In an exclusive interaction with ET, Parimal Pandya, VP, Media Division, Asia Pacific & Japan at Akamai Technologies, talked about the rise of the gaming ecosystem in India and Akamai’s role in providing support.
Q. How significant has been the growth of the gaming ecosystem in India?
A. India is probably the largest gaming market in the world insofar as the user population is concerned. You have 300 million users, plus companies that are providing interactive, rich, engaging gaming experiences, and have an economy of your total market that is growing.
We expect the Indian gaming market to be more than a billion dollars next year. The growth has been significant and obviously, a lot has been fueled by what has happened in the last 6-8 months.
To put things in a perspective, in 2019, India became the second largest game download market in the world with over 5 billion installs. In 2020, just within the three months of April to June, there were 15.1 billion game downloads in India. That’s a huge number.
Q. How is Akamai helping the ecosystem to scale up?
A. We’ve invested heavily to scale up our infrastructure and network to meet all the demands that we are now witnessing. So scale is definitely one very big factor of what we would be doing for the game environment.
The second thing we provide for the gaming environment to accelerate the API (Application Programming Interface). As a lot of these games are very interactive, players could be in any other part of the world. There could be interactions, transactions etc. We accelerate those API’s as well as secure and protect them to ensure seamless user experience.
The third thing, which is extremely important, is protecting the game environment from DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks, which are rising significantly in the last 12 months, especially during the pandemic.
Another thing that happens is what’s called credential stuffing. So protecting the user’s identity and assets from being stolen is a very important capability that we provide.
So, that’s kind of the threefold value proposition that we have for the game publisher, and for the user.
Q. What kind of investments have you made here to scale up your infrastructure?
A. I cannot discuss specific numbers, but if you just look at what we’ve been able to achieve with live streaming of cricket, we’ve essentially doubled the peak concurrent viewers, every year for the last four years on Hotstar. To meet that kind of traffic, we’ve been doubling our capacity every year over the last two to three years.
We’ve made significant investments in our infrastructure, globally, but India has been one of the lead areas where we’ve invested aggressively.
We have always planned well ahead of future needs. Nobody knew we were going to be hit with a pandemic. But, we had started investing aggressively in India after realising that this is going to be a big market for us. And the investments we made last year were the ones that really helped during an unprecedented time, like the pandemic.
Q. How is India different from Japan and other markets in terms of gaming?
A.India is different in many ways, but there are a lot of similarities too.
Firstly, India is a huge market and it’s largely untapped, which presents a huge opportunity for anybody in the gaming business for the next many years.
Number two, India’s mostly mobile, which is a very different behaviour than you might see in other markets, where you see a lot of console based gaming.
The third one is India has a rich tradition of games that we’ve had as part of our culture, which is a huge opportunity to provide enriched experiences to customers in India. And I think that it presents an opportunity for the local gaming ecosystem to come in and take the leadership.
You have this large population that’s mostly young, and very mobile. And that is also keen on the rich local and cultural heritage that we have in the local games.
Q. The lockdown gave a big boost to the gaming ecosystem in India, how much of it will continue post Covid?
A. The lockdown did accelerate or increase the amount of time people were spending on gaming, a trend that we are seeing globally. Game consumption was through the roof.
What we’re seeing in other parts of the world is there is a bit of a tapering, because when you see a spike, then there is a new normal, which is greater than before where you were. I think some of these trends or habits will hold and I’m curious to see how much of that continues.
I definitely think you will see a new normal, there will be new users coming into the mix, the existing user will spend more time, there will be richer, more interactive applications and more popular application providers or game developers coming into the mix.
Q. In terms of security, what measures do you take and what all should publishers do to ensure a safe and secure gaming experience?
A. That’s a great question. Because security is such a big topic, let me draw a distinction in terms of what we do and what the publishers tend to do on their own, or should do.
So obviously, the publishers, globally and in India, go to great extent, or should go to great extent, to make sure that the game itself is secure. This means ensuring that the infrastructure and the user data is secure and that they are doing everything they possibly can to protect against the kinds of threats that may come their way. That’s kind of the good security posture that any company should have.
Now to what Akamai is doing, our role in the gaming or security environment is specifically to provide infrastructure security, at the perimeter. So think about a DDoS attack, Akamai has a rich set of capabilities that can help protect against such attacks.
We are a service provider, who has the scale, the technical capability, and also the intellectual capability as in the people resources.
Security is not a one and done situation, it’s an ever evolving landscape. The threat landscape is always evolving. So you need the right expertise from the talent to assess the risk to mitigate the risks and put in place the right security posture on an ongoing basis. We provide a set of technical solutions, but we also provide the expertise that comes with it.
We protect against intrusions of any kind that might compromise your gaming environment or compromise your infrastructure. We also provide a service called block manager, which protects against bots taking over the game.
One of the biggest threats in the gaming environment is credential stuffing, which is where a user’s data can get compromised, or a user gets impersonated, and somebody takes over their data. There’re capabilities we provide to protect against credential stuffing.