Real Money Gaming to Grow to ₹6,130 Crore by FY25: Regulation Needed Urgently

Indian Online Gaming Market Skyrocketing

The combined forces of the rising smartphone adoption in India backed up by cheap mobile data plans, the changes to our lives brought by the pandemic, and the advances of Web 3.0 and NFTs have caused the country’s online gaming market to skyrocket in value and user base, with further massive growth expected in the near future.

“This growth can be credited to the increasing number of mobile games and affordable smartphones catering to the gaming needs of Indians,” according to Yash Pariani, founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of House of Gaming, an eSports platform with 1.5 lakh active users.

A primary research report by global financial advisory company KPMG pinpoints that the average time per week spent by desi users on mobile games jumped from 2.5 hours before Covid-19 to 4.1 hours in April 2020 when the national lockdowns were enacted.

This was a raise from 11 percent to 15 percent from the total time dedicated to smartphones. By the end of June 2020, mobile gaming time dropped to 3.1 hours, or 12 percent of total smartphone time, still marking a substantial overall increase.

At the same time, mobile game downloads in India rose from 1.8 billion in Q1 of 2020, to 2.7 billion in Q2, and 2.9 billion in the third quarter of the first pandemic year.

According to the same report, the overall value of the Indian online gaming market was ₹13,600 crore for the Fiscal Year of 2021, and is projected to grow by 113 percent to ₹29,000 crore by FY25, divided into casual, real money gaming, online fantasy sports, and eSports segments.

At the same time, the market’s active user base is projected to grow by 51 percent from 43.3 crore gamers in FY21 to a total of 65.7 crore players by FY25. The average revenue per user (ARPU) in casual gaming is expected to increase by 76.3 percent from ₹152 to ₹268 within the same forecast period.

RMG Segment Projected to Grow by 23.1 Percent, but is Still Uncontrollable

On the background of the overall growth of the gaming sector in India, projections by KPMG expect the real money gaming (RMG) segment to grow by 23.1 percent from ₹4,980 crore generated in FY21 to ₹6,130 crore in FY25. This sub-sector ranges from blackjack online real money games and other card or table casino titles, to slots, bingo and poker, and according to experts is the most urgent to be brought under control by relevant and up-to-date regulations.

The last several months have witnessed a growing awareness of the need to bring contemporary regulation to online gambling and betting in the country’s political class and authorities, and a number of steps were taken in this direction. These include dedicated discussions in the Rajya Sabha, the introduction of a draft online gaming regulation bill at the Lok Sabha, and the setting up of a special committee by the Central Government to study global best practices in the field.

A common trend in these developments is that online gaming is viewed as an integrated whole, while industry experts warn that a failure of the regulator to differentiate between proper real money and casino games offered by Pure Win and similar platforms and casual games that contain certain real money functionalities would be a mistake.

“In short, an online casino shouldn’t be regulated in the same way as, for example, a gaming platform offering a first-person shooter game with optional real money features. These games are widely different, and trying to fit them under one umbrella is a recipe for disaster,” writes Felicia Wijkander, Chief Editor at ENV Media, a RMG market expertise company.

A proper and sensible regulation over the sector would bring a number of benefits to the country and the public, including responsible gaming mechanisms, prevention of gambling by minors, strict marketing and advertising rules, fairness and protection of player rights, taxation revenues and anti-money laundering control, and an overall social responsibility of the sector.

Rise of Web 3.0 and Play-to-Earn Gaming

In the meantime, a number of gaming companies are expanding the frontiers of the sector moving into Web 3.0 space and including cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) into their offerings, advancing the play-to-earn gaming mode where gamers can earn crypto and NFT assets while playing.

According to Abhay Sharma, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of MetaOneVerse, revenue generation by the Indian online gaming industry exceeded the combined market size of movies and sports, and blockchain-based gaming is poised to grow between 30 and 40 percent in the next few years.