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A Game Publisher’s Marketing Guide To The Indian Audience

A Game Publisher’s Marketing Guide To The Indian Audience

Games have played an important role in the history and mythology of India. The best examples from the grand Indian Epic Age include Lord Shiva and Parvati playing Pachisi, the Pandavas losing Draupadi over a game of dice, the Mughals enjoying a pleasant afternoon of chess. 

Most Indians have grown up playing board games like Ludo, Snakes & Ladders, Monopoly, Scrabble; indoor games like Chess, Carom, card games (especially around Diwali) and outdoor games (before we picked up cricket, soccer or tennis) like “Gilli Danda,” “ Kancha,” Kho Kho or Stapu (Kith-Kith).”

Games which are intrinsically fun have been used as a tool to develop skills like concentration power, hand-eye coordination and stimulate basic mathematical & analytical skills. India has always had a rich gaming culture. Games, for a very long time now, have been a common and most preferred mode of entertainment.

Over the years, the spirit of gaming has remained intrinsic while its nature and form have radically changed. There has been a shift from playing on the ground and getting our feet dirty to spending all day at the nearest video game parlour to gluing ourselves in front of our very first video game console and then to playing free-to-play games on mobile devices. The smartphone proliferation has further led the mobile-first movement by the millennials. The companies are following suit – there are now over half a million games just on the google app store.

This article will give you an understanding of the trends in India and help you better plan your game launch and monetisation strategy.

A few favouring stats:

  • App store growth both on Android & iOS has largely been driven by mobile games.
  • A recent report by Tune mentioned that 84% of smartphone users in India play at least one game regularly.
  • The App Annie NASSCOM report mentioned that India joined the top 5 countries in 2016 for game downloads with over 1.6 Bn of game downloads happening in 2016 that will jump to 5.3 billion by 2020.
  • Revenue from games is expected to grow at a CAGR of 87 percent to reach as high as $1.1 billion by 2020

While mobile game revolution is a global phenomenon, here are the trends in India you need to be aware of:

  1. The most-preferred genres: Role playing games (Chhota Bheem, Bhajrangi Bhaijaan, Hero etc), casual games, casino (Teen Patti) and arcade games are the genres that rule the market.
  2. Foreign vs local publishers: Indians are very accommodating when it comes to adopting a foreign publisher. While the local publishers are preferred for their local genre preferences (role play and casino), there is a wide scope for both local and foreign publishers when it comes to the other genres. The boxed games are locally published games that made it to the top list.
  3. Low propensity to pay:  Indians, like other country gamers, aren’t familiar with the ‘pay to win’ options thus justifying one of the lowest ARPU ($0.78) among BRIC countries.  
  4. Poor infrastructure: Though smartphone adoption has increased, the Indian market is still dominated by devices with RAM of about 1GB and a memory space of about 8GBs. This, coupled with poor connectivity results in low successful download rates and quick and high uninstall rates. Also, while Google Play Store is the primary source of app download almost 30% of the downloads happen through side loading or third party installs.

Considering the above-mentioned trends, here are a few suggestions for you to build a successful monetisation strategy:

  • Adaptation to the existing infrastructure: It is important to know that if you are launching a global game in India, you need to be considerate about the game size (preferably around 10 Mb-15 Mb) to make it suitable for mass adoption. This can be achieved by unbundling the game and keeping only the core game features in the basic version.
  • Localisation: Adding a pinch of cultural look and feel elements UI around major festivals (Diwali, Christams, Holi etc.) could add a great fortune in building affinity. Other implications can be around local happenings, current affairs etc.
  • Sachetisation: India’s unit economics works on high volume and low value. FMCG companies were able to find a fortune at the bottom of the pyramid by creating small size SKUs for various products. Similarly, game developers need to re-think their IAPs. E.g. lowest digital good i.e. $0.99 cents which translates to roughly INR 65 will not work in India. You need to look at smaller denomination IAPs of INR 5-INR 10 to drive huge uptick of virtual good sales.
  • Google’s tie-up with telecoms for carrier billing (though only post pay currently) is a step in the right direction. While credit/debit card penetration is still very low in India, wallet adoption is growing leaps and bounds due to the recent demonetisation drive by the government. App store billing with any of the large existing wallets can be an inflection point for IAPs in India.
  • Offline and online: Some of the largest online/mobile-first companies be it Amazon, Xiaomi, Uber, Flipkart etc. ironically are heavy advertisers on offline media. Game developers too would have to use offline channels (For example, college festivals, gaming events & communities, pubs & inter-cafe championships) to promote their games. A good mix of both online and offline promotion is necessary for customer acquisition and retention.
  • Ad monetisation: Monetisation through ads is a must in India. Also, because Indians don’t pay for games they have a relatively high tolerance for ads in them. However, instead of adding interruptive billboards, banners and interstitials, an interesting option would be to look at native & rewarded ads for your game.

By trying to make ads beautiful by taking the reach of existing games like Chotta Bheem and re-branding them with brand assets on the fly to create branded games create powerful brand experiences. Like product placements in movies, in-game ads also have the potential to successfully drive awareness and the added benefit of engaging the TG through interactive User Initiated Interstitials. Its non-intrusive nature has resulted in better acceptance rates.

Having analysed the above information, it would be right to surmise that India with its scale, improving infrastructure & young demography presents a ripe opportunity for both local and foreign mobile game publishers and investors.

Game On, publisher!


[The author of this post is Ankit Rawal – a mobile evangelist and VP-Revenue at GreedyGame.]

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