In the time of Covid-19, with the world locked indoors due to social distancing, people are left with hours to kill. Away from the worrying news updates lies a world of ‘quarantine and chill’, where people are doing everything to keep busy, from dusting off old hobbies, binge watching Netflix to catching up with new instagram trends. But it’s online games that take the sash for keeping people entertained in the confinement of their home. Coronavirus study survey carried out by NRG dated 03.16.2020, shows 47% people are playing more video games worldwide than before the outbreak.
Gaming Makes Its Way in Indian Pandemic Lifestyle
As Indians turn to gaming to outlet lockdown frustrations and the grim reality looming outside, the online gaming industry is witnessing a skyrocketing user engagement. Across different categories--from Tencent-owned PUBG to online poker, cricket, and gamified learning- have reported a big rise in the user base and engagement over the last few weeks. It provides a break from the passiveness, and also provides a loaded way of entertainment. Paytm founder and CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma believes this pandemic will earn gaming a permanent place among Indian consumers.
Time spent on games is dramatically increasing, more people are playing online games and gaming companies are cashing in on this rising interest. Gaming audience level and activity are reaching new highs. According to Forbes, as of 03.24.20 there are 22.7 million logged in users and 7.1 million in game users in steam gaming platforms. Also, recent most searched interest in Italy indicates further growth in online gaming.
The overall impressions and installs of games across the world is presented in the graphical image below:
Covid-19 Lockdown - Blessing in disguise for Indian Gaming Startups
Where other apps like photo/video, entertainment, social media, communication, finance, shopping, etc show a stangnancy in downloads of below 250 million, the chart for gaming apps kept fluctuating 750 Million to 1 Billion downloads.
The gaming startups in India are experiencing a massive surge like never before. Paavan Nanda, co-founder of WinZo Games claims, “The surge for us came suddenly. On the weekend of March 15, there was a 3x increase in game plays and 30% higher traffic. As the country locked down, this grew every single hour.” To follow the current trend WinZo Games team launched PUBG Mobile, Free Fire, and Ludo to cater to the new audience adopting the platform for free.
Paytm First Games, the gaming arm of the online payment platform Paytm, also witnessed 200% increase in the number of users since last month. Paytm First Games offers popular games such as Rummy, Ludo, Fantasy Cricket, Teen Patti and others is witnessing maximum traction in Rummy with the no of games played getting doubled every single week.
Another gaming startup that is basking in the sudden pandemic popularity is Gameberry Labs whose two games Parchisi STAR and Ludo STAR together experienced growth of 300% in installation and engagements. Parchisi STAR is mostly popular in Spain, Colombia, Panama. However, Ludo STAR has most users from India, Pakistan and Middle East with the majority of players within the age group 25-35, male.
Multiplayer Gaming is Here to Stay
As people are playing with friends and family, mostly the multiplayer games such as ludo, PUBG, Royal Battle, Counter-Strike, Call of duty, Carrom, 8 Ball Pool have seen a spike in popularity since the lockdown. Also multi-game platforms such as Mobile Premier League, World Cricket Championship (WCC), Fruit Chop did well in this period.
Experts believe that if the lockdown continues for two to three months, the shift from single-player to multiplayer gaming will become permanent for India. Because, once you tasted the thrill of multiplayer gaming there’s no going back. Though the spike in usage will fade out in comparison to the unprecedented surge in recent weeks, the usage growth is expected to be 2x of what it was before the pandemic.
Covid-19 Impact on Fantasy Gaming
As live sporting events like the Olympics in Tokyo, annual Indian Premier League(IPL) getting cancelled due to the Covid-19 lockdown, fantasy gaming hit a standstill, revenue wise. With many having to rejig their strategies and planning.
Fantasy gaming is a seasonal business which makes billions of dollars during live sporting events like the World Cup or the IPL, is now witnessing a halt in business grind due to these cancellations. Fantasy-gaming platforms such as Dream11, Halaplay, My11Circle and others hit a wall as far as business turnover is concerned. According to experts fantasy-gaming platforms would grow again once live sports resume post pandemic.
Era of Esports
What's fantasy gaming’s loss is the gain for esports. As the lack of live games has piqued people’s interest in esports. Esports include team based or solo competitive gaming in popular online games such as PUBG, Fortnite, Counter-Strike, Call of Duty, League of Legends, Overwatch and Madden NFL, etc. Gamers usually stream live on platforms like YouTube or Twitch and attract millions of viewers, cheering them on in real-time. In the absence of live sports, there is a growth in both viewership and sponsorship investments. People are also getting more hyped about esports online tournaments.
A popular belief is that this surge in online gaming will subside once the lockdown ends and people are able to visit and enjoy the company of their friends physically. The shine of gaming may get a little dull in the post pandemic period but one thing for sure, the gaming industry will never be the same as it used to be before the hit of Covid-19.