If 2019 was about gaming going mainstream in India, penetrating across ages, gender groups, and geographies, 2020 is expected to expand that growth.
Largely driven by online and mobile gaming, the sector is growing at a CAGR of 22 percent and is likely to touch $1 billion in revenue by the end of 2020.
A few more gaming unicorns might be born. New, immersive gaming experiences will be created. Gaming technologies will become more affordable and accessible. More localised games will be launched, and fantasy sports will go beyond cricket.
The year 2020 will also witness the emergence of a gaming ecosystem in the country.
KPMG describes it thus:
“The next phase of Indian online gaming will comprise an ecosystem of engaged gamers and enthusiastic designers, investments empowered developers and marketers working together to make India a global success through locally themed games. A long-term success will be based on fan validated themes, excellence in graphics, and adoption of upcoming innovations in smartphones.”
YourStory lists some of the top trends likely to define India's gaming industry in 2020.
Cloud gaming services
Consumer tech giants Apple and Google rolled out their respective cloud gaming services – Arcade and Stadia – towards the end of 2019. Imagine having an on-demand Netflix-style library for gaming titles from hundreds of studios and publishers?
That is what Apple Arcade and Google Stadia are out to achieve.
These services are available across platforms: mobiles, laptops, desktops, PCs, and Macs. Launched only in select markets (including India) for now, the cloud-based, subscription-led services are being perceived as game-changers in the industry.
Not only will they offer avid gamers a wide array of titles to choose from, but they will also go a long way in keeping them consistently engaged with immersive art, graphics, and motion design – all processed on the cloud with little or no lag.
With the availability of faster WiFi, and the impending rollout of 5G networks, streaming games with advanced graphics will soon be a reality. Both Apple and Google are working closely with game developers to bring about unique ideas to life.
Desi games for local tastes
This trend nearly took off last year, and is expected to be more pronounced in 2020.
Acknowledging local Indianised preferences of users, desi game developers and publishers are “creating a niche with unique locally themed offerings”, KPMG indicates.
Popular traditional games like Rummy and Teen Patti have been successful for various sites. “This connects the common man to traditional social behaviour and habits,” KPMG adds.
Indian game developers are also building titles in multiple local languages and themes (big movie franchises like Baahubali, festivals, seasons, etc.) This “content customisation” is expected to drive the domestic gaming industry forward.
Fantasy sports beyond cricket
Big-league cricket (IPL, ICC World Cup, the Ashes) drove the initial growth of India’s fantasy gaming platforms in 2019. Almost, 85 to 90 percent of fantasy gaming in India has to do with cricket, according to industry estimates.
But, 2020 is expected to bring about an increase in the share of non-cricket sports.
At present, football and kabaddi follow cricket in terms of popularity among daily fantasy players, but hockey, volleyball, baseball, and wrestling are also catching up.
A joint study by the Indian Federation of Sports Gaming and KPMG reveals that more than 54 percent of users on fantasy sites already engage with football. This will go up, riding on big-ticket football events such as the English Premier League, La Liga, UEFA, Bundesliga, Indian Super League, and others.
Interestingly, more and more users are taking to non-cricket sports due to the higher probability of winning. Because fantasy cricket has such a large user base, your chances of winning go down with every new user.
This is leading fantasy gaming platforms to include more non-cricket sports.
Rise of AR/VR gaming
Despite the advancement in augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) in the last few years, its presence on gaming screens has been limited. AR gaming, of course, has a big hit to its name - Pokémon Go.
But, beyond that, these “futuristic” concepts have so far only wowed elite audiences at tech events as opposed to reaching actual gamers in the real world.
However, that could change in 2020.
Industry experts observe that AR and VR gaming will receive a significant thrust with headsets becoming more capable in terms of graphics that can match the quality of gaming on consoles and PCs. AR/VR headsets are also likely to become cheaper, thus spurring adoption. Also, more mixed reality games will be released.
AR/VR gaming experiences are also likely to become more collaborative and ‘social’ in 2020, which means gamers can chat with their friends while they’re in space or underwater.
The social gaming craze
Millennial isolation is a thing. And, so is social gaming. It's a cause-and-effect phenomenon.
As more Indian millennials start staying away from homes, their interaction and engagement with social games — and strangers who partake in them — is growing by the day.
In 2019, Chinese social gaming app HAGO became swiftly popular among Indian users. The app, which lets users discover friends, play games, host ‘voice parties’ and earn real rewards, crossed 100 million downloads in a year, and India accounted for 14 percent of its users. In fact, HAGO’s second-largest global market is India.
The social gaming craze actually began with Farmville at the turn of the decade, but now newer apps like Restaurant Story, Township, Words with Friends, Habbo, Ludo King, Animal Boyfriend, and others are gaining in popularity.
A Google-KPMG study indicates that users download such apps for “stress relief and social interaction” and to feel “a sense of achievement over other gamers”.
And this is not going away anytime soon!
(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)