Gaming Startups of 2021: Who Will Make it Big?

Online gaming startups have experienced a huge influx of downloads in the pandemic. Which ones will join the unicorn league in 2021?


The online gaming startups which were dormant to date, have experienced a huge influx of downloads owing to slower out-of-home consumption in the pandemic. Apart from OTT for entertainment, gaming is not behind in becoming a popular means of entertainment. The online gaming industry’s growth fuelled by the pandemic might continue to attract millions of dollars and is expected to surpass the previous years’ funding. The data from Tracxn says that the online gaming industry in 2020 raised $174 million compared to $97.2 million in 2019. 

The growth of the online gaming startups is propelled by an expanding young population being tech-savvy, affordable smartphones, inexpensive internet plans, and higher disposable income. 

The online gaming industry is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 40 per cent to reach $2.8 billion by 2022 according to a report from Deloitte India. The ban of Chinese gaming app PUBG is encouraging more entrepreneurs to foray into the gaming segment. The first three months of lockdown have caused people to be in homes that have catalyzed the download of gaming apps. Against this growth potential, the marquee VCs and large corporates are eyeing the gaming industry to be a profitable one. 

Which of them will be entering the big league? 

Virat Kohli-backed mobile-gaming startup Mobile Premier League (MPL) is nearing a unicorn status since it recently raised $95 million in a Series D round of funding from Composite Capital and Moore Strategic Ventures. Now the latest valuation of the Mobile Premier league is standing at $945 million. MPL enjoys a fanbase of 60 million users and has over 3.5 million users from Indonesia. It offers 50 games across categories. MPL is planning to expand its esports category and will be organizing various digital tournaments in 2021. It is planning to capture the international audience in 2021. 

Amid the political tensions between India and China, its most popular app PUBG bore the brunt that escalated to its ban by the Indian government. FAUG, the Indian alternative to PUBG, was released during this republic day. During its pre-launch, it had received over 1 million registrations on the Google Play store.  

India’s first gaming unicorn, a fantasy sports app Dream11 with a valuation worth $1 billion, with its recent association with IPL, is aiming to expand beyond fantasy sports. In a short span of five years, its users have increased from 3 lakh to 8.2 crores. For the next two years, Dream11 is planning to expand aggressively by investing largely in grassroot sports development right from coaching to sports analytics.

The 1983 world cup hero Kapil Dev endorsed Apne11 another fantasy sports startup that is aiming to attract new users mainly from tier-II and tier -III cities by holding small-ticket e-leagues. The entry fee is as low as Rs 5 and offers league prizes of Rs 70. Apne11 is targeting to reach 500,000 users and revenues upto $1 million. Apne11 is yet to expand its prize pool to Rs 10 crore.

Shalmoli Sarkar
Shalmoli Sarkar
An MBA in marketing and a BTech in chemical engineering, Shalmoli writes on marketing strategies and business technology for new and aspiring entrepreneurs.

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