As gaming becomes more social, gaming FEC’s (Family Entertainment Centres) are opening up in metros as well as non-metro cities. In an interview to Moneycontrol, Parinitaa Rajgarhiaa, founder of Zero Latency, a free-roam VR gaming experience and entertainment centre in Mumbai, spoke about how virtual reality (VR) gaming has rapidly evolved over the past few years. Edited excerpts:
How do you think the gaming sector has evolved over the years in India?
The current gaming industry in India is estimated at $1.5 billion and is growing rapidly at 30 per cent per annum. The country is estimated to have more than 400 gaming companies and 420 million online gamers, with only China being higher than this! The addition of 45-50 million online gaming subscribers due to Covid-19, the growth was also fuelled by the increasing penetration of smartphones, faster internet, cloud gaming, widening gaming demographic (from children to adults and older generation) and a remarkable contribution from the female gamers (casual and hard core).
Where do you see studio gaming in the coming years in terms of market size, consumer base, and competition?
In spite of the potential that VR has, the pace of growth for VR had been lacklustre since its invention in the 1960s. According to reports, it was predicted to be mainstream by 1994 but it never really took off then. However, the growth in VR gaming in 2019 was spectacular at 25 per cent to $12 and going ahead, it is expected to grow at 30 per cent from 2020 to 2027!
Having overcome the drawbacks of traditional VR, which restricted the VR experience to be stationary, isolating and expensive, the onset of “Free Roam VR” experience is driving the launch of VR arcades in India. This is attracting the gamers and the target demographic who are largely concerned about having the best experience in a social environment at the most affordable price. Further, the active and immersive experience that these arcades provide compels the gamers to keep coming back.
Can you share more about the newer technologies used in gaming?
Currently, the velocity of growth in gaming industry is tremendous. With newer technologies, such as cloud gaming (gaming-on-demand, as a service), better mobile gaming devices (from laptops and multiple screens to hand held mobile devices), e-sports which is gaining more and more popularity as we speak and VR in gaming, the industry is growing and creating more avenues for employment and revenues. These newer technologies will gain further strength with the advent of 5G which will enable better streaming, more immersive and better graphics for the industry.
Further, with some of the largest industry players like Sony, HP, Google and Facebook already betting high on the VR industry and Apple on its way to enter the space, there will be better hardware and software to capture and support the potential of VR gaming. The large gaming developers across the globe are all expanding focus to develop more and more VR games and are tying up with the VR companies to make it compatible with their hardware and software. For eg., Ubisoft, one of the largest developer has launched the VR version of its well-known video game Far Cry in VR in partnership with Zero Latency, Australia (the largest free-roam VR company).
How do you visualise the gaming industry given the fact it is one of the emerging sector in India?
With the pace of growth in the Indian gaming industry it is estimated to treble to $5 billion by 2025 in revenues from $1.5 billion currently. Hence, I believe, given that we are in the fourth industrial revolution where technology is the king, futuristic technology and experiences are set to revolutionise gaming going ahead. These experiences already exist in the US, Europe and Southeast Asia and now need to come to India, too. Next-generation gaming involves VR which can be very immersive. These experiences are lifelike where players play in a social environment. This moment you’re living in your own world, the next you’re lost in a virtual world!
I believe that the Indian VR gaming market will also take a leap in the growth as we shift our focus to more advanced VR offerings, such as VR gaming arenas and free-roam VR experiences that people can enjoy along with their friends and family.
What has been the impact of Zero Latency?
Diversity in age: In the past, gaming was considered largely for children, but with the wide variety of games, we have players aged from 10 years to 55 years coming to the arena with their friends, families, and colleagues alike to enjoy the experience.
Gender-neutral approach: Gaming as an activity was previously more male-dominated but with VR gaming experiences like Zero Latency, where 45 per cent of players are women, we have definitely contributed to the scale that does not tip to one side any more.
Socio-economic diversity: With the experience having games involving shooting aliens and zombies to some fun upside-world exploration games and prices ranging from Rs 899 to Rs 2,899 per person, we see how people from all walks of life and different backgrounds love trying new experiences and enjoy gaming alike.
What are the challenges faced by VR with Zero Latency?
Having launched Zero Latency in 2019 when gaming and VR gaming experiences were still at a very nascent stage of growth in the country, we witnessed higher-than-expected revenues within the first few months of launch led by corporate events, birthday parties, and the city’s cream crowd! Though the pandemic did hit us hard but having sustained a high player satisfaction score of nine on 10 since its inception. The right target audience aided by high referrals and the growth in the overall gaming industry helped us to come back with a BANG, posting six times the growth from our lows!