To Indian and Israeli Startups – Let the Games Begin

India and Israel partnership has an interesting track record. Whenever we reflect some dare and attempt to think beyond conventional lines, we often conclude that even space is not the limit. The justifications for continuing the collaboration with the partners in this uncertain post-COVID world are very limited as the maximum amount of every country’s energy is exhausted to deal with the new set of problems/issues at home. But the startup community must continue to find new ways and keep the engine of growth going as this time, the responsibilities and expectations are double on them.

“Believe, dare and desire,” these three words sum up the approach of Theodor Herzl, as historian Benzion Netanyahu writes in his book the “The Founding Fathers of Zionism.” The ability to develop an environment is an essential requirement for the functioning of a democratic nation, and the environment must have these three essential elements as identified by the founding fathers of Israel. That generation (or two generations) in both countries succeeded in all their attempts but failed in one thing- building the character of their people, and the blame often goes to the media (print/radio and later electronic) of that time.

Today, the media- the fourth pillar of democracy is being replaced by the Big Tech products and these products have taken an unobstructed charge of fueling these elements in our youth. We can say that our smartphone generation believes, dare, and desires in a direction which these products want them to. How to correct that direction is a challenge for us and here comes the role of the Gaming Industry, whose real potential is yet to be tapped.

The gaming industry is one of the most powerful and profitable industries of our times. The global gaming market was valued at $151.55 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach $256.97 billion by 2025. It is said that in terms of profit, the Gaming industry is more profitable than the global box office and music industry combined. The real-time stats providing platform Worldmeter has some interesting observations about the Gaming industry too. In one of its reports, it said that out of 7.8 billion world population, 2.6 billion are mobile gamers, 1.3 billion are PC gaming players and 729 million are console gaming players in the world. And all market reports are suggesting that the phase of in-home activities, lockdown, and social distancing that started with the Corona pause, will take this industry to a different level in the coming years.

The era of console and PC based games has passed, and tablets and smartphones are leading from the front. Some of the large gaming companies which were earlier involved in the production of PCs and console-based games are now releasing their games in the mobile version. The ability to capture and lead human imaginations with a 5G speed is exciting for the gaming industry’s players. From a child’s amusement product to an adult’s entertainment choice to a powerful tool of strategic influence, the global gaming industry has undergone a massive shift over the years, and for the top gaming producers, things are now beyond simple profit/loss calculations.

If we talk about India, the country is quite sportive in its attitude and possesses a rich culture of physical and mental gaming exercises focusing on developing the mental, logical, rational, cognitive, and bodily strengths of the players. There are social-cultural grounds behind the late and slow penetration of the PCs and Console based gaming companies in India. But the internet and Smartphone boom has changed the scenario drastically, and today there are more than 350 million active online gamers in the country. With 400 plus active gaming startups, a robust fraternity of professional and creative indie game developers combined with the fastest growing online and mobile games consuming community, the country has a vibrant and evolving gaming ecosystem. Some of the Indian gaming startups are turning into unicorns and going for the IPO too.

From 2018 to 2020, India witnessed a 16.5 percent growth in the number of online gamers. Today India is one of the top five gaming markets of the world, and as of July 2020, the number of online gaming users crossed over 400 million. There are estimates that in 2019, over 5.6 billion mobile game apps were downloaded in India, which was the highest in the world. As of now, there are more than 500 million Smartphone users in India, and by 2022 these numbers will grow to 859 million users. In a few years from now, every Indian will have a Smartphone in their pocket and this fact itself highlights the potential of the gaming industry in India.

In Israel, the gaming sector growth can be attributed to mostly its chutzpah and assertiveness. The country has approx 170 gaming startups, a majority of which deals in social/casual games and the iGaming (online gaming) sector, where the biggest share of the industry is made up of online betting and online casino kind of genres. These games mimic the real-life ‘casino-style’ but serve as plain entertainment products without the provision of any kind of monetary gains. Apart from Game development, these companies are also involved in technology/support services and offer platform support (the means to develop customizable content for game developers).

Israeli gaming industry employs approx 4000 people across its various verticals. In terms of technology, the Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are the two leading investment categories and the country also has several academic programs and courses that are being offered in different institutions to nurture the local talent.

Whenever we discuss the gaming industry, we talk around the things like market size, global trends, and future potential but the facts about the psychological impact of these gaming apps on our kids are tough to ignore. India and Israel both have faced the challenges of child psychology and suicide cases due to the Blue Whale Challenge mobile gaming app. Our experiences tell that these mobile and online gaming apps have the potential to manipulate our kids’ psychologically with a Jihadi mindset, right before our eyes. 21st-century games are artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality, motion control, gesture control, simulation, and advanced graphics powered products. The growing tech quotient gives these products the capabilities to not just influence but to control the abilities of the human mind.

Now the question is what should be the approach of Indian and Israeli startup players in this sector, who are known for their unique innovative abilities and conceptual assets. At present, largely the focus of the Indian gaming startups is on developing the Teen Patti, Ludo, Snakes and ladders, Tombola, and Rummy kind of games, while the Israeli gaming startups seem to focus more on the gambling and casino kind of outdated ideas too. An absence of creativity, research, and innovation are quite visible in the Indian and Israeli gaming community, and that makes one to wonder what stops our young minds to reflect their true talent in this sector too!

India has a rich heritage of culture, spirituality, science, literature, art, stories, folk tales, characters, and events, which is yet to be tapped in the gaming world. The country has a strong strategic culture, which provides a surplus of ideas and concepts to share through games. While Israel’s experiments in the field of security and intelligence have a long history and fascination in the world. The two can be combined to develop a never-ending engine of producing action, adventure, war, and strategic games, capable of appealing to the global audience.

Young minds of both sides must start exploring things in this direction or we can say let the games begin!

About the Author
Devsena Mishra promotes advanced technologies, startup ecosystems and Indian government’s business and technology related initiatives like Digital India, Make in India and Startup India etc. through her portals, articles, videos, and books.
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