As with many countries left out in the cold during the earliest days of the game-development renaissance, India took many, many more years to finally come to a place where it and its people could fully embrace gaming as a medium for art and entertainment. In fact, it wasn’t until the mid-2000’s and the rise of the world’s first true online gaming that India could really start getting a taste of just what made the hobby so great. The eventual appearance of relatively low-cost mobile phones, capable of gaming themselves, would help push gaming in India to where it is today. And while PCs made up a large part of the first waves of video gaming that took the country by storm years and years ago, the normalization of costs and slow resurgence of PC gaming have once more brought the most powerful and versatile platform to the forefront.
Why does this matter, though? Aside from having a new potential field for gamers and creators starting to stand up in the industry and contribute to gaming as one of the largest central hobbies out there, it matters for… well, several reasons. Notably, India has previously been something of an untapped goldmine in the Asian region, being distant enough from the coastal development paradise of Japan to only catch slow waves of gaming progress since the 80’s, with what can only be called the largest population on the planet waiting in the wings to stand up and be heard–and more importantly, to countless developers and publishers across the world, reach for their wallets. In fact, statistics cite a population of the young and growing in India, the strongest market for game sales and popularity period, to number higher alone than the total population of the United States, number in the high 300 million member range.
Of course, we know the ‘why’ and we know it has to do with money. But how? How did India develop such a strong console, mobile, and PC gaming core practically overnight, in the span of just a couple of years? Well, largely its due to the eventual creation of strong internet networks across the region. While America has been dealing with backwards, stuffy ISPs and their dated but effective monopolistic strategies for decades now, India’s infrastructure has been less-developed in many regions, and was created in the first place where it already exists with something of a forward-thinking attitude, as opposed to the ancient copper network that makes up the backbone of US online connectivity. In addition to the massively-growing mobile network in India, centered on strong 4G connections, there’s a wealth of new internet infrastructure being developed as we speak, featuring the best in the broadband and wireless scenes, as well as even some fiber optic connections going straight to the user and back–fiber to the home, as it’s called, which means the service cuts out the large suffusion of cutting corners by using weaker and cheaper end connections once the fiber trunk hits neighborhoods or districts. And with all that power and speed, the scene will grow on its own; once gamers have access to digital sales and downloads, not even import costs can stop them from playing.
Since the driving force behind India is the growing youth market, it’s safe to say which communities and games are responsible. Of course, the sudden rise of popular multiplayer titles like Overwatch and Fortnite are easy culprits, but League is still going strong across all of the eastern regions, and India is no exception. There’s also the prevalence of college groups and internet cafes that host local, easy to use internet connections for the public, which grants easy access to the strong network even to those who haven’t gotten it in their region yet. The influx of Indian-made games such as Alter Army–a truly “indie” title crafted by two fifteen year old students from the heart of India–has only helped the popularity of video games grow.
It’s not all gravy, however. As with any such growth in any traditional environment, video gaming has its naysayers in India, those who even now are telling the nearly 100 million online users alone to go out, be productive, find jobs, and even get back to reading books. Because, no matter what, for everything that changes just as much stays the same. Though in the end, as we’ve seen before, the gamers will win in the end, and maybe by next year or the year after that, India will take its place as another Poland, a country with a tremendous amount of fans dedicated to playing and making video games for others.