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Online Games on the Rise During COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic has already produced profound effects on the way we live, consume and plan our day. And while it has brought a number of industries to a halt, most online service companies are experiencing a robust growth – with internet games an exemplary case.

The New Normal

New working and living conditions affected millions worldwide as extensive lockdowns closed workplaces, schools and public areas; while spatial distancing was introduced universally as the new societal milestone.

Fortunately, the human race has proven time and again its adaptability and social resilience. As we are fighting some professional disruptions and certain levels of psychological distress, many have already settled on a pathway to personal wellbeing and a new-found group socialisation.

Many Indian metropolitan areas have been quick to adapt the way intellectual output and services are provided. The logistics sector has had to prove its flexibility, while payments are more diversified than ever. Indian consumers were quick to endorse even more massively online digital payments, e-wallets and even cryptocurrency, as rupees are instantly and safely “exchanged” if needed.

In such a context, it is no wonder that the country with the largest youth mobile user base would need to reinvent its free-time and entertainment consumption patterns. With over 570 million Indians accessing the Internet regularly (of whom more than 85% on a mobile device), an ever more consistent group of users have begun spending more time with their favourite gaming and streaming platform or App. With traffic and consumer acquisition growing by “at least 20-30%” in most cases, players rediscovered the convenience and thrill of online gaming and streaming.

While a number of live sport events are missing, fantasy and e-sports developers and providers have done their best to satisfy their growing crowds. While card parties and social gaming gatherings ruled some weekends, many Indian players have learned to appreciate online sports betting, legal offshore gambling and convenient social gaming.

User friendly gaming Apps and an inexpensive smartphone is all it takes to enjoy a virtual outing in Goa or a card party with one’s friends. The affordable data packages do the rest.

Strong Growth for Indian Gaming Companies and Foreign Online Casino Platforms

Business news reports over the summer echoed a number of Indian gaming companies which claimed a huge spike in traffic and user engagement during lockdown. Moreover, their young and dynamic consumer base responds quickly to global trends but also determines demand and player expectations.

This is more than welcome news for Indian gaming companies, inherently innovative and able to attract ever more investment in the sector. Giants like Nazara invested heavily, Paytm developed its gaming arm. Small game development companies are flourishing and launching rounds of financing and expansions.

Even the tech-savvy and financially potent neighbours noticed such potential – Alibaba backed Paytm, and Tencent is considering targeted investments, Youzu entered the market directly with local contents and partnerships.

Last year India became the second largest App download market, globally, with games alone responsible for over 5 billion installs. Online gaming continued growing by around 30% annually and the market currently is on the verge of reaching USD 1 billion, with more than 300 million active users. In the spring of 2020 the nation-wide lockdown accelerated these processes and the user base was reportedly increased by nearly 200% for some companies, while a stable growth in time per session – up to 50% depending on gaming category.

What Are the Typical Desi Online Games

There are three major categories of online games that are dear to the Indian player: e-Sports (including Fantasy Sports); the so-called “casual” or “mobile-centric” games; and the table and card games, handed down through the generations – like Rummy, Teen Patti, Andar Bahar. The latter are rooted in tradition and mythology, maintaining an image of a wholesome and acceptable (small) gambling practice.

It is no wonder that even nowadays young Indian players are looking up the online Teen Patti rules at Guide2Gambling when wanting to take a break from a hectic day.

The game changer post-COVID is that both big and small companies have acknowledged the importance of investing in local desi content creation and targeted market offers. Content localisation is what made Teen Patti the highest-grossing game on Google’s Play Store in India throughout most of the past 5 years. And never out of the top 5, anyway, with Rummy following closely.

Spatial Distancing with All the Social Fun

In late March 2020 the World Health Organization advised people to indulge in (social) gaming during lockdown. Enthusiastic game developers emphasized the way their creations provide “escape from reality” during hard times, possess therapeutic qualities. In this case, those outrank possible gaming disorders and gambling addictions in contributing to an overall better mental health.

Digital games are known to provide learning opportunities but also, most importantly in such cases, social benefits. New habits would lead more and more Indians to enjoying entertainment online such as online gambling and social gaming.

A KPMG report points out that most Indian players are introduced to online gaming through “friends, family and peer groups” and do it for “stress relief and social interaction”. Now, taash parties can continue being fun. Chatting with a family member in Mumbai over a quick hand can still bring people together. It will simply be done more often online, over a mobile App, and with surprisingly local feel in our fragile little globe.

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