Gaming engagement, spending increased drastically in India after 2021: Krafton India exec

A year after it was launched, Krafton’s popular game — Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI) — has crossed 100 million users in India. For Krafton, the first year of the pandemic (2020) came with its own set of challenges in India. It was the time when its game PUBG: Mobile — launched in the country in partnership with Chinese tech giant Tencent — was banned. However, Krafton bounced back with its new property, BGMI, which was launched in July 2021. BGMI’s success coupled with the changes in consumer behaviour are some of the reasons why Krafton is approaching the Indian market more seriously now.

However, according to Anuj Tandon, Head Corporate Development, Krafton, India, Middle East and North Africa, it’s not just downloads and users, the biggest change is that Indian users are now spending more on in-app game purchases.

“The perception was that in-app purchases, people purchasing more skins of the games characters and other stuff, did not happen in India. But in 2021, at least four to five games in India would have made more than 100 million dollars through in-app purchases annually. This was unheard of three to four years back,” Tandon told over the phone.

In his view, 2021 was the year when the market crossed a very important turning point in the mobile gaming space. “People are valuing in-app entertainment as a legitimate form of entertainment and have started putting money towards it. This will also attract a lot of global companies to think about this market more seriously,” he added. This change is critical as before pandemic India was mostly viewed as a downloads farm, not one where consumers were likely to spend on the game itself.

Anuj Tandon, Head of Corporate Development at Krafton India.

This increased gaming spend is also why Krafton has not just limited itself to its own BGMI title. Rather, it has invested in other Indian companies related to the gaming and media and entertainment industry. In the past one and a half years, the company claims to have deployed over $100 million in investments in India.

“We feel that there is large whitespace in the interactive entertainment and overall media entertainment sector lending, typically, which includes video games, eSports, and tech platforms which enable these. We feel there are not enough investments done in the space,” Tandon explained.

Krafton has made investments in gaming companies such as Nautilus Mobile — the publisher of the game ‘Real Cricket.’ Krafton has also invested in the Bengaluru-based gaming studio Leela Games. It also has investments beyond the traditional gaming setup including in gaming-related companies such as Nodwin, an Esports events company, and Loco, a live streaming platform for video games.

“When we invest in gaming companies, our criteria to invest in gaming especially becomes very tough. We can evaluate those companies much, much better. eSports is what we called post-game community engagement and rewarding activity, which is very important for multiplayer games. Loco is a dedicated platform for game streaming, and I believe more than 50 per cent of the streaming happening on it is from BGMI. Both these market segments are only poised for growth,” Tandon said while explaining the rationale behind some of these investments.

The way Krafton views it, India will be a critical market from a revenue perspective in the near future. He also highlighted how live streaming in games is poised to grow bigger, though right now, YouTube is still the prominent platform in India for this. “I personally believe that streaming as a business, especially for Esports and gaming, is poised for at least 2x to 3x growth in the next one or two years,” he pointed out.

When asked whether Krafton intends to look at Web3 games as well, Tandon said the company does plan to invest in “deep tech AI companies in India,” where it sees synergy with its gaming portfolio. “We will be doing a few experiments as a company to explore but (we will be) keeping to our core beliefs – we are very good at making games and IPs (intellectual properties). That is our strength,” he said.

He added that the main issue with Web3 games currently is that the games feel like a job, rather than fun, given the stress on ‘play-to-earn’. “I think the second wave is when you will see much broader and larger use cases being developed for these,” he noted.

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