The digital gaming industry is looking forward to the mobile 3G rollout with the great enthusiasm. The 3G regime will allow a sharp step-up in mobile gaming from single-player Java downloads to multi-player, social gaming, enabled by high-speed data transfer capabilities.
With the fast proliferation of smartphones — affordable and high-end — mobile gaming has already started creating noticeable ripples in India. GPRS-supported mobile phones enable mobile game play. A mobile VAS (value-added services) report says that India’s mobile gaming industry stands at Rs 541 crore, which is 4.56 per cent of the total VAS revenue of Rs 11,860 crore. Frost & Sullivan estimates that the Indian mobile gaming industry will touch Rs 3,100 crore by 2014.
Samir Bangara, COO, Indiagames, had put the size of the mobile gaming industry at a more conservative Rs 250 crore during the June launch of Happydent White’s mobile game, developed by his company. He said, “Post the 3G rollout, the segment is expected to grow at a much faster pace. There are about 40 million mobile internet users in the country, a number that is expected to increase exponentially.”
Other industry estimates put the size of the gaming industry at Rs 1,000 crore by 2013. Though the estimates vary, everyone agrees that mobile gaming is going to be big in the near future.
Anuj Kacker, global head, Arena Animation, said that over three million users in India play mobile games every month. “Mobile and console gaming together contribute nearly 75 per cent of the total gaming market. With around one lakh downloads a day, this adds up to over 36 million downloads a year.”
According to a NASSCOM-Ernst & Young report, the mobile gaming market in India is dominated by GSM mobile operators who enjoy a 75 per cent market share. The top categories of games include cricket, Hollywood and action-based games. Around seven-nine million mobile subscribers are added every month and GPRS penetration (on handset capability) is almost 35 per cent. Mobile gamers account for only about 1.25 -1.5 per cent of the total subscriber base, so the potential for growth is huge.
Nokia has positioned Ngage as a gaming platform on mobiles and many handset manufacturers are bundling games. Some operators also provide free GPRS access. As gaming catches on, ad–supported and subscription models could emerge.
Mythological themes are now being tapped for mobile gaming too. Besides, advergaming is expected to get a boost in the 3G scenario, when a TV commercial can be streamed before a game.
Chandrashekhar Mhaskar, national manager, digital marketing, Dun & Bradstreet, added: “The freemium and ad-funded model has been gaining traction. It involves the consumer either being allowed to play the first few levels of a game free of cost, and then being given the option to download; or the games being available free to the customer and the funds being generated through advertising.”
Games such as Wordmaster, Texas, My Gang, The Great Indian Parking Wars and Galcon, and other sports and action genre are popular with game lovers. But, said Nitish Mittersain, CEO, Nazara Technologies, a mobile entertainment company, “Cricket games have always been among our top sellers. Featuring Virender Sehwag helped us a lot, as many of his fans download the game. Gamers spend about 30 to 40 minutes a day on these games.”
Brands launching games around themselves on the mobile platform has also gained popularity. Happydent White launched a car racing game and features prominently in it. Sameer Suneja, MD, Perfetti Van Melle India, had said at the time of the game’s launch in June: “Mobile gaming is very popular in the age band of 15-30 years, which is also Happydent’s core target group. The brand values and message are captured skilfully in this three-level game.”
Last year, Vodafone launched its Zoozoo World Cup, a fast-paced cricket game on the mobile platform, with the Zoozoos as the players.
3G phone users are expected to spend at least three-four times more on gaming as compared to normal users. The gaming industry has aggressive plans to exploit the opportunity. “We have already started engaging with the gaming audience and have tied up with MTNL on 50/50 revenue sharing,” said Mittersain.
Ibibo, the first company in India to launch social games on the mobile platform, has already built up significant and unique strengths in the area of multi-player gaming and is ready to roll them out as soon as the 3G networks go operational. Developers are already designing device-agnostic games that are free of handset compatibility hassles and low-end device performance.
Ibibo and games2win.com plan to make all their online games available on the mobile platform. Ibibo has tied up with Aircel for its online game, The Great Indian Parking Wars, and will tap other mobile services too. Reliance ADAG’s JumpGames is working on iPhone-compatible games.
The share of gaming in the VAS pie is expected to increase post the 3G rollout. “This share would get a further boost with the launch of 3D and MMOG (massively multiplayer online games) mobile games and enhanced QWERTY keyboards to improve the end-user experience,” said Mehul Gupta, associate VP, Internet & Mobile Association of India.