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Inside India’s Online Gaming Boom: How Intelligent Engagement And Marketing Tech Has Driven The Growth


The value of India’s gaming industry went from $23.5 Bn in FY 2014 to $62 Bn in FY 2019 and further up to $90 Bn in FY 2020

Leveraging more than five years of experience of working with gaming startups, marketing automation platform WebEngage recently launched solutions tailored for this segment

The solutions cater to the new market in the post-pandemic world and aid startups in leveraging the huge inflow of new users in the past few months

The growth trajectory of the gaming market opportunity in India mirrors the proliferation rate of smartphones and mobile internet in the country. As smartphones became abundant, gaming became a real source of entertainment and in a mobile data-rich market like India, even multiplayer online gaming has caught the eye of the consumer and startups. 

The value of the sector in the market went from $23.5 Bn in FY 2014 to $62 Bn in FY 2019 and further up to $90 Bn in FY 2020, catapulted by the growth in engagement during the lockdown. The rapid rise of the gaming market potential has been primarily fuelled by segments such as esports, mobile casual gaming and real money gaming. While there still remains a massive untapped audience, these segments witnessed the biggest inflow of users and players, thanks to mega marketing campaigns, robust platforms, social media engagement and a sharp focus on retention. 

Plus, with the Covid-19 lockdowns across the globe forcing people to stay at home, they had a lot more time to delve into their hobbies and passions. Mobile gaming, like many other niche categories, benefitted from this, with users showing higher engagement time, solving many of the acquisition challenges for gaming platforms. This is also driving the overall revenue in this sector, which is projected to grow by CAGR 6.1% in the next five years, as per Inc42 Plus analysis.  

Each segment also has various challenges like ensuring uptime for high-volume casual games, while real money games focus more on retaining users and converting them to higher-value customers. So naturally, the strategy varies from segment to segment. 

And this keeps evolving with the market like in the case of poker gaming platform PokerDangal during the lockdown.

Cofounder Shashwat Jain said, “In the past 6-7 months, our user base grew about 40%, so the footfall has definitely increased. We have seen a steady rise in key metrics such as time spent (engagement) and Month 2/Month 6 retention numbers for new acquisitions during this period. Also, we have seen a relapse of previously dropped users on the platform.”

Marketing For Engagement: The Key In Gaming

The need to change with the times and adjust to the consumer is very high in the gaming sector, where trends keep changing overnight and new sensations take over the market. It’s about attracting the right users and keeping them engaged. In addition, the user segmentation in gaming — from hardcore gamers to casual gamers to mid-tier enthusiasts, all of whom have varying expectations and preferences — means that each gaming platform has to tailor their marketing strategy accordingly. Even within these segments, users will mature or drop-off, which necessitates a multi-fold strategy for game creators.

“The challenge with real money gaming platforms is that the audience is not well versed with the concept of playing online for real money. The challenge hence becomes educating the users about the merits of playing the game online in a fun, reliable and safe way. At PokerDangal, we have built a reliable & safe platform for the users to enjoy their favorite game of poker. We have used world-class safety features to ensure unbiased and transparent gameplay,” added Jain.

Sectors such as mobile gaming need to keep the users engaged and engrossed in their platforms. Considering how subjective this can be, marketing the right content to the right user base becomes all the more important. This is where intelligent, ongoing engagement solutions are necessary for these brands, according to Avlesh Singh, cofounder and CEO of WebEngage, a marketing automation platform.

The user retention and engagement specialists from WebEngage have been working with online gaming platforms for over five years now. Leveraging the learnings and insights from this experience, WebEngage recently launched a set of solutions specifically for the sector.

Commenting on the same, Keyur Dhami, VP, customer success at WebEngage, said, “During the pandemic, the gaming industry became one of the top gainers of new users. This meant they had to now struggle to accommodate an entirely new generation of gamers on their platform, first-timers. Today, brands are deploying increasingly creative engagement solutions to keep multiple segments of users engaged and motivated to become paying users ultimately. That is where WebEngage is helping the gaming industry.”

Gaming platforms are using marketing not only to bring in new customers but also to educate those who may potentially turn into paying users in the future. “We focus on positioning our app as a skill development platform. So all our communication or promotion are around how a user can actually build certain life skills with Poker. For instance, it’s scientifically proven that Poker helps improve your interpersonal skills, financial, analytical skills and more. So we try to bring this out within our engagement and communication accordingly,” said Dinesh Arora, Senior Vice President of Marketing in Spartan Poker.

He further added that there are requirements such as these that make platforms such as WebEngage important in their journey. Both Spartan Poker and PokerDangal have been using WebEngage’s solutions for over a year, customising their onboarding using the company’s journey designer feature to improve their marketing strategies.

With over 10 gaming platforms as its clients, Singh told Inc42 that WebEngage is well aware of the challenges for these startups and thus, it came up with solutions such as intelligent communication, better segmentation, hyper-personalisation, analytics and more. Through these solutions, WebEngage claims to have helped gaming startups achieve 27% upliftment in second deposit, 36% upliftment of user retention rate and 3x upliftment in avg. time spent.

“After a few months of integrating with WebEngage, we saw the retention repeat jump up by around 35%,” added Spartan’s Arora.

The Nature Of The Post-Pandemic Gaming Market 

Of course, the world is now in a recovery phase as more and more avenues for entertainment open up. Will gaming suffer a drop in engagement and how can marketing tools help startups address this?

“While there was a jump in the market when the lockdown was initiated, by late November the market had a stabilised stand. I don’t think that the market will go down from where we are right now. We have good enough interest, millennials have also started taking a keen interest in Poker. So, I believe from here the market is still going to grow,” said Arora.

Jain also seemed certain that the post-pandemic world will not affect the sector negatively. “It’s not like we witnessed an exponential growth that we might lose. We have been growing steadily. And in the future, I am sure that all these new people who have experienced the world of online gaming, might spend less time but will continue playing.”

According to estimates, the value of Indian gaming sector is set to reach $143 Bn by FY 2022 and is expected to open up more than 40K new job opportunities. Furthermore, as of the beginning of 2020, India’s estimated population stood at over 1.3 Bn, the second-highest population in the world. Hence, there is a huge potential for gaming startups to build their platforms and increase revenue.

It is this potential that convinced WebEngage of the viability and need for such solutions geared towards gaming in particular.

Commenting on the future of online gaming and WebEngage’s plans, Singh said, “During the pandemic, gaming apps reported anywhere between 40-60% increase in installs and an average increase of time spent on apps by 35-40 mins. With time, these statistics have normalised, but Indian gaming apps have added a large segment of new users dabbling with skill-based, real money games. Brands are looking to retain users by expanding their ‘shark-base’ — loyal game fans that are big-spenders.”

He further added, “WebEngage’s journey-based campaigns help game creators target users through cross-channel campaigns, increasing the engagement rates with gaming apps. Game makers are using contextual communication campaigns to keep users informed about latest game updates and to trigger reactivation campaigns to bring back dormant users and to drive transactions. All of the use-cases are solving for growth for gaming brands that rely heavily on user experience as a key differentiator in a highly-competitive market and the short attention span of consumers.”

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