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Why Focus on Data and Analytics is a Must for Game Devs in India

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There’s a mobile gaming revolution brewing in India.

The world’s fastest growing economy is witnessing a smartphone boom that’s putting technology — and mobile games — into the hands of millions of people for the very first time.

India’s gaming market is predicted to reach $3 billion by 2019, and a staggering 96 percent of Indian developers are focusing on mobile games, according to a recent report by trade group NASSCOM.

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Image via Hardik Boda/Flickr

These numbers alone make it great to be a mobile game developer in India, but let’s take a deeper look at why the area is ripe for mobile game success and what it needs to do to get there:

Rising mobile game quality

India hasn’t always been the go-to for quality games, but Venkat Chandar, co-founder of Axiom Studios, believes this perception will change dramatically over the next few years.

Many Indian game studios are already gaining global attention: Bash Gaming (creator of popular casino game Bingo Bash) recently sold to U.S. company GSN Games for an estimated $160 million. Amidst these great successes, small, agile studios will likely be at the heart of India’s continued mobile growth, Chandar believes.

“Off the top of my head, I can think of a couple of hundred [game developers] that started up in the last couple of years [in India],” he says. “The cost of running a business in India isn’t that high, so it attracts a lot of people.”

Rajesh Rao, head of Indian game development company Dhruva Interactive and chairman of the NASSCOM gaming forum, agrees that the quality of games young Indian studios are creating is increasing exponentially.

“Here, many of these [developers] have not played games through their childhood,” Rao says. “They have a lot of energy, but they lack the experience. The heartening thing is they are learning very, very fast.”

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Images via NASSCOM

Understanding data and analytics

Despite this young enthusiasm, India is still struggling to find native marketing and analytics experts that will help its new talent succeed in the growing market.

Rao says that many indie studios, in their youthful exuberance, are forgetting the need to monetize.

“The indies are not thinking of monetization, market segmentation, how they’re going to make money,” he says. “It’s like an afterthought. You ask them, ‘What’s your marketing plan? What do your analytics looking like?’ Many of them haven’t really thought about it.”

Rao is helping to arrest that trend in his joint roles with Dhruva and NASSCOM. NASSCOM helps link young studios with mentors, investors and publishers. And Dhruva hosts a Bangalore-based incubator called Gametantra that provides office space, support and funding (through Nazara Technologies’ Game Fund).

“We don’t have too many Indian games in the top hundred [charts], but it shouldn’t be like that considering the talent that is here,” Rao says. “I don’t think it’s because the games aren’t good, I think it’s that they haven’t thought through things like discoverability.”

Still, studios like the aforementioned Bingo Bash have risen above the trend to ignore mobile game marketing tactics in India — and they’re topping the charts.

Octro’s poker title Teen Patti is a great example. Currently sitting in the top five grossing games in India on both Google Play and the Apple App Store, Octro is mixing with the big boys like Supercell and King thanks to organic word-of-mouth user acquisition driven by Teen Patti’s smart multiplayer focus, localized languages (English, Hindi, Marathi and Gujarati) and familiar concept.

“Indians have been playing Teen Patti for generations now. We simply presented the game on a mobile platform,” says Octro’s chief executive officer Saurabh Aggarwal. “We have never tried to bring out anything which was a new concept for the users; therefore, our games click so well in the Indian market.”

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Image via Flickr/Simply CVR

Opening the monetization floodgates

As young developers learn and grow, the pieces are coming into place for huge, rapid growth for mobile games in India. For one, Apple and Google recently changed the minimum payment in its mobile stores to 10 Rupees (around 15 cents), helping to make in-app purchases affordable. But the lack of credit cards in India — just 2 percent of the population carry them — still restricts mobile spending. Rao says that integrated direct carrier billing would really open the monetization floodgates.

Advertising is the best way for Indian mobile developers to make money in their home country, though, and advertising spend is growing rapidly. According to NASSCOM, India is the second largest mobile advertising market in the world (behind the U.S.) in terms of volume. Mobile advertising volume grew by 260 percent from July 2013 to July 2014. And this is only likely to grow further, with mobile internet ad spending said to reach nearly $1 billion by 2018.

As young developers in the country begin to embrace the connection between monetization and gameplay, the Indian mobile gaming revolution will be underway.