Paytm - Virat Kohli of India (c) leads of his victorious team during Day Four of the Second Test of the 2019 International Series between India and South Africa at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Pune, India on 12 October 2019. ©Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

Paytm First Games: Lockdown lift and post-IPL player engagement

Around 60% of the weekly fantasy sports winners on Paytm First Games (PFG) hail from smaller towns rather than metro cities, revealed the company’s COO Sudhanshu Gupta.

“That’s the power of skill-based gaming which truly democratises the game,” he said. “One need not be from an affluent background or have any sort of training to win the game.”

These comments were made as part of an interview first published by KrASIA, where Gupta was discussing the decision to divide the PFG mobile gaming app into three different zones for casual games, rummy and fantasy sports.

He explained the changes were made by PFG – now emerging as the “clear number two” for fantasy sports in India behind Dream11 – around three months ago so that users would not be “disturbed” by the other components of the app.

“When the lockdown happened in late March, that’s when the casual games on our platform really took off,” said Gupta. “We had games like ludo which were getting five million monthly active users and almost a million daily active users. The casual games came to the forefront at that time. 

“Post that period, when we saw the IPL season coming in, we knew people would play fantasy sports since cricket is a religion in India. Fantasy sports sometimes outshine even a single casual game in terms of user base. That’s when we decided to re-create the app in different zones so that the users who primarily wanted to play fantasy games would not get disturbed by other contents.”

Yet with the IPL final fast approaching (10 November), how can PFG keep players active on the platform? “We understand a major chunk of the users are coming on the platform for fantasy sports, which is understandably the flavor of the season,” Gupta admitted. “So, we have a two-pronged strategy to grow the user-base once the IPL season is over. 

“One is for serious fantasy players, we will continue to add and engage them with other sports events that are going on. While what really gets covered is marquee events like IPL, there are always multiple cricket leagues happening all around the world. We believe a lot of serious fantasy gamers would love to participate in these.

“For non-serious fantasy users who are only interested in playing when there’s an India match, we want to continue engaging them in other games like rummy that is also a real-money game. For casual games, we would be organising free to play tournaments in popular games such as ludo, chess, snooker, and other such games.

“Secondly, we also have esports. We have had a pretty interesting first half of the year with esports, where we did the country’s biggest clash royale tournaments. 

Currently, we are doing a World of Warships tournament. We had announced Garena’s Free Fire India Championship earlier this year, which was postponed due to the pandemic, but we plan to schedule it soon. So, we have these esports tournaments planned in partnership with game publishers to engage existing and new users.”

The gaming arm of digital payments company Paytm, PFG was originally introduced as an extra way of keeping existing users engaged on the company’s core platform.

However, it was always in the plans for PFG to go it alone. “We always had the plan to launch our stand-alone app,” Gupta explained. “But back then, we were focusing on creating a lot of gaming content and had engagement from users within the Paytm ecosystem. We were working on skill-based games then and it took us a year to build this out.

“The reason that propelled us to have a separate app (from April 2019) was Google Play Store’s policy that does not allow real money games, which they call gambling, to be inside another app. So, when we decided to start fantasy gaming which involved real money we had to have a separate platform for it.”

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