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Monetisation a challenge for Indian mobile gaming sector: Nazara CEO

Nazara Technologies recently invested an undisclosed amount in London-based mobile gaming studio TrulySocial. In an interview with Techcircle.in, Manish Agarwal, CEO of Nazara Technologies, explains why his firm invested in the gaming company. Agarwal also shared his thoughts on the Indian mobile gaming industry and said mobile gaming will see unprecedented growth in coming years. But he cautions that monetisation is a challenge in a country like India which is not very gaming savvy. While mobile phones have brought gaming to Indian homes, the habit of making payments through in-app purchases will take time. Edited excerpts:

Will TrulySocial’s offerings have any takers in India?
TrulySocial focuses on women mobile gamers, and I believe in next two to three years there will be a very large section of mobile gamers in India. I believe this is the right genre because India is the second-largest country for Facebook and Facebook has a very high percentage of women and the time spent on Facebook by women is higher than men. People who are tech savvy, who are on mobile internet, who do lot of activities – that’s my audience for TrulySocial.

How is the Indian mobile gaming space structured?
In the Indian mobile gaming industry, you predominantly have platforms, publishers, developers, and then ad networks and monetisation platforms – that’s broadly the ecosystem. A large share of users is dominated by Google Play and iTunes. The domestic market has also seen a rise in the number of developers. They publish themselves, while some others require the support of a publisher whether in terms of user acquisition, IT infrastructure, understanding data and analytics – that’s where the publisher comes in. In India there are very few publishers. Publishers exist when there is a large ecosystem of developers and you can check the quality of the developers.

How do mobile games fare vis a vis PC/console games?
In India PC games didn’t happen. Console is very low. Predominantly gaming in India is centered around mobile and the simple reason is that mobile is a personal device and its with you. Given that Indians don’t have many entertainment options, mobile becomes the primary entertainment device. Gaming and videos are the two entertainment options.

What kind of business models dominate the gaming industry in India?
The traditional business model is subscription services run through mobile phones which are called value-added services. Those are still the largest. The second business model is you take games and put them on Google Play and iTunes where you’re doing a freemium business model. Monetisation happens through ads or through in-app purchase. These are the two broad business models that exist.

Which model works more?
Fundamentally, habit formation, in-app purchase is yet to happen in India. It will take time. Besides this, last-mile friction problems for payment are very high. Combined with the consumer habit and last-mile friction in micro payments, in-app purchases are a difficult bet to take on mobile gaming. So, the ad model becomes the predominant model in the freemium space, while subscription continues to be the large pie because you’re dealing with consumers from the bottom of the pyramid and the numbers are huge.

In terms of content, what games are popular?
Since India is not a gaming nation, keep aside the top 20-30 million people who are Western travellers with high-speed devices, the bulk of Indians are only just having their first brush with gaming on mobile phones. These users play a little bit and then move on to the next game. They are very casual users. They love to play running, racing, arcade, puzzle, shooting games – depends on whether it is a female or male audience. Male audiences prefer shooting games, while women love puzzles, racing and runner games. Kids love racing, running games.

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