India’s digital gaming market is exploding like never before. Spurred by hefty investments from tech giants like Tencent, Youzou, Paytm and more, the country’s digital gaming industry is now worth $890 billion. Indian game development studios have multiplied in kind, growing in number from 25 in 2010 to nearly 250 today. The growth spurt shows no signs of slowing, as experts predict the value of India’s mobile gaming market will climb to $1.1 billion by 2020.
The widespread adoption of smartphones seems to be influencing India’s digital gaming frenzy; projections suggest around 530 million Indian citizens–roughly 42% of the population– will own smartphones this year. Felix Manjoh, founder of mobile game publisher Flixy Games, says features such as frictionless payment, affordable data plans, and localized products are sparking interest in mobile games. A rise in net disposable income–associated with India’s increasingly prevalent middle class–is also likely a contributing factor.
Nowhere is the trend more clear than in India’s total mobile game downloads, which more than doubled over two years, from around 150 million in the second quarter of 2014, to 310 million throughout Q2 2016. Underscoring mobile game’s popularity is a survey by Tune, which reveals that around 84% of Indian smartphone users have games downloaded on their phone, and 86% play at least one game often.
India’s appetite for mobile gaming has garnered significant attention–and substantial backing–from industry investors worldwide. One recent development was the late January launch of Gamepind–a platform hosting popular casual, social and sports games–which received a total of $16 million from Alibaba affiliate AGTech Holdings Ltd and digital payment firm Paytm. Also planning to invest is Tencent, known for its involvement in massive game franchises such as League of Legends and Call of Duty.
Yet another gaming trend catching on in India is competitive online gaming–also known as esports–a fact that has not escaped Nazara Technologies, one of India’s leading mobile developers. Nazara plans to allocate $20 million toward developing India’s esports ecosystem over the next five years. Nazara has received investments from the Electronic Sports League (ESL), the world’s largest esports company, and hopes to catalyze India’s esports industry by creating local leagues, and optimizing online and offline play.
AI may also soon leave a mark on digital gaming in India. Software startup Absentia is currently developing a new toolkit for AI-based game creation: Norah.ai. Using Norah, everything from a game’s character models, to its environment and even its story can be procedurally generated. The technology is still under development, but Absentia’s Head of Business Development Samarth Kishnani believes Norah.ai will one day enable indie studios to produce solid content at little cost.
India’s digital gaming industry is clearly growing, a trend that looks to continue well into the future. Increased investor interest, a deepening consumer pool, and new, affordable development tools will likely see India claim a much larger portion of the worldwide gaming market in coming years.