The number of users for the video gaming platform Gamerji has surged to 1.4 million from 200,000 in March last year, as homebound users turned to alternative forms of digital entertainment during Covid-19 lockdowns.
The platform includes popular options such as football game FIFA Mobile and battle games Clash Royale and Free Fire, through which players from across the country compete with each other in e-tournaments.
“The pandemic played a huge part in the growth,” Soham Thacker, the founder of Gujarat-based e-sports start-up said.
A burgeoning user base for gaming in India has also caught investors’ eyes. Gamerji, founded in 2019, raised seed capital of $500,000 in November from an Indian venture capital firm, along with the participation of a few angel investors, and is expecting to close its next round of funding later this year.
India’s gaming industry has emerged as one of the fastest-growing forms of entertainment during the pandemic, with the sector’s value rising to $1.5 billion last year, from $1.1 billion in 2019, and is expected to almost double to $2.8 billion by 2022, according to Deloitte’s Technology, Media and Telecommunications Predictions 2021 report.
Between 2020 and 2022, some 40 million new online gamers are set to appear in India, taking the total to 368 million, Deloitte said. India has the second-largest number of online gamers in the world, after China.
The country’s gaming sector was starting to expand before the pandemic, but the crisis has propelled the industry forward at a much faster pace.
“Primarily over the past 15 months, that has been the pivotal point of the growth trajectory, driven by quarantines and lockdowns and a lot of people had limited access to alternative modes of entertainment and more time and disposable money,” said Parth Das, an entrepreneur and investor who set up the Collective Ace group to focus on mergers and acquisitions, and the service sector in the gaming industry.
Most gamers in India play on their smartphones, with mobile gaming making up 85 per cent of online gaming. The growth trend has been boosted by rising smartphone ownership and lower data costs, as well as the country’s large young population. Popular games include card and cricket games, but serious players compete for prizes in e-sport tournaments, a niche but growing segment.
The majority of gamers are male, under the age of 35 and based in India’s biggest cities.