Mobile games prime pastime as coronavirus keeps people locked in4 min read . Updated: 31 Mar 2020, 07:13 PM IST
Online games see a spurt in traffic as firms go into shutdown mode triggered by Covid-19 scare
The Indian mobile gaming industry is witnessing a short-term benefit from Covid-19 related shutdowns in the country. As more companies, factories direct employees to work from home, it seems mobile gaming has become one of the favourite pastimes.
“We are seeing around 15 lakh people playing our games daily against 11-12 lakh people earlier," said Tejas Shah, head of revenue and distribution at Games2Win. The company is one of the largest publishers of mobile games in India, with more than 175 million users across its portfolio of games.
WinZO Games has seen a surge of three times in online traffic on its games, said the platform’s co-founder, Saumya Singh Rathore.
Industry executives believe that working from home allows people more free time, which creates the need for recreation. Mobile games are a good way to kill a few minutes and take one’s mind off work. Demographics are changing a bit and Hitwicket sees more working professionals playing the game, according to Keerti Singh, the platform’s co-founder and vice president, growth. Hitwicket’s user numbers have increased by 10-15% over the past few weeks, Singh said. Such users would earlier spend “maybe 20-25 minutes" on the platform, but now they are spending up to 40 minutes per day, said Singh. This could also help increase revenues for platforms such as Hitwicket, Singh said, as users who spend more time are easier to monetize.
Games2Win’s Shah agreed, saying, “This increase in users and engagement has also had a positive impact on revenue for us as more and more companies are looking at ways to reach out to audiences through the digital medium." Hitwicket has three million users across two games, and 150,000 monthly active users. It was among the top gaming startups in Asia in Google’s Games Accelerator program in 2018.
Other gaming options such as online poker and rummy will see a huge upside, said Roland Landers, CEO, All India Gaming Federation. “Gaming is the world’s biggest pastime and the average revenue per user on gaming is really high," he said.
The phenomenon is hitting India only now, but has been taking place worldwide since December. Oliver Jones, co-founder of Bangalore-based Bombay Play said he saw upticks on his games’ user numbers in Europe earlier and now it’s happening in India. Rathore said Italy has seen a 70% increase in game plays as more companies send workers home. Jones and Singh said that what’s unclear now is whether this will lead to increased user numbers in the long run. However, it’s not the same for all kinds of games. Fantasy sports leagues like Dream11 and MPL's fantasy games are taking a hit as sporting events worldwide have been cancelled or postponed. Dream11, the first Indian gaming platform to enter the unicorn club, has been refunding users’ entry fees for matches on the platform. In games such as Dream11, users pay money to enter leagues and games. They pay a nominal amount to be eligible to win in the lakhs. Saumesh Kumar, who had won ₹1 lakh on the platform some time ago, said all games have either been cancelled or postponed and users are expecting money to be refunded.
''MPL offers over 40 games across categories. We have seen that Fantasy Sports users are moving to other games on our platform. Games like World Cricket Championship, Archery, Quiz, are seeing increased traction," said Naman Jhawar, VP, Business and Strategy, Mobile Premier League (MPL).
“The idea of a fantasy league is dependent on the real players of a particular sport and, as there are no matches happening across the world, fantasy apps have nothing to offer as of now. This has impacted business a lot," said Ratul Sethi, founder of Apne11, a fantasy cricket platform.
Dream11 has also increased cash bonus validity for players on the platform from 14 days to 30 days. “In case of a longer delay, we will continue extending your cash bonus validity," the company wrote in an email to its users. Dream11 declined to comment on this story. Indian platforms aren’t the only ones being affected. Yahoo had to extend dates for various sports leagues, including Basketball, Hocket and more. Sporting events like the Indian Premier League (IPL) for cricket have been postponed, while football’s Euro 2020 scheduled for later this year has been pushed to the summer of next year. “It won’t be wrong to say that the fantasy gaming industry has come to a standstill. This sudden turbulence in what was supposed to be one of the busiest seasons for all Fantasy operators in India have created a horizon of complications," Sethi said.
“Gaming platforms that are dependent on live sports will naturally see a temporary dip," AIGF’s Landers said. India’s gaming segment has been growing steadily over the past few years. In its Media and Entertainment Report 2019, KPMG said that India’s gaming space had grown by 41.6% in FY2019 as compared to the year before. It seems the Covid-19 lockdowns could help it gain even more users.