29 May 2020

Lockdown Sees Online Gaming Surge, Firms Fight to Engage Users

Online games like pool have seen massive user take-up and engagement during the lockdown

An Economic Times report details how some of India's biggest online gaming companies have enjoyed huge surges in traffic, sign-ups, and user engagement during the coronavirus lockdown.

Key points included:

  • Poker network Pocket52 said that its user base had grown five-fold over the last three months
  • Paytm Games stated they have added 100,000 users a day in that time
  • WinZo witnessed an incredible 150 million micro-transactions on its gaming platform

The report added that many operators had seen a rise in big-spending gamers during that time.

Rajan Navani, CEO of JetSynthesys, maker of popular games like Sachin Saga and Being Salman, said: "The number of first-time spenders increased by about 25% but the increase in people spending larger amounts was about 40%."

However, despite these impressive figures, a bleak economic picture for millions - at least in the short term - with companies laying off staff and consumers having less disposable income, gaming firms are looking at new ways to keep users engaged and active on their sites and apps.

And not everyone shared in the boom. Amin Rozani of Spartan Poker said spending on their portal was down 30% in March and April on the months before, despite registrations doubling.

As the lockdown eases and many do go back to work, less time is spent online, meaning brands need to work harder to fight for users' free time.

Navani is also chair of the CII Indian Digital Gaming Society and added that JetSynthesys is exploring new formats through its e-sports vertical Nodwin Gaming. This will allow users to watch other people play and introduce a subscription-based model for certain games.

WinZO, which recently agreed a partnership with Rein Games and Deftouch, has immediate plans to launch 30-40 games over the next two months.

There's been a positive change in user behaviour and we will keep introducing new formats to keep people engaged, noted Paavan Nanda, co-founder of WinZO.

He added that: "Ninety per cent of our audience is in Tier II and III towns where entertainment options are restricted, and during this lockdown, we've actually added a lot of users in Tier I towns."

Adda52, known for its poker and rummy brands, has launched a free app to capitalise on the popularity in mobile play.

Their CEO Naveen Goyal argued that: "Online gaming not only gives one an opportunity to entertain and challenge oneself, but it also works as a medium to socialize with friends, which is very similar to the idea of catching up for a cup of coffee or drinks with friends.

Gaming goliath Paytm First Games struck a positive note on the near future, though. With over 20% of daily visitors now paying to play, the company's chief operating officer Sudhanshu Gupta said: "Post-lockdown, we are expecting strong continued growth as our app offers more than 300 games with new ones being added every fortnight and the comeback of fantasy sports will contribute further. We have also added more categories like Esports and expanded in new regions beyond India."

The Economic Times puts the overall size of the gaming market in India at just under US$1 billion compared to $150 billion worldwide, with the average user spend about US$1.50 to US$2 per month.

We reported this week on how that overall figure is predicted to jump to US$3.75 billion by 2024, with the booming gaming market driven by improving internet infrastructure, more than 500 million smartphone users, and over 400 innovative gaming start-ups creating quality content.

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