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One Country's Online Gaming Business Turns Into Serious Opportunity – Forbes

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Mumbai, INDIA: Indian model and actress Yana Gupta plays a computer game to launch ” Games On … [+] Demand”, an internet gaming service in Mumbai, 30 August 2006. India’s leading online and mobile games company – Indiagames have tied-up with state run broadband internet and telecom service provider MTNL to give its users unlimited cosumption of PC games for a monthly subscription fee starting at Indian Rupees 150 (USD 3.23) AFP PHOTO/Indranil MUKHERJEE (Photo credit should read INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP via Getty Images)
by Abinaya Vijayaraghavan
Prasanth S., a filmmaker and founder of Yellow Boat Films  in the southern Indian city of Chennai, is one of the country’s 400 million-plus gamers. When India announced lockdowns beginning March 2020 to curb the spread of Covid-19, he started spending more and more time playing online games like many others.
“During the peak lockdown, I was playing games such as Ludo King, Mafia, and Among Us for good 2-3 hours a day,” Prasanth told Zenger News. “It was one of the limited ways of keeping up with human contact.”
He had lots of company. While other sectors were slowing down, online gaming sped up worldwide as people took to it as a form of escapism. Mobile game downloads in India increased to 2.7 billion in April-June 2020 and to 2.9 billion in July-September 2020 from 1.8 billion during January-March 2020, according to a report from global audit, tax and advisory services firm KPMG. 
The number of Indian online gamers is expected to rise to 510 million in 2022, up from 360 million in 2020. In 2021, India’s online gaming market had revenues of INR 136 billion ($1.80 billion). It’s expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 21 percent to INR 290 billion ($3.84 billion) in the next five years, the report states
Globally, the most popular gaming titles in the first quarter of 2021 included MPL (Mobile Premier League), fantasy sports platform Dream 11, and Gametion’s Ludo King—all three based in India. 
“There was a 40-50 percent rise in user base and user engagement levels during the lockdown,” Girish Menon, partner and head (media and entertainment) at KPMG India, told Zenger.
“Between October 2020 and February [when lockdowns were eased], though the numbers dropped, they were still 15-20 percent higher than they were pre-pandemic. So, in a quarter, you ended up with 20-25 percent higher metrics than you had pre-pandemic. That has continued.”
India is home to the second-largest base of online casual gamers in the world.
Faster digitization aided by the pandemic is helping gaming in India. However, monetization hasn’t grown in tandem with usage in the second-largest base of casual gamers in the world (after China). 
With 433 million gamers, India’s Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) in fiscal year 2021 was among the lowest in the world, as per the report. Indonesia, a developing nation with much fewer gamers (100-120 million), had ARPU of $10-$20 in December 2020.
In mature markets like China, which has 630-650 million gamers, the ARPU was $60-$70 in December 2020, and it was in the range of $200-$220 in the U.S., which had 180-200 million gamers. 
Money Matters
India is fundamentally different from other developing and mature gaming markets in one crucial aspect: It’s a mobile-first gaming market that has largely skipped the PC and console gaming adoption, which requires investments in equipment by gamers. 
It is one of the primary reasons for lower monetization in the gaming ecosystem. 
By 2025, it’s estimated that 94 percent of gamers in India’s casual gaming market will use smartphones. Only 9 percent and 4 percent of gamers will use PC and consoles, respectively, for the activity. (The figures add up to more than 100 percent due to overlaps in the categories.)
India’s gaming market, like most markets worldwide, is divided into four major segments: casual gaming, real money games, online fantasy sports and e-sports, KPMG reports. 
Casual games—predominantly ad-driven models—had the biggest chunk of the revenues at INR 60.2 billion ($797.9 million) in fiscal year 2021. 
(FILES) In this file photo illustration taken on September 2, 2020, a man downloads the “PUBG … [+] Mobile” game on his smart phone in New Delhi. – PUBG, or PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, is a military-style war game where teams battle online, and whose mobile app has been downloaded hundreds of millions of times around the world. (Photo by Jewel SAMAD / AFP) / To go with ‘eSports-IND-PAK-India-Pakistan’, story by Faisal KAMAL (Photo by JEWEL SAMAD/AFP via Getty Images)
Real money games — where users bet a small amount to win a bigger reward — raked in INR 49.8 billion ($659.7 million) in FY 2021. Online fantasy sports—where players make teams for games like cricket and win rewards based on performance—accounted for INR 24.3 billion ($322.1 million) of revenues. 
The smallest segment was e-sports — organized, multi-player video game competitions — which saw revenues of INR 1.7 billion ($22.5 million). 
“Console gaming by its very nature is a paid product. Gaming fundamentally evolved from console gaming, it was the largest component in every mature market and then mobile gaming started emerging as a new model,” Menon said.
“[In India], outside the 20-25 million console gamers, we pretty much skipped that generation and moved into mobile gaming directly. Almost 70-80 percent of users in India are exclusively mobile gamers. They have never paid for console games. They don’t have the habit of paying.” 
The introduction of cheap mobile data packs by telecommunications’ providers also boosted casual gaming in India. 
Monetization Models 
There are four main monetization models in the gaming ecosystem—advertising revenues, commissions, in-app purchases, and subscriptions. 
Globally, ad revenues in online gaming account for 2-3 percent of the pie, but the number is almost 40 percent in India, according to Menon. 
“While in-app purchases will increase with maturity, there are certain genres that lend themselves well to in-app purchases and others that lend themselves better to advertising,” he said. 
Menon drew parallels with India’s streaming platforms. While services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney+ Hotstar have a subscription model in India, many like YouTube and MX Player generate revenue through ads and users watch content for free.
“It is likely that even in gaming, advertising will continue to be a large portion of revenue,” Menon said. 
A girl tries out a virtual reality entertainment system at a store in the Mcleod Ganj area of … [+] Dharamshala, India Photographer: Sara Hylton/Bloomberg
Acquisitions Increasing 
Investors have upped their interest in India’s booming gaming market. Funding has crossed $500 million from August 2020-January 2021 and exceeded what was invested in the past five years, according to a report by Maple Capital Advisors. 
Growth capital funds like ChrysCapital, TPG and numerous others have started to look at the sector. The report states that investments are projected to double in 12-18 months.
The sector has started witnessing several cross-border acquisitions from foreign gaming studios. In February, Sweden-based Stillfront Group announced it would acquire a 91 percent stake in Moonfrog Labs, based in India’s Silicon Valley Bengaluru, for $90 million. Moonfrog Labs makes popular games like Ludo Club and Teen Patti Gold.
In July, Swedish gaming firm Modern Times Group acquired another Bengaluru-based games developer, PlaySimple for $360 million.
Nazara Technologies’ initial stock offering was a big success when it debuted on March 17. The INR 583-crore ($77.3-million) offering was subscribed 175.46 times ahead of its debut, as demand from institutional investors soared.
Chennai-based independent game development studio Hammerplay Studios is banking on the industry’s growth as it chooses the path of creating games for emerging platforms. 
“Don’t look us up on Google Play—you won’t find us there just yet,” Darshan Udaykumar, game producer and designer at Hammerplay Studios, told Zenger.  
“Our popular titles—Tank Wars, TukTuk Go and Battle Legends—are reaching beyond 5,00,000 daily active users individually during the festive seasons. These games can be found on MX Player, Jio Games, Jio Phone, and more leading and upcoming platforms [like MPL],” he said. 
Several other tech-related developments are likely to help fuel major growth in India’s gaming market, the KPMG report concludes:
“Over the long term, developments like the advent of cloud gaming (although in an emerging state globally) has the potential to transform access and consumption of games for the Indian population, where device investments have always been a constraint. This, coupled with growth in investments in the gaming ecosystem, increasing scale of Indian studios and the adoption of emerging technologies such as Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality (AR/VR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI); is likely to ensure that the Indian online casual gaming market remains on track to be amongst the fastest growing gaming markets globally.”

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The story on how John Madden came to be involved with wildly popular EA Sports NFL video game – USA TODAY

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If the creators of the NFL video game so many millions of people have played had their way, the wildly popular franchise would not have been known simply as Madden.
According to a story ESPN published in 2016, legendary coach and analyst John Madden was the third choice of Trip Hawkins, the eventual founder of video game maker Electronic Arts (EA), to be the pitchman of the game that eventually became Madden NFL. An avid football fan, Hawkins’ first choice was legendary Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana and former Vikings and Patriots quarterback and Cal Bears coach Joe Kapp.
Madden, who died at the age of 85 Tuesday, continues to be one of the game’s most prominent icons. He was first a player, though a knee injury in his rookie season in 1958 with the Philadelphia Eagles cut his career short. He went on to be the head coach of the Raiders, where he won a Super Bowl. He became a television analyst during NFL games and made the game accessible for millions of viewers. He was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in the Class of 2006. 
But it’s his constant presence on the video game franchise, arguably, that serves as his strongest connection to new generations of football fans and gamers alike.
OPINION: John Madden will live forever because his influence was so great
MORE: ‘The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer’: John Madden quotes that will never be forgotten
According to ESPN, Montana could not be involved because he had a conflicting endorsement deal with video game console maker Atari, while Kapp wanted royalties. According to the article, Madden was so impressed with Hawkins’ credentials — he went to Harvard and worked at Apple — that he agreed to sign on.
It proved to be a shrewd decision. Despite slow production and years of releases before it became a household name, Madden NFL has generated more than $4 billion since its inception and has sold more than 130 million copies, according to EA. Barron’s estimates that Madden NFL generates around $600 million annually for EA.
Still, Madden lamented one major mistake that cost him millions more.
According to ESPN, after “John Madden Football” was released in 1988, Hawkins approached Madden and said EA was about to have an initial public offering and that Madden could “have as much stock” as he wanted, though he would have to pay the initial price of $7.50 per share.
“Hell, I’m just a football coach,” Madden told ESPN. “I pointed with my finger, all knowing, and said, ‘I gave you my time. I’m not giving you my money.’ I showed him!”
In only the 10 years from 1989 to 1999, the price soared to $70 per share, according to ESPN.
Said Madden: “That was the dumbest thing I ever did in my life.”
Originally, the game was planned as being a seven-on-seven competition, due to the limitations of computing back when it was being initially programmed. Madden, however, balked at that idea and wanted the game — if he was going to appear on its cover — to be as authentic as possible. 
“If it wasn’t real football, I didn’t want my name on it,” Madden told Grantland in January 2012. “I wanted it to be real football — pro football — with the sideline, the numbers, the hash marks. Everything had to be pro football.”
One other unique aspect of the game is how the plays and formations users can call and execute are taken directly from NFL playbooks. Madden sent a 1980 Oakland Raiders playbook to Hawkins and former EA producer Joe Ybarra.
To elaborate on that, the game’s producers sought to mimic the playbooks of the teams featured in the game.
“For our playbooks, I would say to (former San Francisco Examiner beat writer and consultant) Frank (Cooney), ‘Go find out what a team’s five signature plays are,’ ” Hawkins told ESPN. “He would go up to the assistant coaches, hand them paper. And they would draw up plays! We collected a huge amount of plays that way.”
The video game franchise has evolved over the years to incorporate new game play modes and features, as well as tweaks to game play. Its reach across the NFL is comprehensive. Gamers within each locker room undoubtedly have their own copies and challenge each other during games. 
Even one of the game’s most reserved and self-controlled figures — and one of the greatest coaches in the history of the sport — has his own exposure to the video game.
“I haven’t played it in quite a while,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Wednesday after he opened his press conference with a tribute to Madden. “When my kids were growing up, they would play it and I would watch them. They would beat me.”
Belichick grinned as he told that anecdote, likely thinking back on those memories with his children —two of whom, sons Steve (outside linebackers) and Brian (safeties), are assistants on New England’s staff.
Perhaps that’s the enduring legacy of the Madden NFL franchise. Similar to the way he used charm and humor in the broadcast booth to make the sport appealing to all, the video game allows even those without expertise in the NFL or even in football to simulate the strategy behind it.
“It’s a way for people to learn the game and participate in the game at a pretty sophisticated level,” Madden told Grantland.

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Blizzard's new IP: Modern meets fantasy online survival game – TweakTown

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Blizzard’s next big IP might be an interesting take on a Kid in King Arthur’s Court and The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.
Today Blizzard confirmed it is working on an ambitious new IP. The unnamed project is a survival game that merges modern and fantasy together, as per details gleaned from a brief concept art glimpse. Job listings also confirm the new IP will be an online-based adventure which is Blizzard’s usual fare.
“Blizzard is embarking on our next quest. We are going on a journey to a whole new universe, home to a brand-new survival game for PC and console. A place full of heroes we have yet to meet, stories yet to be told, and adventures yet to be lived. A vast realm of possibility, waiting to be explored,” reads a job posting.
We’ve known about Blizzard’s new IPs for a long time. The company has been incubating this new IP and another unannounced multiplayer shooter for a while, and Blizzard is also trying to create a shared games engine to power its future titles.
Alan Adham discussed the new incubation pipeline back in August 2021:
“We’re tight-lipped about it, but our new game pipeline has been in development for many years and it’s greater than it’s ever been across our core franchises and mobile, new IP and new genres. I’m looking forward to our teams launching their already announced new games in the not-too-distant future and in due course announcing a few new ones that you’ve yet to hear about,” Adham said.
So what is Blizzard working on? Here’s a selection:
Derek Strickland
Derek joined the TweakTown team in 2015 and has since reviewed and played 1000s of hours of new games. Derek is absorbed with the intersection of technology and gaming, and is always looking forward to new advancements. With over six years in games journalism under his belt, Derek aims to further engage the gaming sector while taking a peek under the tech that powers it. He hopes to one day explore the stars in No Man’s Sky with the magic of VR.

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Ole Miss vs. Florida: How to watch online, live stream info, game time, TV channel – CBS Sports

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Florida @ Ole Miss
Current Records: Florida 12-6; Ole Miss 9-9
The Ole Miss Rebels and the Florida Gators are set to square off in an SEC matchup at 7 p.m. ET Jan. 24 at The Pavilion at Ole Miss. Florida should still be feeling good after a win, while the Rebels will be looking to get back in the win column.
Ole Miss ended up a good deal behind the Mississippi State Bulldogs when they played this past Saturday, losing 78-60. Ole Miss’ defeat shouldn’t obscure the performances of center Nysier Brooks, who had 12 points, and forward Jaemyn Brakefield, who had 13 points. Brakefield’s performance made up for a slower contest against the Missouri Tigers last Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Florida didn’t have too much trouble with the Vanderbilt Commodores at home this past Saturday as they won 61-42.
Ole Miss is expected to lose this next one by 5.5. Those sticking with them against the spread have guts, to put it politely, as the team has let down bettors in their past four games.
The Rebels came up short against the Gators when the two teams previously met in January of last year, falling 72-63. Maybe Ole Miss will have more luck at home instead of on the road? Watch the game and check back on CBS Sports for all the details.

The Gators are a solid 5.5-point favorite against the Rebels, according to the latest college basketball odds.
The oddsmakers had a good feel for the line for this one, as the game opened with the Gators as a 6-point favorite.
Over/Under: -112
See college basketball picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.
Florida have won six out of their last eight games against Ole Miss.
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