After revolutionising the internet adoption in India with Reliance Jio’s free internet data plans, Reliance is now drawing up the plan for a second wave of digital revolution. Speaking at the 42nd Annual General Meeting of Reliance Industries, the group chairman Mukesh Ambani has announced the conglomerate’s foray into the gaming console space, with the launch of a gaming console also known as a digital set-top box.
The Jio set-top box is said to be compatible with all game controllers including the virtual ones on smartphones. “The platform has collaborated with multiple game publishers such as Microsoft, Tencent, and Gameloft, to enable onboarding all top games on the platform,” said Isha Ambani.
Reliance’s Play Book To Dominate Online Gaming In India
The gaming product will support both online multiplayer or social gaming. Jio set-top box users can play or compete with their friends, with multiplayer chat and video conferencing, just like on Microsoft’s Xbox or Sony PlayStation.
Reliance has promised that the platform will provide zero latency gaming experience in 4K resolution, powered by its Jio Fiber broadband connection which is said to have speeds ranging from 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps. Scheduled to launch on September 5, Jio Fiber plans will range between INR 700 to INR 10K per month.
The online gaming industry in India is expected to generate a revenue of INR 11,900 Cr by financial year 2023, growing at 22% CAGR, according to a report by consulting major KPMG and industry’s self-regulatory body, Indian Federation of Sports Gaming.
The report also noted a hike in number of gamers and game developing companies in India. The number of game developing companies have touched 250 in 2018 as compared to 20 companies in 2010 while the number of gamers has reached 250 Mn from 25 Mn in 2010.
In 2018, technology major Amazon has also entered the online gaming space in India through its partnership with a Mumbai-based mobile gaming startup Nazara Technologies. With this, Amazon had enabled localised Indian gaming experience on its Amazon Prime Video and Fire TV, which is somewhat comparable to Jio’s Digital set-top box in terms of gaming and OTT movie browsing service. But Reliance has a clear advantage, since it owns so much of the value chain in this digital play.
Building An Ecosystem Or Creating A Monopoly?
For a country that is just starting to get serious about gaming in a way that matters to the global gaming industry, India represents a major opportunity for gaming platforms – whether they are PC gaming, console or smartphone games. With Reliance Jio Fiber, the company is going after all three segments and is also creating a walled garden ecosystem for its own game partners.
While giant technology companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon have built separate platforms or products to enable specific services, Reliance Jio is betting on being the one-stop platform for a variety of communication and entertainment services, besides gaming. Yes, it has partners and other startups working with it, but it would not only own the platform for distribution, but also the underlying infrastructure for cloud – thanks to its Microsoft Azure partnership – and also the telecom or connectivity layer.
In contrast to a company like Amazon which also offers a game streaming platform, Amazon Prime Video and Alexa home automation and communications, its major services are still disparate in nature, and it needs telecom partners and ISP support to help distribute them efficiently. Amazon does not have any control on internet connectivity for its shopping experience, which Reliance is able to offer as it is an established telecom player and is also a major retail company in the Indian economy.
It can subsidise games and titles for its users at relatively lower cost considering the breadth of services it is going to offer. Reliance is looking to become the default provider of internet, communications and entertainment — the three primary pillars of a digital world.
While, Facebook did try to get control over internet connectivity with its Free Basics initiative, which had interestingly partnered with Reliance Communications to offer Indians free access to about 30 websites. However, the company’s plans did not succeed in India because of net neutrality concerns.
On the other hand, Reliance Jio’s free internet data plans were a huge success at launch, revolutionising the internet and smartphone adoption across the country. According to Ambani, Jio’s customer base has crossed 340 Mn users and is growing at the rate of 10 Mn new customers every month. “The potential for growth is immense, and 500 Mn mark is soon to be achieved,” he added.
Reliance Goes After Entertainment, Not Just Gaming
In addition to the gaming console, the Jio Fiber-powered set-top box will enable a host of other services including mixed reality online shopping and educational programs, along with video conferencing, OTT video streaming, first-day-first-show releases for feature films, virtual assistants, smart home automation and much more.
With such a huge user base at its command, Jio is preparing to dominate the gaming and entertainment sphere in a big way.
It also begs the question of whether principles such as net neutrality and free market competition are even relevant when the market is dominated by one player, as Reliance has set out to do.
Commenting on these offerings, Mukesh Ambani said, “The next frontier of content is immersive. This creates exciting new possibilities for entertainment, shopping, gaming and most importantly for education.”
(With inputs from Nikhil Subramaniam)