This four-year-old startup plans to take Indian cloud gaming sky-high

    This four-year-old startup plans to take Indian cloud gaming sky-high

    The global gaming industry is worth around $240 billion annually and the nascent cloud gaming market, touted as the future of gaming, according to Fortune Business Insights, was valued at $3.37 billion globally in 2022. It is projected to grow to $5.76 billion by the end of this year, and to $84.97 billion by 2030.

    In India, however, cloud gaming, as a concept, has yet to catch on. Cloud gaming is essentially a company hosting high-end gaming systems on a server farm, and letting users access the hardware and play the latest games on any machine, for a monthly subscription fee.

    However, cloud gaming is not new. Sony had its PS Now cloud gaming service — now folded into PlayStation Plus — for subscribers, while global chip major NVIDIA offers GeForce NOW. Google played in the shallow end of this pool with Google Stadia, which was shuttered last September after two years.

    The cloud gaming space is ripe for the plucking in India, and a four-year-old startup is looking to take advantage of the situation. OnePlay, founded in 2019 by Harshit Jain and Abhik Saha, offers a bevy of subscription plans, ranging from ₹39-999 per month, and offers gaming on a graphics chipset equivalent to the GeForce RTX 3050. All you need to do is pay the subscription fee and play on your PC, MacBook, smartphone, or even smart TVs. 

    There is one caveat, here — you need to own the games you want to play. Once you sign up, you will be asked to link either your Steam games store or Epic Games store — and whichever titles you own on those platforms are yours to play for as long as your subscription tier will allow you to.

    I have tried OnePlay and cannot understate just how bizarre it felt to play Baldur’s Gate III on an M2 MacBook Air. The experience was seamless, and despite the disclaimer on the website about possible queue times, I was able to load and play instantly. It’s at times like these that I find myself wishing I had a powerful gaming rig.

    In a recent interview with CNBC-TV18, Jain and Saha (the wunderkind of the operation at just 21) spoke about their journey together, the current state of cloud gaming and OnePlay, and their plans for the future.

    The genesis of OnePlay

    The journey began with a focus on technology and innovation. “I was in Silicon Valley, we had built a discovery engine, a recommendation system,” Jain recollects. The co-founders identified an opportunity to extend their expertise into the realm of gaming. “We thought, why don’t we get into something? An extension of the media and entertainment that is probably gaming,” he adds.

    Navigating challenges and educating the masses

    Recognising the growing prominence of over-the-top (OTT) platforms, the duo observed a shift in trends. Jain says, “From 2019, we have seen that OTT is emerging, but by 2022, we realised that OTT is also somewhere diminishing right now, and the next wave would be gaming.”

    The challenge lay in educating the Indian market about gaming and its ecosystem. Saha emphasises the need for awareness, stating, “People are not aware of gaming, or not aware of the ecosystem. And educating them is a different challenge which we have faced so far.”

    From individual journeys to OnePlay

    The paths of Saha and Jain converged in 2017  — Saha was just 15 at that time — when they their shared passion for technology brought them together. Their collaboration was aimed at proving themselves in the engineering space. Saha says, “We were trying to prove ourselves in terms of the engineering side because since I was very young, it was very atypical to get into the market.”

    Tackling technical knowhow at a young age

    Saha’s entry into the tech world at the age of 12 laid the foundation for the rest of his still burgeoning career. Jain says, “Abhik started his career when he was 12 years old. He had already made an antivirus and a lot of other stuff by then.”

    Breaking down OnePlay’s offerings

    OnePlay’s cloud gaming service offers users the ability to play PC games from various platforms like Epic and Steam without the need for high-end gaming hardware. The subscription model, with plans from ₹39-999 per month, opens the door to an affordable gaming experience.

    Overcoming infrastructure challenges

    Addressing challenges related to server capacity and latency, the co-founders discussed their strategic approach. Jain says, “We are working with ISPs directly to ensure that end-users get the best experience.” The team is actively expanding servers to cover more regions within India, ensuring low latency for gamers. For now, they have two active servers in western India, but within 3-6 months, they plan to expand to the north and south as well.

    Future of cloud gaming

    They envision a future where cloud gaming becomes a platform for diverse gaming experiences. They foresee a shift similar to streaming platforms, where games are designed exclusively for the cloud, offering unique and resource-intensive experiences.

    Community engagement and future plans

    Engaging with gamers is a priority for OnePlay. The co-founders emphasise partnerships with leading technology companies, including Fampay, Countly (for behavioural analytics), Leap switch (hosting partner), Yotta (data centre partner), Radian Arc (AMD GPU partner), and Shaks (gaming controller partner). These collaborations contribute to the platform’s robust infrastructure and ensure a seamless gaming experience for users.

    Funding milestone and user base

    OnePlay recently secured $1.8 million in seed funding from Baring Capital, Inflection Point Ventures, and prominent angel investors like Kunal Shah of CRED, Suraj Nalin of PlaySimple Games, Amit Shrivastav of Gupshup, and Jitendra Gupta, CEO of Jupiter. This funding injection is poised to propel OnePlay’s growth and innovation in the cloud gaming space.

    Founded in 2019, the platform has achieved an impressive registered user base of over 50,000 players and has garnered over 1,00,000 downloads. The platform’s traction extends across key cities in India, including Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Pune, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad, Chennai, and Kolkata. The team envisions a comprehensive coverage of India, with plans to establish servers in Noida and Chennai within the next 3-6 months.

    Conclusion: A Glimpse into the future

    As OnePlay gains traction in the gaming industry, Abhik Saha and Harshit Jain continue to push boundaries. Their vision for the future of cloud gaming holds promise, offering gamers an accessible and seamless experience. With an expanding user base, strategic partnerships, and plans for further collaborations, OnePlay is poised to leave an impact on the gaming landscape.

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