At a time when fantasy gaming has turned heads and raked in huge investor interest, a new segment of gaming in India is just opening up in the form of cloud gaming. Bengaluru-based gaming company Vimobin Labs is working on enabling high-tech graphically-intensive games on a cloud server across any Android device. Raising seed funding from a slew of angel investors, Vimobin looks to take on the likes of gaming giant Nvidia as well as Google, which launched Stadia earlier this year.
Talking to Inc42, Nikhil Prasad, cofounder and CEO, Vimobin Labs said that the company is now coming out of stealth mode having raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding from FirstCheque.vc with participation of angel investors such as Ranjit Radhakrishnan (CPO, Byjus), Farooq Adam (cofounder, Fynd), Shubh Malhotra (cofounder, Mobile Premier League (MPL)), Aprameya Radhakrishnan (CEO, Vokal, Ex CEO – TaxiForSure) and Aaryaman Vir from Prophetic Ventures.
Prasad said that the funds will be used towards scaling the technology team and working towards launching a market-ready product in the coming quarter. “Vimobin Labs is building the future of gaming and it will revolutionize how games are consumed by the next billion gamers,” said Shubh Malhotra, cofounder, MPL.
But what is cloud gaming exactly? Just like streaming music or video, if a user selects a game on the cloud gaming platform it sends a request to the server and then the server allows the user to play the game without having to download the full game to their device. The only difference with traditional gaming is that the process is happening through a network and the time taken to start playing is lower. However, cloud gaming relies heavily on high-speed internet connectivity, which makes them ill-suited for markets like India.
What Is The Problem Vimobin Labs Solving?
Prasad told us that he identified pain point of Indian gamers when his nephew asked to use his phone, instead of a simpler Android phone due to lack of space on the phone.
It is to be noted that games like PUBG, Call of Duty etc have an average install size of up to 1GB and also require a steady internet connection, which is a tough requirement in India. Even though their APK size are between 50 MB and 100MB, when the game is downloaded, the installed size easily goes above 1GB.
Prasad and his team have worked over the last few years to work on research and development to build virtualisation technology to enable high-end games on an Android.
Prasad and his cofounder Gokulkrishna Sekar are working with a 4-member team to enable Android virtualisation for highly graphic games. The users can access heavy games like PUBG, Call of Duty, Age of Empires etc and play these on cloud via one app, instead of downloading separate applications, which are too heavy for an average Android phone.
The company is targeting Indian gamers with an average smartphone worth upto INR 15K.
How Is Vimobin Solving For Latency In Cloud Gaming?
As we hinted above, cloud gaming requires high-speed internet with low latency. While the launch of Reliance Jio ensured easy access to 4G internet, the internet speeds, in comparison to global standards, are low and have high latency.
Latency, measured as ping, refers to the average total time that it takes your gaming device to send data to the game server, and back to your device. Anything below 50 milliseconds is considered to be great, while anything over 150 milliseconds could result in noticeable lag i.e delay in users pressing buttons and action happening on the screen.
Hence, while there are several console and mobile games that target Indian audiences, latency remains a common issue. And Vimobin will certainly face issues with latency as internet speeds improve across the country.
India’s Gaming Market Matures
Interestingly, Vimobin Labs says that while a game on Google Stadia, Nvidia etc may use up to 30GB for every hour of play time, Vimobin users can play for an hour spending only 400 MB internet. “We may be able to further reduce this as we develop our technology,” Prasad added.
Additionally, Vimobin is banking on higher broadband speeds in the country. Reliance, for example, has promised that it 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, which range from INR 700 to INR 10K per month.
It is notable that at present, game companies have introduced lighter version of their titles to attract audiences playing on low-end devices. However, this fragments the market and users often switch between multiple apps depending on the availability of other players.
In the last two decades, PC and console gaming have played a significant role in shaping the gaming industry in India. However, with the inception of mobile gaming platforms, the overall gaming ecosystem has started to shift from large-screen gaming to smartphones.
According to Statista reports, India is also following the global shift in gaming patterns as the mobile gaming industry in the country is expected to reach about $405 Mn by 2022.
The report further stated that the overall gaming industry in India stands at around $862.82 Mn in 2019 with computer and console gaming still marking their presence in the overall growth with a market share of $96 Mn and $240 Mn respectively.
Vimobin Goes Up Against Google, Nvidia And Microsoft
Even though cloud gaming is an inherently new concept in India, the idea has been under works internationally for some time now.
For instance, we have NVIDIA is working to expand its GeForce Now cloud gaming service to Android phones including Samsung and LG. However, this would require a separate controller for full experience, similar to Stadia.
Then we have AWS Stream, which Amazon is planning to announce as its own cloud gaming service next year. We also have players such as Final Fantasy publisher Square Enix, which is working to bring its AAA console games to mobile, which runs on cloud. We also have players such as Vortex in India, which are leveraging cloud gaming for Indian gamers. Microsoft is also looking at cloud gaming seriously.
Google lets players virtually stream games from Stadia’s cloud servers without even downloading it to the device. Google ultimately wants to enable this on Android phones and will let players start a game from a YouTube video without needing to download anything.
The Us tech giant seems to be hesitant in launching the new service in developing countries including India and it might have good reason to do so. A Junglee Games spokesperson had then said that Stadia is unlikely to launch in India because of how bandwidth-intensive it is.
Claiming to be focused on developing countries like India and having tested product in countries like Vietnam, Bangladesh, Nepal etc, Vimobin Labs is trying to solve simple gaming issues in these markets.
Prasad told us these players are essentially leveraging PC virtualisation and have stayed away from building for India-specific issues, which Vimobin intends to fix.