Abhinav Anand

Impact of secure player experience on acquisition and retention

In a recent online panel discussion, top executives from the gaming industry discussed this topic.

Every gaming company is focused on delivering a superior player experience to grow and retain its player base. On the other hand, gaming enthusiasts and players implicitly trust gaming studios and platforms with their data.

Hence, it is imperative for gaming companies to protect player information to build and retain players’ trust and loyalty. This, without compromising on the unique and differentiated experience and performance delivered on their platforms.

Discussing these challenges and opportunities was a panel of top executives from the gaming fraternity. It included Firasat Durrani, VP, operations at Loco; Gaurav Verma, director - user growth at Games24x7; Laxmi Khanolkar, co-founder & CEO at Apar Games; Siddharth Nayyar, co-founder & director at AFK Gaming; Sreeram Reddy Vanga, founder at OpenPlay Technologies; and Mitesh Jain, regional sales director, Akamai Technologies, India, who brought in the tech perspective.

The session was moderated by Ashwini Gangal, executive editor at afaqs!.

The session began with Gangal asking the panelists about growth (in gaming) and the factors that influenced this growth. Durrani of Loco said, “Growth is coming from everywhere. When I say everywhere, I mean the publishers are investing more and more in India on an unprecedented scale - something that wasn’t seen earlier.”

“A year or two ago, there were three or four or a maximum of 20 tournament organisers. They organised tournaments for various games like BGMI, Free Fire, Valorant, Dota, Rocket League, etc. But right now, on Loco itself, the moment we started launching incentive plans for tournament organisers, we received thousands of requests from people, not just from metro cities.”

Vanga of OpenPlay Technologies added, “The demand coming in, not just from metros but also Tier-I and II cities, is because the hardware is getting better. People have access to much cheaper and better quality hardware. With geo-penetration, connectivity has also become very good. Connectivity and that latency are very important for a very good overall gaming experience.”

Talking about the most common types of cyber threats and where the vulnerabilities lie, Jain mentioned, “At Akamai, we see massive amounts of traffic and spikes in the gaming vertical globally, with millions of users accessing these platforms at once. We recently released a State of the Internet (SOTI) security report focused particularly on the global gaming industry. The report was based on our observations and analysis of the traffic flowing on our network over the past 12-18 months.”

“Web attacks targeting the gaming industry were up 340 per cent year-over-year between 2019 and 2020. Credential stuffing and bot attacks were up nearly 224 per cent. Although DDoS attacks have dropped by 20 per cent, these (attacks) were massive, disrupting communication and gameplay.”

“Our point of view is that cyber threats are here to stay and can’t be ignored. It just takes one large attack to affect a brand’s reputation and the overall player experience. It’s not a question of ‘if an attack will happen’, but when it does happen. So, it is important for gaming companies to put together a clear and comprehensive mitigation strategy to maintain business continuity and player experience,” Jain added.

While giving his view on security and what is at stake, Verma of Games24x7 shared, “With money being involved, gaming companies have to follow principles similar to what banks follow, with the most common element being a two-factor authentication. Even if someone shares their details over a chat, we still have a protocol to protect them. For example, when someone tries to log in to a Rummy Circle account or a My11 Circle account from a device that isn’t recognised, then they would have to again go through the two-factor authentication.”

“When someone tries to withdraw money and enter their bank details, then we also do a KYC verification at that point. We have put in a lot of checks. At the end of the day, someone is trusting us with their money. With the gameplay experience, we provide multiple layers of security, irrespective of how careful that player might be,” added Verma.

Sharing Akamai’s perspective, Jain stated, “It’s always an interesting juncture. On one hand, all of us are focused on acquisition and retention, on the other, you’ve got to also focus on security. The hard reality is that cyber security measures can impact user experience. Or, in the case of gaming, player experience. But what matters is how cyber security is implemented. Are users being asked to authenticate multiple times, or are they expected to remember multiple passwords?”

“Gaming companies need to take into consideration all of this while conceptualising the users' journey on their platforms. Especially when catering to the millennial population, which also has a lot of other choices. On the other hand, one also obviously needs to consider the cost of failure. An essential tenant of any game is trust. So, gaming companies have to protect that sanctity of their gaming environment to ensure fair play.”

When asked whether security and all the issues around it affect platforms, advertisers and the end-users, Khanolkar of Apar Games responded, “From the perspective of a platform owner, if you are giving users the confidence that we are legitimate, there will be fair play, just have ethical systems in place and we will safeguard your information, then your brand will be perceived to be more secure. And hence, the user will not hesitate to engage more with your platform. When it comes to real money games, where I would add and withdraw money, these kinds of measures are extremely important.”

In his closing remark, talking about what is the one thing he would like to fix about the gaming community, Nayyar of AFK Gaming shared, “One thing that, I think, would benefit the gaming space is having very clear definitions of what is RMG, what is casual gaming, what is hyper-casual gaming and what is e-sports. The fact that we have got too much overlap between all of them is detrimental, and there is so much dependency on one another. Understanding these definitions is the need of the hour, and this can safeguard each industry player and stakeholder.”

The session was part of an afaqs! event, in partnership with Akamai Technologies, on September 22, 2021.

Akamai Technologies secures and delivers digital experiences for the world’s largest companies, keeping apps and experiences closer to users - and threats far away. To know more about how Akamai Technologies can support your business, click here.

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