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Covid-19 proves to be a boon for Indian gaming startups as user numbers swell

Updated: May 20, 2021

The covid-19 pandemic has proved to be a boon for Indian gaming startups. Startups such as Nazara Technologies, PocketAces and Paytm First Games saw a huge spike in user engagement and traffic during the lockdown, as gaming became a popular option for stay-at-home entertainment.

The Indian online gaming market is poised to grow to $1 billion by 2021, according to a Google-KPMG report. A young population, access to internet and entertainment-seeking behaviour are key factors driving online gaming in a country.

Paytm First Games, the gaming arm of Paytm, which offers over 100 popular games, including ludo, rummy, teen patti, and Fantasy Cricket, claimed that its user base has increased by nearly 200% during the lockdown. The platform registered over 90 million app downloads during the period with games such as ludo and rummy growing by more than 100%.

"We continue to see a rise in user growth amid the lockdown, with over 100,000 new users joining the platform every day. Our platform offers a variety of games across genres and players are also able to win rewards leading to healthy retention of these users," said Sudhanshu Gupta, chief operating officer, Paytm First Games.

Gaming as a category in India has seen a year-on-year growth of nearly 30%. Last year, India overtook the US to become the second largest game download market in the world with over 5 billion installs. Covid-19 further accelerated the growth in the online gaming market.

More investors are putting capital into the sector after the unprecedented growth in gaming post-covid. New Delhi-based Lumikai recently launched a venture fund focused on India’s fast-growing gaming and interactive market. The fund is backed by a global investor base, including gaming and technology companies from Japan, Finland, US and South Korea, deploying long-term capital.

“India’s 300-million-plus user gaming market represent a global inflection point, a unique opportunity enabled by multiple stars aligning. A billion young, entertainment hungry users now have access to the world’s cheapest data and frictionless national mobile payments—we also have arguably the deepest bench of raw creative and technical talent in the world," said Justin Shriram Keeling, Lumikai general partner.

Start-ups such as Sportskeeda, a subsidiary of Nazara Technologies, converted the covid adversity into an opportunity by riding on the wave of e-sports growth in the country.

Sportskeeda claims over 25 million plus monthly users and 100 million plus annual users with major focus in the cricket, football and wrestling space. The e-sports vertical, which was at 25,000 daily visitors in April, recently registered a twenty-fold increase, rising to 500,000 daily users, making it a key vertical today.

Pocket Aces-owned homegrown e-sports app Loco, too, witnessed a sixfold growth in daily active users (DAUs) in the past month. The platform said its monthly active streamers increased by 122% month-on-month during the last three months, after it opened the streaming feature for every user. It has witnessed over 1,000 hours of live gaming content being streamed per day which is likely to grow further in the coming months.

"Just over the last quarter, India's gaming usage has increased 20-50% depending on the gaming category. So from a demand perspective we obviously feel we are in the right place exactly at the right time," added Keeling.

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