Home / Companies / News /  Telcos, gaming cos gear up for revenue boost as 5G nears

Gaming firms in India are putting in motion plans for new features and services ahead of the rollout of 5G service in the country. The sector, which includes makers of games for mobile phones and PCs, streaming firms, and even venture capital (VC) firms, considers 5G to be a possible inflection point that could spur new revenue streams.

For instance, French cloud gaming firm Blacknut is in talks with Reliance Jio and Airtel to synchronize the launch of cloud gaming services with that of 5G networks in India, according to Olivier Avaro, founder and chief executive officer Blacknut. In September 2021, Blacknut partnered with Airtel to conduct India’s first cloud gaming demonstration in a 5G environment. Jio did not comment on the talks with Blacknut.

Cloud gaming is a platform-agnostic form of gaming where gamers aren’t needed to install games or buy high-end devices. The games are streamed directly from servers, which handle the heavy processing tasks, allowing resource-intensive games to be played on comparatively weaker and cheaper devices.

“Telcos have tried to build content but haven’t succeeded. They feel we can help by bringing a catalogue of gaming content along with the infrastructure," said Avaro.

Airtel did not comment on plans to launch cloud gaming on 5G with Blacknut. The telecom operator, however, said it is also looking at 5G to provide new revenue options. “Gaming will be a core focus of our business strategy as we look forward to increasing our average revenue per user (ARPU)," said Adarsh Nair, CEO, Airtel Digital.

He said cloud gaming will be among the biggest use cases of 5G thanks to the “combination of high speed and low latency".

Lower latency enables data to travel faster from the source to the user. This allows higher video resolutions to stream smoothly on 5G phones, and using features like chat without lags and breakdowns.

Avaro said Indian telcos currently don’t want to incur the capital expenditure needed for cloud gaming. He said that it requires dedicated graphics processing units (GPUs) to be deployed at scale on the cloud end, and said the company aims to bring that infra in the operating expenses model for telcos.

India’s overall gaming industry made $1.8 billion in revenues in 2020 at a compound annual growth rate of 38%, faster than even the US (10%) and China (8%), according to a November 2021 report by the Boston Consulting Group and VC firm Sequoia.

Cloud gaming isn’t exclusive to telcos and firms in India alone. Globally tech firms such as Google and Microsoft have been running cloud gaming projects for over two years. Google started testing its Stadia cloud gaming on 4G and 5G networks in the US back in 2020, while Microsoft joined hands with South Korea’s SK Telecom as early as 2019. Google and Microsoft did not comment on this story.

Meanwhile, game streaming startup Rooter said it is upgrading its streaming features for the gamers. “We are working on bringing the option to stream in higher resolutions. We will also add audio interactions to improve chat experience," said Piyush Kumar, founder and CEO, Rooter.

Oliver Jones, co-founder, and CEO of Bengaluru-based mobile gaming firm Bombay Play, pointed out that though 5G is expected to open doors for cloud gaming, it hasn’t seen a lot of market traction even in countries where the technology has been available for a while.

According to Sachin Kalantri, senior director of product marketing at chipset supplier Qualcomm, “5G will enable faster downloads and uploads, seamless multiplayer video gaming, live streaming, and real-time cloud gaming with advanced special effects. It will also meet the needs of mobile eSports, which require good connectivity and other network features."

Other than telcos, streaming, and gaming firms, the move to 5G could be a boon for creators in the industry too. 

Abhishek Aggarwal, co-founder of Trinity Gaming, a marketing firm for gaming influencer, said the company was “building programs" to help gaming creators better monetise streaming content using new technologies like augmented and virtual reality. 

On the other hand, Justin Keeling, founding general partner of gaming-focused Lumikai Fund, said the company was “keeping a close eye on 5G’s potential for gaming".


Abhijit Ahaskar

Abhijit writes on tech policy, gaming, security, AI, robotics, electronics and startups. He has been in the media industry for over 12 years.
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