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As the COVID Crisis Worsens, OTT Content, Video Calling, and Games Are About to Reach New Highs

Indians love online games! According to the latest FICCI-EY media and entertainment report, online games have increased 18% to reach 77 billion rupees in 2020 and gamers have grown from 300 million in 2019 to 360 million in 2020. The lockdown induces by COVID has given a massive boost to digital gaming adoption by Gen X and Millennials and even older generations have been forced to switch to online gaming. This concept of social gaming and then esports (competitive video game competitions with an audience and live streaming) is how millions of people stayed healthy during the lockdown. Now, with the second wave of the virus hitting India forcing people inside, consuming OTT (Over-The-Top) content, video calling and gaming are about to hit a new high . We pivoted in 2020 and this behavior has become “normal” now. People want to try new games and consume more.

There are basically three forms of games: e-sports, casual and skill-based games, and they all grow. Last year we saw the explosion of old fashioned formats like ludo or snakes and ladders. Fantasy sport is another crowd favorite and there is no way to hold it back. In fact, the value of the global fantasy football industry is expected to exceed $ 1 billion by 2026. As Chinese apps have been banned, indigenous developers have rushed to fill the void and seize the opportunity. Multi-game platforms raised millions of dollars last year by offering lots of games and giving more value to their players. Additionally, technological advancements such as the combination of analytics and blockchain could completely disrupt the way the industry works. With growth in ad monitoring, digital spend, technical upgrades, and online customer surveys, the fantasy sports market share is expected to show promising growth. Then, at the end of 2020, as Netflix became our best friend, the show “ The Queen’s Gambit ” based on the story of an accomplished chess player became an unexpected success. This has led to a massive increase in the sale of chess games and books online to millions of people who watch the game being released on different platforms. Former blitz chess world champion and world number two, Hikaru Nakamura, signed up for an esports team in the United States and created a whole new kind of chess fan!

What has actually boosted the rapid growth of online gaming in India is the mobile phone and low data prices. India has the second highest number of subscribers and highest data usage in the world. With handsets becoming readily available and customers enjoying excellent value for money, mobile gaming is where the action is. Game developers know that their customers will primarily play their game on mobile phones and 4G and must therefore optimize the offers according to their needs.

As we enter this period of rapid growth, and especially with games that allow money to be wagered, it is essential that knowledge is shared and education is imparted on what that entails. “Responsible Gaming” is an oft-used term that most gaming companies use and apply, but it is imperative that the industry team up to ensure that correct communication and accurate information is shared with various stakeholders, including regulatory and legal bodies. The game gives us so much: education, rewards, recognition, social outlet and the ability to connect with family across age groups. Setting up a nodal body to take care of this important segment is a must.

As the pandemic shows few signs of slowing down, we can say with certainty that online gaming will only increase. The FICCI-EY report predicts that this segment will grow to Rs 155 billion by 2023. Now is the perfect time to get into the gaming business as we see many games growing and new competitions unfolding. All in all, it’s a great time to be a player. And if you’re not, why not?

(The author is the CEO of WowChess. The opinions expressed are personal.)



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