The Desi VC podcast’s latest episode featured the General Partner of Lumikai Fund, Salone Sehgal, as a guest. In an insightful hour-long conversation, the show’s host Akash Bhat led Sehgal through a series of topics including what’s hot within the Indian gaming space, strategies for Indian gaming startups, the differences between fantasy gaming, real-money gaming and gambling, and much more. For additional context, Bhat is an investor at Scrum Ventures, an early stage venture capital firm based in San Francisco, and Lumikai is an India focused interactive entertainment fund that invests in gaming, digital media and animation companies.
How many peak daily active users did PUBG Mobile have in India?
One particularly interesting revelation about PUBG Mobile in India emerged around 28 minutes into the podcast. Bhat addressed the elephant in the Indian gaming room by asking about the challenges around game monetization in the country.
Sehgal responded by saying that Indians have always paid for entertainment. She said this while referencing purchases for television channel subscriptions and eventually segued to trends in the Indian gaming market such as PUBG Mobile’s success in the country.
“PUBG (mobile), was a great trend. It was an action game which came to the (Indian) market, with very heavy downloads. Who would have thought that game would have ever worked in India?”
According to her, PUBG Mobile had 18 million daily active users (DAUs) and was a phenomenal success in terms of monetization. She went on to state that Indian gamers are making in-app purchases, largely for vanity items like skins that give you no gameplay benefit.
While no official statements about PUBG Mobile’s DAUs in India have been made by the developers, Tencent announced in March that the game had crossed one billion downloads worldwide.
“Indians are spending money on Free Fire,” added Sehgal. “We have recently started seeing trends of virtual gifting in India as well. When we speak to some of our larger investor base, India is now coming into the top ten grossing countries, and top five grossing countries for them. That’s never happened before.”
There has been abundant speculation about PUBG Mobile’s comeback after KRAFTON announced an investment of INR 164 Crore ($22.4 Million USD) into Indian esports tournament organizer NODWIN Gaming*. However KRAFTON has not commented on any of the rumors, instead maintaining the stance that it is focused on releasing a PUBG Mobile app specifically for India.
The difference between casual gaming, real-money gaming, esports and gambling in India
The conversation between Bhat and Sehgal on The Desi VC podcast eventually touched upon the regulatory framework around gaming in India. Bhat asked for Sehgal’s thoughts on the topic with an emphasis on areas like fantasy gaming and gambling – which he believes do not directly fall into the gaming space but have an implication on the ecosystem in the future.
Sehgal said that the scanner is particularly on real-money gaming (RMG) and fantasy gaming at the moment but refused to offer further comment since many of these matters are still under consideration at the moment (presumably by the Indian government/regulatory authorities). However, she did say that the Indian gaming industry is coming together, particularly to educate stakeholders on questions like “what is gaming?”, “what is fantasy?”, “what is esports?” and “what is real-money gaming?”.
In an earlier opinion piece we published about this topic, we delved into the details of how the lines between esports, RMG and gambling are getting blurry in India. The full story is part of our premium content bundle – esports explained.
You can listen to the full episode of The Desi VC with Lumikai's Salone Sehgal on Spotify below.
*NODWIN Gaming is an investor in and a client of AFK Gaming.