Remya Lakshmanan & Aarushi Aggarwal
Netflix’s recent hit show The Queen’s Gambit has reportedly boosted chess game sales worldwide. Chess isn’t the only game that has grown in popularity, either. Board games and especially tabletop games (Ludo, Monopoly, Scrabble) are creeping back into social gatherings for adults. There are already hundreds of membership game clubs and cafes in major cities in India. The Convo @ C20 café in Chennai, Creeda, and Pair a Dice cafés in Mumbai, as well as communities like ReRoll, Victory Point, and tabletop nerds attract serious players to newer, more complex board games.
The recent lockdowns have exacerbated the growing demand for board games in the country as people sought a break from screens and new cultured family routines. Despite this upturn, however, the enormous opportunities in the industry in India remain largely untapped. India offers game developers the unique opportunity to capture and ultimately monetize their products in a huge market of over 1.3 billion people.
The global board games market size was estimated at $ 13.1 billion in 2019, representing a growth of 9 percent over the forecast period 2019-2025. North America, followed by Europe, are the largest markets for board games, especially strategy games like the very popular Settlers of Catan. The Asia Pacific (APAC) is home to the fastest growing market thanks to increasing interest in China and Japan. India also has a rapidly evolving interest in board games with a market size of $ 45 million. In a market where low cost options prevail, there are very few options to choose from. Upcoming game developers hope to change that.
Develop games in India
Zain Memon is the developer of a recently launched strategy board game called Shasnand Co-Founder in a new media studio, Memesys Culture Lab. “There is a serious shortage of strategic board games in India. Most people are familiar with Ludo and Monopoly, but strategic games can be a powerful tool in teaching and teaching important cognitive skills to children and adults, ”he told Invest India. According to Memon, strategy games like Shasne illustrate the convergence of educational and entertainment media.
Even so, developing the game in India has been challenging as game designers, especially for tabletop games, are virtually non-existent in the country. Memon believes that this initial challenge can be overcome by increasing local demand for casual games. Indian game developers need to focus on exporting intellectual property for casual games (IP) to generate brand recall and positive cash flow in the industry. This can be used to build infrastructure for the education of a generation of game designers that is essential to this industry as the real value lies in creating, owning and exporting original games.
India has another advantage: subcontinental folk tales, aesthetics, and philosophy provide a rich tapestry on which games could be based. By incorporating elements from Indian heritage, developers can export India’s cultural identity and place it on the world map. By creating transmedia IPs like Marvel, Indian game makers can also make deeper commitments to consumers. Our skill lies in narration, and games are the new narratives.
The manufacturing potential
With the exception of one version of Shasn (made in Jaipur), Memesys had to look outside India for countries with readily available low-cost production setups. While intellectual property alone can easily increase profits, it makes sense to produce locally, as Memon shares this. For starters, India owns most of the raw materials like wood, paper and plastic in abundant quantities. This can help generate low cost options for the booming domestic market while promoting export to larger, more established gaming markets. In addition, toy manufacturing clusters offer easily adaptable technologies that enable India to produce in greater numbers and increase its share of the global value chain as an export hub.
Robust investment structures are just as important for the production of high-quality games as efficient manufacturing capacities. American crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter that support Shasn are popular with aspiring game developers because of their low entry barriers. Nearly 80 percent of the revenue Kickstarter makes comes from board games, which underscores both its favor and the potential of the sector.
However, in India there are still no guidelines on how to monitor crowdfunding, so Kickstarter is not active here. Game developers like Memesys have to set up overseas subsidiaries to legally secure funding. By putting in place guidelines to protect investors and developers, crowdfunding platforms in India can function smoothly. They will also encourage institutional investment in the gaming industry and support the growth of the board game market in the country.
Amid a pandemic economy, Frost Haven, an upcoming board game, raised nearly $ 13 million in presale crowdfunding in April – the biggest Kickstarter campaign ever. Perhaps this is an indicator that the board game is developing into a vibrant industry and should be taken seriously.
Note: The authors work in Invest India’s strategic investment research department. Views are personal