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Cracking the Code: Unveiling User Behavior in Online Gaming and Digital Entertainment

Deciphering Digital Trends: Unmasking User Habits and Spending

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Esya Centre, a frontrunner in the realms of technology and policy think tanks, has unveiled a groundbreaking report entitled “New-Age Digital Consumption: A Survey of Social Media, OTT Content, and Online Gaming.” This comprehensive study dissects the patterns of engagement and consumption among users across three digital entertainment spheres: Social Media, OTT (Over-The-Top) platforms, and Online Gaming, encompassing genres like real money gaming, e-sports, and casual gaming. The academic rendition of this report finds its publication in an IIM-Ahmedabad working paper, co-authored by Dr. Rajat Sharma, Associate Professor at IIM-Ahmedabad, and Dr. Vikash Gautam, Adjunct Fellow at Esya Centre. The findings effectively dispel policy concerns by demonstrating that apprehensions about undesirable user behaviors, especially in the realm of online gaming, lack substantial support from data regarding user expenditure and time allocation.

Diving into Data: A Comprehensive View

The report delves deep into a meticulously conducted survey spanning ten major cities, including Delhi NCR, Bengaluru, Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata, Patna, Mysuru, Lucknow, Jaipur, and Bhopal. Garnering insights from 2,000 respondents, the study is fortified by in-app data sourced from over 20.6 lakh users, spanning across 143 mobile applications. Within this data tapestry, a revealing narrative of digital consumption unfolds, painting a vivid picture of user behavior and preferences.

Key Findings: Unveiling the Digital Landscape

1. Behavioral Lock-in and Engagement Patterns:

  • Users are most engrossed in social media, dedicating an average of 194 minutes per day.
  • OTT engagement spans around 44 minutes daily, while online gaming claims 46 minutes.

2. Time and Expenditure Patterns:

  • The median user invests less than INR 100 per month and dedicates less than an hour daily to online gaming.
  • OTT consumption ranges between INR 200-400.

3. Price Sensitivity:

  • A noteworthy 30% surge in participation fees for online gaming could trigger a staggering 71% reduction in user engagement, reflecting high price sensitivity.
  • Conversely, OTT sees only a 17% decline under similar conditions.

4. User Motivation:

  • While OTT serves as a significant stress-reliever, 28% of Digital Nagriks (Citizens) deem online gaming pivotal for enhancing employment prospects.

5. User Stickiness:

  • A monthly presence is evident across all platforms for all users.
  • However, Social Media sees 89% daily engagement, in contrast to 22% and 12% for OTT and Online Gaming, respectively.

Gleaning Insights: A Vision of Informed Policy

Amjad Ali Khan, Director at Esya Centre, elucidated, “The report fills a gap in research by simultaneously addressing policy concerns and user adoption trends in key digital markets. We believe its findings hold significant relevance, particularly during a period where the Government is sculpting user-centric policies for the digital domain. Our aspiration is that these insights will guide a progressive policy stance, prioritizing user safeguarding over paternalistic interventions and sweeping bans.”

Echoing this sentiment, Mr. Rajat Sharma, Associate Professor at IIM-Ahmedabad, highlighted India’s transition from a command-and-control regulatory model to a more flexible approach for nascent industries. He emphasized the critical role of understanding a “Digital Nagrik’s” (Digital Citizen’s) profile and consumption habits as a cornerstone for shaping an agile policy ecosystem.

Shaping the Future: Addressing Concerns and Charting a Course

The report’s release comes on the heels of the GST Council’s decision to adjust GST rates on the online gaming industry. A 350%-400% surge in GST outflow resulted from the shift from taxing Gross Gaming Revenue (GGR) at 18% to taxing deposits at 28%, a decision informed by concerns over user addiction and financial loss. Notably, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) had earlier introduced regulations to govern the industry, drawing acclaim for their balanced approach to user safety. The ministry’s forthcoming establishment of Self-Regulatory Bodies is anticipated to further enhance regulatory oversight.

As the report underscores, user safety, grievance resolution, and the cumbersome nature of KYC (Know Your Customer) requirements stand as paramount concerns for users within the realms of Social Media and Online Gaming. Conversely, OTT users laud their smooth experience, reflecting the standardization of service quality in an otherwise heterogeneous digital entertainment sphere. With the report’s insights in hand, a more nuanced and user-centric approach to policy-making in the digital landscape comes into focus, promising a more harmonious coexistence between innovation, enjoyment, and safeguarding user interests.

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