PUBG, Fortnite help create a niche for gaming smartphones
The tipping point has been reached through PUBG game, and people have tasted blood, analysts say.
Global players Asus and Nubia are set to bring in their gaming smartphones to the Indian market soon, while Huawei and Oppo have already pitched their high-end devices as gaming handsets, company officials said.
“Youngsters are used to gaming on PCs and they want same high-end capability and experience on phones,” said Dinesh Sharma, mobile business at Asus India. “Globally, the ecosystem is developing fast, and it is being shifted from PC to mobile phones...we see a strong potential in India. We will launch our Asus ROG phone soon in India,” he told ET.
“The tipping point has reached through PUBG game, and people have tasted blood,” Sharma said.
Globally, companies including Asus, Xiaomi, Huawei, Nubia Technology and Razr have come up with their gaming specific handsets to differentiate themselves from the likes of high-end smartphone makers Apple and Samsung with enhanced specs, bigger batteries, and better cooling mechanisms, at comparatively lower price points.
These firms are looking create a niche in the India where an ever-increasing number of consumers, particularly youngsters, are opting for faster and better performing handsets even if it means paying more than earlier.
“The market is shifting to $250-400 (around Rs 18,000-30,000) price segment where good specifications are being made available,” said Anshika Jain, analyst at Counterpoint Research. “Handset players are targeting youth via smartphones with bigger battery, better processors and additional features,” she said.
Nubia, formerly a sub-brand of China’s ZTE, plans to launch its Red Magic gaming phone in India at around Rs 30,000.
“Globally, Red Magic series by nubia aims at building a community of gamers and gaming enthusiasts,” said Dheeraj Kukreja, marketing director – India at nubia. He said the company aims to create “a similar gaming community in India to attain a leadership position in this category”.
Kukreja, however, said this community is a niche segment that will be driven by experience and not volume.
Analysts said consumer awareness about game availability, device capability and connectivity, coupled with access to high-speed data services at low rates are driving the popularity for graphicrich mobile games in the country.
While the market for gaming smartphones is negligible now, market research firm CyberMedia Research (CMR) expects it to reach 1.8% of the total smartphone shipments in the country by the end of this calendar year, and possibly reach 6.5% by 2021, driven by the popularity of highly advanced mobile games.
Another study by Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) and Kantar IMRB estimates revenue from the mobile games segment to stand at $649 million in 2018, and grow at 9.8% annually from 2018 to 2022, resulting in a market volume of $943 million by 2022.
As per KPMG estimates, more than 33% Indians engage in mobile gaming at least five days a week and for at least half an hour every time they log in.
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While smartphones may not match PCs and gaming devices in terms of performance, their portability and affordability are making thousands of people play multiplayer online games such as Fortnite and PUBG on smartphones.
While there’s still a significant difference in experience of gaming between high-end PCs and mobile phones, some mobile phone processors are reaching the level of low-end PCs,” said Navkendar Singh, associate director at market intelligence firm International Data Corporation (IDC). “This evolution of tech consumption habits, and advancements in technology, are helping create a market conducive to mobile gaming, which would not have been possible a couple of years ago.”
A recent CMR consumer survey pointed to smartphone emerging as the primary device for gaming, preferred by over 90% of millennials and Gen-Z, overshadowing gaming PCs and other device forms. Internal estimates by CMR point to a significant spike in mobile gaming users with expectations that they will cross 748 million by 2021. “There are two segments of users: serious gamers, and aspirants,” the study said. “While serious gamers play for about four to five hours a day (56%), aspirants play for about an hour or more, through the day (35%).”
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Asus’ Sharma said any phone with bigger battery and processors starting from Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 series along with GPU can offer a good gaming experience to customers. “In India, far more powerful devices are getting available in the mid-segment that will offer good experience,” he said.
China’s Oppo has positioned its F9 Pro device as a gaming phone in India. The firm has opened a PUBG-themed store in Bengaluru, and recently sponsored Tencent’s PUBG Mobile Campus Championship 2018 recently in the country. “Our initiatives are focused towards engaging with our audience, the youth, in India,” said Will Yang, brand director at Oppo India said.
Huawei, too, sees tremendous potential in the India market especially in the emerging gaming segment and is “looking at right partnership and technology advancements” to emerge a key player in this segment, said Paras Chopra, senior director, product planning, at Huawei Consumer Business Group India. “We have already introduced our gaming smartphones with the launch of Nova Series in the India market,” he said.
IDC’s Singh said the gaming segment offers an opportunity to all major smartphone makers in the country. “A smartphone player can possibly have a marketing tie up with dedicated gaming console makers to launch a co-branded gaming phone, for example, with Nintendo, or Microsoft Xbox, or Sony PlayStation. This can help establish seriousness of the brand in gaming segment and leverage the brand pull of both brands,” he said.