Gaming firms in India are putting in motion plans for new features and services ahead of 5G rollouts in India. The sector, which includes companies that make games for mobile and PCs, streaming firms, and even venture capital (VC) funds, consider 5G to be a possible inflection point for the industry, which could help generate new revenue streams.
For instance, French cloud gaming company Blacknut is in talks with telecom firms Reliance Jio and Airtel who want to synchronize the launch of cloud gaming services with that of 5G networks in India, according to Olivier Avaro, founder and chief executive Blacknut. In September 2021, Blacknut partnered with Airtel to conduct India’s first cloud gaming demonstration in a 5G environment. Jio did not comment on this story.
Cloud gaming is a platform-agnostic form of gaming where gamers are not required to install games or buy high-end devices. The games are streamed directly from servers, which handle the heavy processing tasks, and hence allow resource-intensive games to be played on comparatively weaker and cheaper devices.
“Telcos have tried to build content but haven't succeeded. They feel we can help by bringing a catalogue of gaming content along with the infrastructure,” said Avaro..
Further, telecom major Airtel did not confirm a partnership with Blacknut, however, it said that the company is also looking at 5G to provide new revenues. “Gaming will be a core focus of our business strategy as we look forward to increasing our average revenue per user (ARPU),” said Adarsh Nair, chief executive of Airtel Digital.
Nair added that cloud gaming will be one of the biggest use cases of 5G thanks to the “combination of high speed and low latency”. According to Avaro, telcos in India don’t want to incur the capital expenditure (CapEx) cloud gaming requires right now. He explained that it requires dedicated graphics processing units (GPUs) to be deployed at scale on the cloud end, and said that the company is aiming to bring that infra in the operating expenses (OpEx) model for them.
Cloud gaming isn’t exclusive to telcos and firms in India alone. Globally big Tech firms, including Google and Microsoft, have both been running cloud gaming projects for over two years now. Google, for instance, started testing its Stadio cloud gaming product on 4G and 5G networks in the US back in 2020, while Microsoft had joined hands with South Korea’s SK Telecom as early as 2019. Google and Microsoft did not comment on this story.
That said, Oliver Jones, co-founder, and chief executive of Bengaluru-based mobile gaming firm Bombay Play pointed out that though 5G is expected to open doors for cloud gaming, it hasn’t seen a lot of market traction even in countries where 5G has been available for a while.
Telcos aside, game streaming startup Rooter said it is upgrading streaming features that will be made available to gamers. “We are working on bringing the option to stream in higher resolutions. We will also add audio interactions to improve the chat experience,” said Piyush Kumar, founder, and chief executive of Rooter.
5G offers lower latency networks, which means data can travel faster from the source to the user. This allows higher video resolutions to stream smoothly on mobile phones, and features like chat to work without lags and breakdowns.
According to Sachin Kalantri, senior director of product marketing at chipset supplier Qualcomm, “5G will enable faster downloads and uploads, seamless multiplayer video gaming, live streaming, and real-time cloud gaming with advanced special effects. It will also meet the needs of mobile eSports, which require good connectivity and other network features.”
Other than telcos, streaming, and gaming firms, the move to 5G could be a boon for creators in the industry too. Abhishek Aggarwal, co-founder of Trinity Gaming, a marketing firm for gaming influencer, said the company is “building programs” to help gaming creators better monetize streaming content using new technologies like augmented and virtual reality. On the other hand, Justin Keeling, founding general partner of gaming focused Lumikai Fund, said the company is “keeping a close eye on 5G’s potential for gaming”.
The overall gaming industry in India made $1.8 billion in revenue in 2020 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 38%, which is faster than even the US (10%) and China (8%), according to a November 2021 report by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and VC firm Sequoia.