat game featuring the best of mobile action, sports, and racing. It is currently in the pre-launch phase and will be officially launched later this year. Additionally, we have some other very interesting projects lined up that we're very excited about which we will disclose in due course.
Do you see a market for cricket outside of India or is it mostly the sub-continent?
It is an undisputed fact that cricket is the largest sport in India; approximately 70 percent of ICC's revenue and 90 percent of the 1 billion cricket fan globally are from the Indian subcontinent. That being said, the popularity of the sport extends beyond the country, and enjoys worldwide appreciation. Cricket is a global sport and with IPL and similar formats, the popularity seems to be growing even more worldwide.
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