Level up: Indian gaming is getting bigger in 2023

Feb 03, 2023 11:09 PM IST

India is in the midst of a gaming evolution, and makers are not holding back. See what’s on the cards in the post-pandemic boom

Fire up those gaming rigs. Charge those controllers. The pandemic is (mostly) over, supply chain issues have been sorted. Video games are making up for lost time. You may finally be able to buy a gaming console without sitting on a waitlist forever. And you can play the latest chapters of the game titles you’d been waiting for.

As of 2022, 34% of gamers played at least one FPS game; including Battle Royale, which was one of the more popular titles. (Shutterstock)
As of 2022, 34% of gamers played at least one FPS game; including Battle Royale, which was one of the more popular titles. (Shutterstock)

The ecosystem has as many side quests as the games themselves. There are more unlimited buffet subscriptions. Some mergers remain incomplete. Big players such as Sony, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple and Google have been parkouring like they’re in first-person shooter games. There’s frantic action and a big prize at the end.

Pending matters from 2022 need completion, such as Microsoft’s long-drawn acquisition of gaming company Activision Blizzard. Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation consoles will resume market share battles. Either may spring a surprise with a mid-cycle refresh, packaged as a new console. Amazon is relaunching Prime Gaming for smartphones in India. That’s good timing, as numbers indicate growing trends of gaming convergence on smartphones (and tablets), alongside PCs and consoles.

Research by Niko Partners, released in November, indicates that 2022 ended with 396.4 million gamers. A massive 98.8% of them are playing on smartphones – solely or in addition to other gaming platforms. Estimates peg India’s share at 630 million gamers by 2026, with $1.4 billion in revenue generation (up from $704.5 million in 2022). India’s overall gaming market was valued at $2.6 billion in 2022, according to the State of India Gaming report FY22 by venture capital fund Lumikai. They estimate this to be worth $8.6 billion by 2027.

Let’s give the numbers a rest and see how it’s all playing out.

The delayed roster includes Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed, Bethesda’s Starfield, Arkane’s Redfall, and Capcom’s Street Fighter 6. (Shutterstock)
The delayed roster includes Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed, Bethesda’s Starfield, Arkane’s Redfall, and Capcom’s Street Fighter 6. (Shutterstock)

The new games:

The delayed roster includes many high-profile games. Bethesda’s Starfield, Arkane’s Redfall, Capcom’s Street Fighter 6, Warner Bros Games’ Hogwarts Legacy, Deep Silver’s Dead Island 2, and Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Mirage as well as Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora.

Indians prefer to spend their gaming journey with virtual guns. Research firms Statista and Rakuten Insights indicate in their latest combined numbers that 34% of gamers play at least one FPS game. Here are the other popular genres: Battle Royale (27%) and Real-Time Strategy (23 %), racing games (14%), sports (20%) and RPGs, or role-playing games (23%).

All you can eat buffets:

“Gaming has become widely popular, and we recognise the need to provide a robust selection of games and content to enhance playing experience,” believes Akshay Sahi, director for Prime and delivery experience at Amazon India. It is no surprise that gaming giants are focusing on not just hardware but also subscriptions.

On the console, you have the choice of the Microsoft Xbox Game Pass (with a basic tier EA Play included) and the Sony PlayStation Plus, depending on which console you have. Microsoft’s advantage extends to PCs too, with the Xbox Game Pass also including wider versions of games.

These are an alternative to outright game purchases, but often, you may find a game that’s not in the subscription, especially when it is a recently released one. This is more prominent with PlayStation Plus than Xbox Game Pass – the latter has a better collection of games and adds most new games on the day of the release. So, you don’t have to spend extra money on buying games.

On the mobile, things are evolving quickly. There’s Apple Arcade for all Apple devices, Google has the Play Pass for Android phones and tablets. These include games that are bundled for unlimited play, with new titles added every month. It’s good value – 99 per month or so, for 100 games and counting.

Netflix has a games corner too. The Android and iOS apps have added a bunch of games in recent months. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge, Vikings: Valhalla and Valiant Hearts: Coming Home are some of the first for 2023. For now, Netflix games are free with an existing streaming subscription.

Your gaming rig: The smartphone

Expensive flagship smartphones have more processing power and memory than most laptops nowadays. Even affordable smartphones easily run video games. You’re no longer stuck with Solitaire or Snake, anymore, although both remain incredibly loved titles.

For casual gamers, that’s a great point to start. For intermediate and avid gamers, there’s no need to buy a gaming computer or console anymore. It may not be hyperbole to say smartphone games are getting closer to console games than they have ever been.

“Given the fact that India was the world’s largest consumer of mobile games in FY22 with 15 billion downloads, there is an immense market for developers to experiment with,” points out Kashyap Reddy, co-founder of Hitwicket, which claims to be India’s first and the world’s largest cricket strategy game.

Fox in the box

Tunic, by Andrew Shouldice is a role-playing game featuring a fox lost on an island
Tunic, by Andrew Shouldice is a role-playing game featuring a fox lost on an island

Indie games have found their fixation: foxes. Over the years, Sonic the Hedgehog, Star Fox, and Never Alone worked it beautifully, with the fox playing a central role in the story. 2022 was no different.

Tunic, by Andrew Shouldice (Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, PC and Mac) is an action-packed role-playing game that has the player exploring ancient lands with lost legends. A fox is lost on the island, and it is a game of brains to unravel the path ahead.

FixFox, by Rendlike (PC) is a sci-fi game adventure featuring space mechanic Vix, a human-fox hybrid, discovering the secrets of a mysterious planet.

Trifox, by Glowfish interactive and Endling: Extinction is Forever, by HeroBeat Studios (both for Xbox, PlayStation, Switch and PC), add adventure, action and an occasional retro touch to the indie games’ genre which puts the fox in focus.

From HT Brunch, February 4, 2023

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    Vishal Mathur is Technology Editor for Hindustan Times. When not making sense of technology, he often searches for an elusive analog space in a digital world.

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