The Korea Herald


[KH Explains] India: Make-or-break market for Krafton

Over 560 million Indian gamers emerge as high-spending users

By Kan Hyeong-woo

Published : Feb. 26, 2024 - 15:47

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An image of Battlegrounds Mobile India (Krafton) An image of Battlegrounds Mobile India (Krafton)

South Korean game developer Krafton logged surprise earnings in the fourth quarter of last year thanks to the revival of PUBG: Battlegrounds, a battle royale shooter game.

In particular, Kratfon highlighted the rise of Battlegrounds Mobile India, or BGMI, as one of the key factors that drove the revenue upturn during the conference call on Feb. 8. BGMI was launched in India as a country-dedicated mobile version of PUBG in July 2021.

The game developer said that BGMI quickly recovered after the gaming services resumed in May following an almost 10-month hiatus in the local market and posted its best monthly sales in December.

Noting that such performances show the ongoing growth of PUBG’s intellectual property, Krafton underlined the potential to expand its businesses and portfolio in the Indian market.

Golden goose on edge

Although Krafton did not disclose the exact figures for the sales of BGMI, the shooter’s revival is assumed to have greatly impacted the upturn.

According to global app market tracker Sensor Tower’s report on Tuesday, BGMI’s accumulated revenue was estimated at approximately $74 million between May 24, 2023, and Feb. 10, 2024. Last year, Krafton’s fourth quarter revenue from its mobile business was around $257 million, up 10 percent from the third quarter.

About 84 percent of the game developer’s annual revenue in 2023 came from the Asian region including India.

Sensor Tower said BGMI has been downloaded over 100 million times so far, noting that the India-dedicated game took up 22.5 percent of all PUBG mobile versions across the world.

BGMI became the No. 1 game on the App Store in the market within a year of its launch. However, it was suddenly banned in the country by the Indian government in July 2022. Neither side unveiled reasons behind the suspension then. The ban was lifted in May 2023. Union Minister of State for IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar said on X, formerly Twitter, that Krafton had complied with issues of server locations and data security.

All-out efforts

For the fourth quarter’s conference call, Krafton dedicated one page of its presentation material to the future of the Indian market as one of the company’s key initiatives.

“As we have BGMI that has become a national game for the Indians, we will turn the game into a service that will grow for 10 years while expanding our publishing lineup based on the understanding of the local market,” said Krafton CEO Kim Chang-han on the conference call.

“Through this, we hope to become the best gaming publisher in India.”

The game developer noted that it will contribute to the ongoing growth of BGMI in the e-sports sector, explore new business opportunities and ramp up investments based on the Indian market’s growth potential.

Bae Dong-keun, chief financial officer at Krafton, said that the Indian market is a country well known for the high average revenue per user, adding that the company will consider the business model of in-game advertisement for BGM based on the accumulated data and experiences. Krafton has either committed or pledged to invest a total of $290 million in India.

Krafton has also been going all-out to nurture local talents to speed up its growth there. The company recently announced the beginning of the Krafton India Early Talent Program, which aims to offer three to six month internships or full-time jobs to university students in India, to enhance the partnerships with the local schools and strengthen networks there.

The company has been carrying out the Krafton India Gaming Incubator, an initiative aimed at fostering Indian game startups by mentoring them with access to the company's internal resources including data analytics and market research as well as financial support between $50,000 and $150,000, since October last year.

Burgeoning game market

According to a report by Lumikai, India’s gaming and interactive media fund, the Indian gaming industry saw $3.1 billion in revenue in 2023. The report, which was made in collaboration with Google, predicted that the Indian gaming market is expected to more than double to hit $7.5 billion by 2028 with growing in-app purchases and in-game ad revenues.

The report showed that India had some 568 million gamers as of 2023, with about a quarter of them as paying users who spent money on games in various facets such as buying titles and paying cash for in-game purchases. According to the report, the number of Indian gamers increased by 12 percent on year while the number of paying gamers grew by 17 percent.

“India gaming is already bigger than (the) India box office,” said Salone Sehgal, general partner at Lumikai.

“India's 568 million gamers contribute to $3 billion in annual revenue which is already (two times) the 890 million cinema footfalls contributing $1.3 billion.”

The report also showed that 66 percent of the gamers were from non-metropolitan cities with smaller populations, less-developed infrastructure and relatively limited cultural amenities.

“The outlook towards the gaming industry is extremely positive,” said Sehgal.

“We are particularly excited to see the increasing engagement of gamers from non-metro cities, which demonstrates the massive growth potential and the opportunity in the Indian gaming industry.”