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Indian gaming firms foray into blockchain, NFTs, in games

Indian gaming firms foray into blockchain, NFTs, in games
Photo Credit: Axie Infinity
14 Nov, 2021

In a bid to cash in on the massive interest in cryptos and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) in India, gaming firms in the country have begun exploring ways to incorporate them in electronic sports (eSports) and games, and also develop new games that will run atop blockchains.

Blockchain gaming allows for gamers to be rewarded with cryptocurrencies for playing a game, while NFTs are used to purchase digital items, real-estate, etc. An example of a successful blockchain game is Axie Infinity, which has millions of players worldwide.

Likewise, mainstream gaming firms like JetSynthesis have started experimenting on how to leverage NFTs in games. “We have done some R&D on this and we are deeply looking at some use cases. Some of the things are very obvious, like the NFTs which can be used for skins and avatars," said Rajan Nawani CEO of JetSynthesis. The company is behind successful mobile games like Ludo Zenith, and has tie-ups with global gaming giants like Japanese Square Enix.

Bengaluru-based Avisa Ventures’ gaming division, too, is working with game developers to create two to three blockchain-based games for its gaming community. It has launched an NFT Gaming Guild for NFT and blockchain-based games, and invested in a bunch of projects. The guild has also initiated a “Play to Earn” competition on Axie Infinity for Indian gamers to give them the opportunity to earn tokens that they can sell to other players.

“We ourselves are planning to start our games on blockchains with NFTs. Till now we were supporting the community by working on other games. We are in talks with 5 to 6 companies in Bengaluru to develop 2-3 games for us,” said Priya Ratnam, founder and CMO, Avisa Ventures.

Similarly, in the eSports industry, NODWIN Gaming partnered with RageFan to offer Chess NFTs in the Chess Super League (CSL) tournament that was held in October. RageFan is a Blockchain-based platform that offers sports NFTs and fan tokens. Chess Premier League NFTs were released by RageFan and will be available for purchase from their NFT marketplace shortly.

According to a report by blockchain tracking firm DappRadar, decentralized apps (Dapps) reached an all-time high of 2 million daily unique active wallets worldwide in October, and about 55% of this traffic comes from blockchain-based games.

Industry experts say these developments are a precursor to Web3 gaming. Web3 refers to the third generation of the internet, which many expect will be driven by decentralized infrastructure and machine-based understanding of data.

To encourage the Indian developer community to build Web3 applications, including games, homegrown Polygon is organizing a hackathon with prizes over $100,000 to encourage developers to build and showcase web3 apps and games running on blockchains. The crypto company is aiming to help create over 100 web3 unicorns in India by 2025. The DappRadar report cited above also noted that Polygon had seen the “biggest growth” in terms of blockchain networks being used in the Dapp space.

"India is possibly the largest gaming market in the world, thanks to the deep penetration of mobile phones and cheap data rates. With the web3 paradigm of Play-to-Earn, where gamers can monetize their time and in-game achievements - this market is set to grow multifold in the coming years,” said Arjun Kalsy, vice president of Growth at Polygon. 

Kalsy has a point. Real money gaming and eSports has seen huge growth in India, especially after the pandemic. According to a 2021 report by Deloitte, India's online gaming industry is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 40% to $2.8 billion by 2022, up from $1.1 billion in 2019. 

“From a consumer behaviour point of view, play-to-earn mode will continue to grow. Blockchain can enable it in a very transparent and decentralized manner. The phenomenon of play to earn and earn through NFT or token is going to be the next growth for the gaming industry," said Manish Agarwal, CEO, Nazara Technologies.

Nazara's gaming division has also started to look into building blockchain-based games, but they are in the initial stages, said Agarwal. 

“India’s crypto user base is the highest in the world. This is an opportunity for India to take leadership in the crypto space. We have engineers and developers to do it,” said Anshul Russtaggi, chief executive officer of Totality Corp, which is building a playable NFT gaming metaverse called ZionVerse, based on Indian mythology.

"People now value experience more. Web3 is the perfect combination of intrinsic rewards and experience. If your games can become more valuable economically it will make you spend more," added Russtaggi.

Though most companies are positive that NFT and blockchain-based games will see huge traction in India, many don’t want to rush things due to a lack of regulatory clarity on cryptos. Navani cautioned, “We're still figuring out what's the safest go to market strategy in light of something untoward coming towards the cryptos.”