The 2018 avatar of India Gaming Show, was not just a showcase of the best in video games that India had to offer. This year the show was also the venue for the first ever India Gaming Show International Exhibition and Conference on “The Indian Digital Gaming Landscape”. The conference, a prestigious affair was a 2 panel affair with a who is who of the Indian Gaming Ecosystem today.
The conference was attended by Mr. Kenko Sone (Economic Minister of Japan, the partner country at this IGS), among others and also served as the official announcement for the inception of Indian Digital gaming Society (IDGS), a not for Profit association formed to be the apex body of the Indian Gaming Industry. IDGS plans to act as catalyst and facilitator for the growth and capability building of the Gaming Industry in India. With that in mind, the conference itself was about the future of video games in India, and as such focused on Monetization & esports in India.
The conference was also attended by representatives of multiple publishers, game developers, distributors and other stake holders in the Indian Video Gaming industry, including a large number of people who were interested in investing in India.
Divided into 2 panels, the first half of the conference revolved around:
How far beyond is monetization in video games? Is India ever going to be there?
For the first hour, the panel comprised of Mr. Manish Agarwal (CEO Nazara Technologies), Mr. Roopak Nair (Vice President, Jet Synthesis), Mr. Amit Khemani (Co-founder and Managing Director of e-xpress Interactive Pvt Ltd.), Mr. Amit Khaduja (CEO Reliance Games) and Mr. Karan Gambhir (Vice President, CII India Digital Gaming Society & Head Business Development Google). The panel was moderated by Mr. Sreedhar Prasad (Partner, KPMG).
While most of this discussion predictably revolved around Monetization in video games, there were some interesting aspects that did come out during the 1 hour discussion. Here is a quick 5 pointer that I thought were a takeaway from the entire discussion.
1. Manish Agarwal was quick to point out, that while Mobile development is easy and quick, its far more difficult to monetize than any other video game format. The panel agreed unanimously that monetization through mobile would take some time to become feasible, and until then it falls to the developers to keep on experimenting and trying out new stuff to find out what sticks.
2. Amit Khaduja made a good observation on how under Zapak, they had initially measured the number of downloads as a success metric. However the team at Reliance Game have recently (as recent as 6 months) have changed their approach on creating/delivering quality content. He also stressed the need of passionate people running stores, who are invested into the ecosystem as gamers and not just businessmen.
3. Amit Khemani, urged the Indian development scene to develop more content for the consoles. A much more rewarding platform for both profits and acclamation. He also cited the high GST rate of 28% which is exercised on physical video games today as a deterrent to the console market.
4. The panel anonymously agreed that more showcases such as IGS were required, where the general public could be privy to the latest that the industry has to offer, to attract more customers and act as a gateway for more invested gamers in the future. Karan Gambhir also emphasized that this new found focus on video games by CII was in part because of the Digital India movement that has gathered steam in recent years.
5. The panel also believed that VR and AR were inherently more welcoming technologies and predicted more work to be done in this field, and for it to make a larger economic impact than any other mode of gaming in the near future.
Micro-Transactions, Loot-boxes And Gambling
The 2nd panel was another 1 hour session and was hosted by Mr. Akshat Rathee (Treasurer at CII IDGS, and Managing Director at Nodwin Gaming). The panel itself featured Mr. Anurag Khurana (Country Manager Riot Games), Mr. Jay Sampat (Director of Telecom, Media & tech at Ernest & Young), Mr. Nimish Raut (Head Product Strategy & New Sports, Star India), and Mr. Nishant Patel (Founder and CEO AFK Gaming).
As is clear from the lineup, this panel focused on e-sports, micro-transaction, and loot-boxes. They also discussed the boundaries of gambling in India. A discussion which proved to be more spicier than the last one. Excerpts.
1. It was clear from the various potential investors present at the conference that it wasn’t easy investing in India. While the country boasts of a huge untapped market, the licenses and the laws around esports, lootboxes and reward money are either too vague or non-existent in most states. Making it extremely difficult for a foreigner investor to commit to the Indian market.
2. Akshat Rathee, also spoke about how India is fast becoming an esports consumer but not an esports contender. He attributed that in part to the fledgling cyber cafe lifestyle in India. He emphasized on the need of better gaming cafes in the country, which could compete with the ones in Korea and China, if India looks to become a stronger force in esports.
3. When it came to gambling however, the panel was admittedly non-committal. Because of the myriad of legislation, what constitutes gambling and what does not (for eg. are loot-boxes a form of gambling) is mostly a grey area, and while some are taking advantage of that (games like Teen Patti, Online Rummy etc) others are hesitant to implement mechanics such as loot-boxes and micro-transactions into their game, making monetization even more difficult.
4. When it came to the definition of esports, the panel was anonymous in saying that such decisions are best left to the community. Anurag cited that LOL was never conceptualized as an esports, but it was the community that saw the potential, and RIOT just supported them. So the message was extremely clear, make a great game not the next esports game.
5. The panel also identified the North East as an upcoming region when it came to esports. However, weak infrastructure (specifically bad internet bandwidth) is a deterrent to more tournaments happening in the region.
All in all the conference painted a very optimistic picture of the Indian Gaming Ecosystem. The stakeholders expect the investment and the returns to rise, but warned against expecting instant gratification. They urged developers to work in more innovative ways, and to focus on more traditional platforms such as PC and consoles, if they want to be relevant in the long term.
It will be interesting to see in the coming year, what role the IDGS will play, and whether it can act as a catalyst in creating a more unified regulatory system in India when it comes to video games. What do you make of the conference, what questions do you have. Let us know all this and more in the comments. For more India Gaming Show South 2018 news keep following us on IndianNoob.