Talent & Market Access of India for Video Gaming Companies During & After Covid!

Date: 30th September 2020

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Our fifth edition of the Webinar saw us talking on - Talent & Market Access of India for Video Gaming Companies During & After Covid? We were accompanied by our esteemed panellists

Anish George

Deeptha Vijayan

Roland Landers
  • In this next leg of our Future of Work is Here Webinar Series we discussed with Industry experts on - Talent & Market Access of India for Video Gaming Companies During & After Covid.
  • Roland Landers, CEO of AIGF – All India Gaming Federation

    AIGF is the Industry body for online skill gaming in India, and has leading Indian and International stakeholders as its members.

    He is an accomplished leader with expertise spanning the gaming, media- entertainment and sport businesses. Roland has built top ranked brands and successful IP's in these domains.

    Anish George, Product Director @Electronic Arts (EA)

    EA is the Second largest gaming company in Americas Europe by revenue and market capitalisation

    Anish is a game enthusiast, currently working at Electronic Arts (EA) as Product Director for Pogo, overseeing the growth of a multimillion-dollar product line and managing high-performance teams. Anish actively works with globally distributed teams spread across Canada, USA and Shanghai to name a few.

    Deeptha Vijayan, Professional in Studio Management, ex Studio Director @Sumo Digital

    Sumo Digital is a video game developer based out of the UK, as of 2018 they employed more than 700 people.

    Deeptha Vijayan has diverse 20+ years’ experience in gaming mainly as Production Head and Studio Head in organizations developing casual games, console games, social casino games, Full 3D virtual world and educational games for kids.

Our panelists shared their experiences and thoughts and insights around the gaming market, talent and future of the gaming vertical in the Indian subcontinent.

It's essential that we look at the history of Game Development in India to understand and get a broad perspective of the market.

Game development in India was broadly divided into four defined stages of Foundation (Pre 2005), Inception (2005 to 2010), Incubation (2010 to 2016), Future (2017 and ahead)

Foundation- Pre 2005 gaming industry market was dominated by PCs and Consoles. Though the market was limited due to the high pricing range of Consoles. There were only five domestic companies catering to this medium.

Inception- During the mid-2000s, social media introduced a significant percentage of Indian population across all age, gender and socioeconomic groups to online gaming. The Indian online population started exploring, learning and sharing online games across social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and so many.

During this time period, Global gaming companies introduced local shops to tap the Indian gaming market. The number of local service providers went up from five major gaming companies before 2005 to 25 companies by 2010. Smartphones gained popularity, which replaced feature phones. This paved the way for the inception of new, less capital intensive opportunities for the local gaming companies. Indian gaming companies acting as service providers so far started end to end development of games for the local market.

Incubation- Between 2010 and 2016, smartphones became the primary mode of internet usage. This rise in mobile internet volumes contributed significantly to the evolution of online gaming consumption in India. The development ecosystem evolved in line with the exponential growth of consumption. During this period, the number of Indian gaming companies started launching their own titles. A few of these games successfully featured among the top 10 downloaded and record crossing games.

However, Investments in gaming companies continued to remain low. In recent years, India has seen large in-roads of online entertainment with global online video companies entering the market. These companies have contributed significantly to the Indian consumption and spend behavior. Consumers are constantly gaining confidence to adopt digital payments and online content for entertainment services.

Future- Growth- Indian developers are hence expected to focus on the Indian market. The focus in the near term will continue to be on developing games for mobile devices.

In 2017 Indian gaming companies started adopting global technology. This growth is expected to be further supported by the comprehensive rise in digital payment user base, launch of new technologies at affordable rates, increase in local developer base and focus on development of content with local themes, Indian languages and global standards.

On the basis of the history of gaming which infers the high potential of the market which India subcontinent provides for gaming studios and global companies looking at tapping into the skills and capabilities of the market we initiated our next discussions which catered around the talent, market and future of the region.

Under talent we wanted to ponder if there were enough events, seminars and conventions for gaming enthusiasts as other verticals in India.

Roland started with his views on the gaming industry - as the sector is just a decade old in India and there is a huge uptake taking place in this industry from the past three years. There are enough interactions, conferences, discussions and events taking place to emphasize the social and economics benefits of this industry. The growth is taking place horizontally as now there are upgrades in games and also vertically the number of companies engaged in this business have really increased.

Anish carried forward his views and added due to Covid the outreach programs, webinars and events are all taking place digitally. All the requirements of travelling to countries for attending conferences are now easily accessible through zoom conferences which opened up a lot of avenues for the people in India to connect and receive exposure across. It is a benefit for people in India as they can now even participate in the conferences.

Deeptha further added that the growth has taken place a long way and there is always a scope for improvement. Covid brought a number of opportunities as earlier it was difficult to attend conferences in person. But now, everybody and anybody can attend such conferences conducted digitally. Also there are a lot of other webinars taking place which are being very useful. This opportunity is beneficial especially for development teams as they can collaborate with the other gaming companies in terms of game development. The market in India is moving forward with great improvements.

Further on, the webinar was carried forward wherein the panellist shared their respective views on Talent & Market Access of India for Video Gaming Companies During & After Covid in the Q&A session.

Q : To further understand the talent in terms of developers getting onboarded. Is the next talent also coming up so quick in an academic format?

Where Anish replied that from an academic point of view India is very strong. For artists and engineers there is a large talent pool to draw from with strong potential. The pool exists in terms of entry level talent but there is a gap in search of senior roles which will eventually rise with the sufficient years of experience.

Deeptha added that there is a lot of talent in the market and people with sufficient numbers of experience are quite a few. For senior roles like design and creative directors there is talent available with good exposure, the companies should give opportunities to the deserving and youngsters who are passionate about gaming as they are skilled and waiting for the right opportunity. If we trust and groom them it will be a wonderful change for India.

Roland shared his thoughts that in the gaming industry most of the work is all moved to India. If we come to a little more complex gaming product, obviously there is more intecracy in terms of design and creative elements would come from international talent, whereas coding and the other aspects where Indians are good at like infrastructure and technology can be worked and put together in the product. Due to the recent ban on Pubg, there are some of the Indian studios who are working towards similar FPS format which we will see the outcomes in future but it has been developed. And some of the games that are already come out quite good as acceptance. The talent exists here probably in the post Covid era we will see a little more of that unfolding.

Q : To cover a few aspects under market we discussed big international studios coming into the Indian market and how critical is this factor into the Indian market?

Deeptha agreed that it is critical as we have the talent and skilled workforce in India who are passionate to get into gaming but people should have confidence in Indian workforce and should be ready to invest. The existing talent in India has the skill and experience playing great games that are available in the market. They know what the expectations are and need a little guidance and can be just in business.

Anish further added that there are three aspects of this - First where global companies to establish live services in India. Second, is that if the game is being made for the Indian market the best people to make games for the Indian Market are the people in India. As they understand the context and expectations and are able to design it. The gap comes in where they want to build a game that is globally accepted and will work for the rest of the market. That phase is the third aspect which is hard to achieve.

Roland shared his view from the industry's perspective, it is a sunrise sector that is coming from the age. In the next half a decade or a decade from now it's really going to be a very evolved market place in India. To put those blocks in space it’s vital just like any other sector. When International companies come into India and set up a phase for development here. It is always a good move that helps the ecosystem and It will definitely help from the talent perspective also giving the Indian talent an International exposure.

Q : There is a sudden rise in active users. How critical is this factor in the Indian market?

Where Roland contributed that India is close to 560 - 600 million internet users which is second to China in rank. The numbers will mostly increase in the next three years. India is going to use mostly mobiles for gaming even for ESports and complex games. The number of internet users is going up by 650 million which will help the entire ecosystem. As these numbers increase there will be even more engagement. The time spent in an engagement on gaming products is extremely high and it's growing up.

Deeptha added that the Indian Market has been affected due to internet penetration. The games are also now available in different languages with positive response. This is also a reason why there is an increase in the number of active internet users. Also the smartphone prices are now becoming very economical so people are mostly using smartphones and they can play games which are available in mobiles. The internet is now available everywhere which has helped a lot of people's engagement with games and that will only grow if we can get more speed and cheaper access as we go ahead.

Anish mentioned that the number of internet users is drastically increasing in India which doubles the population of the US and that has created a lot of potential. But there is a translation of potential to actual market revenues and has definitely created a huge space. But the adoption of those payment methods that's going to help monetize the audience before driving the potential significantly. The increased number of users also means that the ad industry can actually benefit from it. More games are there with more innovative ways of serving ads and targeting people that can generate a lot of revenue which can push the market size bigger.

Q : How critical is the infrastructure within the studios which are developing games in Indian subcontinent?

To which Deeptha replied - The emerging technology in India has reduced the issues in terms of data security and infra which were mainly faced earlier. Studios in India are now able to handle such issues and security is also taken care of very well. There is the understanding of standards which are required to work with publishers.

Where Anish agreed with Deeptha that things have now improved. Most of the companies are now using SAAS based tools and platforms. So in terms of data security things are improved in India.

Roland shared his views here from the platform perspective. The supporting infrastructure and data security is now well built up in India and there is a new data privacy bill that India is putting in place. And these aspects will come into play for the Indian gaming companies the way the data is stored.

Q : How easy or difficult is working with a Distributed team from a gaming studio perspective?

Anish answered that it's a completely viable strategy as Covid has proven that it is possible to work in distributed teams. Though there are few challenges which are being improved. And during pandemic the distributed workforce culture is getting implemented and executed.

Deeptha added her views - The basic bottom line is to empower the people working for you and getting work done. Open discussion and transparency is required within or across the teams. Distributed workforce does work well and it has increased during Covid. People are now ready to collaborate at any given time. Gaming is a piece of creativeness and if we can get creativeness out of 9 - 6 office clock the team will be more creative. As we are moving from the stage of mobile online gaming to the further spin offs monetization or fantasy and ESports etc.

Q : What are the thoughts on the section of legalization, regularization in the gaming vertical ?

To which Roland replied, that online gaming continues to be self regulated as of now. Though we are in discussion with several states and central ministries to recognize these self-regulations. Which are governed by the area of chartered which is based on the principles of legality, integrity and good governors. These are charters put together by industry experts who come from judiciary and academics, law enforcement etc. Diverse backgrounds but who are domain experts. Maybe in the next 5 years we could have formal regulations.

Further Kaushal shared his thoughts from the point of gaming industry in India. There is a lot of change in gaming due to Covid and more changes will be seen in future. Once we get into 100% digital life gamification of everything will start - gamification in education, fitness etc.

Q : How do you see gamification from the point of view of Indian market? As India can be a hubspot for game development in future.?

Anish replied that everything is now getting gamified - education, corporate training, fitness. It's not too far to imagine various changes or upgradation in lives due to gamification. It's an open sky and there are various aspects as gamification is a vast scope.

Deeptha added her view that with time we have become matured in the way we want to get knowledge. The traditional form of reading books is now transformed into listening and learning. We are already done with the traditional forms of education. And it is also getting adapted very easily from the educational sectors and to other areas.

Q : How can individual developers strategize marketing and monetization for their games?

To which Anish answered - There are tons of batch practices and live services that deal with monetization which is available. There are enough resources that talk about how to create monetization and how to enter pinch points in an economy where an individual developer can refer to the same.

As we have already established the fact that India is a talent market for easy access of talent. Given the fact that White-hat junior and Vedantu who have introduced gaming at a very young age from 5th - 6th grade.

Q : How would that really impact the scenarios when it comes to access talent ?

Deeptha replied that it is an outstanding move by these companies like White Hat Jr. As kids are getting exposed to games at a very early age so they tend to be very curious about how these games are developed and this creates an interest to seek knowledge which eventually boosts the talent and skill available in our country.

Anish shared his views. Many people around us play games which creates a harder consumption market in future. Kids in the 5th - 6th grade started to learn coding will not just boost the gaming industry but also will help in the other sectors as in future we will be more towards digital.

To summaries the whole webinar, it is clear that some of the Leading Game Development companies have shifted their focus to India. It is a great place to invest in and given the introduction of the new ease of performing business activities the focus is on skill development and investment as Indian Online Gaming Sector is growing with an exponential rise in the market.