In 2018, the Indian online gaming marketplace was filled with a lot of good news, regardless of some legal challenges – mostly thanks to a number of mergers and acquisitions taking place throughout the year.
The rapidly growing online gaming industry in India paved the way for new ventures and opened up bigger opportunities for a number of emerging domestic start-ups. New partnerships formed in 2018 created a buzz in the Indian online gaming community and positioned a number of these operators to be in a great position to expand and launch new services in 2019.
We take a look at some of the most significant happenings that took place in India’s online gaming industry in 2018. These partnerships cover a wide range of games including online poker, sports betting, eSports and Daily Fantasy Sports.
The Launch of PokerStars India
PokerStars the biggest online poker website in the world had teased Indian players for the last couple of years about a possible launch. Not everyone expected the online poker giant to launch in India because online poker is still illegal in most states as poker is considered gambling which is banned.
However, PokerStars decided that 2018 was the right year to move into the Indian market. The online poker room teamed up with Sachiko Gaming Private Limited, a company running under the Sugal & Damani lottery group – India’s largest lottery operator to launch in India.
The website is still in its early stages and has not yet penetrated India’s online poker industry but PokerStars India is positive as Sachiko Gaming is looking at ramping up its marketing investment to boost the new website. This launch was a major boost to the country’s iGaming and online poker market.
Pokerstars.in allows Indian players to play the game of poker in their local currency or via Play Money chips from the comfort of their own homes. The website offers a wide variety of skill game formats as well as localized versions of famous PokerStars tournaments and events.
New Skill-Gaming Venture Courtesy of Patym & AGTech Holdings
Joining the trend of joint ventures in 2018 was Indian mobile payments and digital wallet company Patym. It established a new real money quiz gaming website and app called “Gamepind”, in partnership with Chinese firm AGTech Holdings, owned by Alibaba Group.
Both companies invested a total of Rs. 100 crores in the gaming platform which currently offers a wide selection of popular casual, sports, and social games, with indications of expanding into poker, rummy, and other conventional skill games.
Crucial Financial Support for Two Indian companies
A number of domestic firms have also raised significant funding in 2018. One of these firms is online fantasy sports portal Dream11 and online poker website 9stacks. Dream11 secured around $100 million in Series D funding from Chinese multinational investment holding group Tencent Holdings and other investors. The deal will pump up Dream11’s marketing efforts and will initiate potential partnerships with various sports federations in football, cricket and hockey, among others.
Meanwhile, 9stacks, which is run by Sparskills Technologies Private Limited received around Rs 28 crores in a Series A funding round being led by New Delhi-based venture capital firm WaterBridge Ventures. The online poker website also raised additional funding from other existing angel investors making it one of the few online gaming firms to benefit from institutional funding.
MPL Secures Investment From Sequoia Capital
The Mobile Premier League (MPL) which is a skill-based e-sports platform received major investment from American venture capital firm Sequoia Capital. The $5 million funding will strengthen and improve MPL’s services and offerings which currently include real-money tournaments of strategy and casual games such as Crosswords, Sudoku and Brick Breaker.
Other firms have also expanded into the online poker and fantasy sports scene with new innovative gaming formats starting to emerge. Legal questions in relation to skill gaming will hopefully be answered in the coming months, with the High Courts in Gujarat and Telangana looking to arrive at a resolution to pending legal disputes.
Gaming operators are also positive as we enter 2019 as MP Shashi Tharoor has introduced a gambling bill that looks to legalize online gambling and sports betting. The New Year looks to be a promising year for the Indian online gaming industry as more ventures are expected to come out and foreign operators are expected to continue to pour in funds to help with the online gaming expansion in India.