When parents tell me that their kids waste eight hours playing video game matches every day, I tell them that their children should instead spend eight hours honing their skills in practice modes,” says Akshat Rathee, Founder-MD of Nodwin Gaming that has organised the ongoing DreamHack festival in Delhi.
This is actually sound career advice, as gaming has leveled up from being something only nerds and dorks obsessed over into a rapidly growing, and lucrative, profession. As Rathee notes, there are a 150 million Indians who play PUBG Mobile regularly, while the number of professional gamers, who actually pursue playing video games as a career, is 58. Clearly, there’s a huge potential for growth.
We’re talkin’ big bucks
The global gaming industry, which comprises game developers, service providers (outsourced companies that help with art creation, testing, localisation, audio, visual effects etc.), and hardware manufacturers, is currently pegged at over $100 billion globally. Gaming is the largest segment within the international entertainment market, comfortably exceeding the financials of other fields like movies (including global behemoths Hollywood and Bollywood), music, and animation.
The Indian gaming industry is currently valued at over $890 million (around `6,000 crore) and accounts for roughly 1 per cent of the global pie. However, the country is poised to become one of the world’s leading markets in the gaming sector.
Rathee, who’s fond of analogies, compares the meteoric rise of gaming in the country to the evolution of cricket formats over the years. “Earlier gaming was restricted to PC modules, and required a large capital investment, which restricted the number of serious players. It was like test cricket... very formalised and elitist, definitely an old boy’s club. Then came handheld consoles and gaming devices, which were relatively less expensive, meaning more people had access to it, but it was all still somewhat in a state of limbo, sort of like One Day Internationals. Then just like the IPL, smartphones exploded on to the scene and suddenly gaming was easily accessible, fun, informal, and anyone could play for the price of a decent smartphone, instead of expensive consoles which could set you back by a lakh.”
The gaming brotherhood
Naman Mathur is an unassuming 23-year-old from Thane, who is more comfortable speaking in Hindi, despite speaking perfectly adequate English. In gaming circles, he’s known and feared as Mortal, India’s top player at PUBG Mobile, and a celebrity at festivals like DreamHack and wherever else gamers congregate.
It’s not for nothing then that most of India’s top gamers now come from Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. “These guys are extremely passionate about gaming, practice religiously, cooperate with each other and constantly support and challenge each other. Hindi is the lingua franca, and suddenly gamers from a Delhi or Mumbai or Chennai are out of their comfort zone as the arena is being populated by people from small towns,who have their own lingo,” explains Rathee.
Games development, scope in India
Today, gaming is a legitimate career option, with top seed players earning up to R 50,000, a figure that industry experts only see going up. Also, India’s game art creation industry is burgeoning. While China is the No. 1 in outsourced creations, India is being looked at as a viable alternative for global game art development.
Lakshya Digital is India’s largest company when it comes to outsourced gaming development and art creation firm that has helped create some of the biggest titles in the console segment over the last 15 years. Lakshya develops gaming animation for an enviable client list that includes Disney, Microsoft and Sony.
According to its CEO Manvendra Shukul, India has become a premier destination for games development due to the skills of technical artists and creators, their language competency (China struggles to communicate with its Western clients, a situation that’s slowly improving), and most importantly, the cost factor. “Up to 60-65 per cent of a game title’s development budget goes into the arts and animation, and so companies have no choice but to outsource a lot of their work. China used to have a tremendous lead as they started about a decade before Indian companies did, but now we’ve almost caught up, and the market is growing by leaps and bounds,” he says. Go team India.