Anil Ambani to bet $100 million on Zapak

DELHI/MUMBAI: Anil Ambani is betting big on online gaming. He plans to invest $100 million (Rs 4.5 billion) in over the next three years. On the agenda: to expand the offerings and presence across the country.

"We are planning to invest over the next three years around $100 million to expand our gaming portfolio and also to increase our presence in the country," Reliance Entertainment president Rajesh Sawhney said.

In the first phase, the company will set up exclusive gaming stores in 15 cities and also have franchisees. "Our plan is to create 1,00,000 gaming seats across the country with 50-60 million registered users over a two-year period," Sawhney said.

The company has launched a full-feature online multiplayer cricket game with Kapil Dev and former cricketer-turned politician Nvjyot Singh Siddhu playing online at a glitzy press conference here.

"Online gaming is a nascent concept in India. We are today offering games across various genres to suit the requirements of all age groups. We capitalised on Bollywood with Salman Khan Zone. And now given the fact that cricket is not just a passion but a religion in India it presented us with a huge opportunity," said Sawhney.

Within 15 days of the launch, the play-free portal has 10 lakh participants, with 20,000 adding every day. ?The potential is huge, but the market is nil? We are creating the market, because this is the first interactive gaming portal from India,? adds Sawhney. already has 150 games on its portal and within the next fortnight it would have 500, including golf, carom and chess.

The online gaming market worldwide in 2008 will be $55 billion, according to Sawhney. This is the first of the three revenue models, Sawhney told after the press meet. This is the Casual Games part, where ?we are not really targeting revenue as the primary issue. We have a huge market to rope in and for that what we are no concentrating is creating the right kind of ecosystem?.

He revealed that in the near future, sometimes early next year, the second revenue model would be unfolded with the introduction of the MMOG segment. During this, they would have payment gateways and people can pay through credit cards, cash or prepaid cards made by the company.

The last phase would be the introduction of the gaming cafes, and that too would happen this year. ?We shall have 10 signature gaming cafes in 10 top cities, to start with.?

Sawhney expects the Indian market to touch 10 million players in the next three years and 50 million by the next five. ?And this is not something for kids, anyone young at heart and willing to learn new things and enjoy life is our potential customer."

Local content would be added later on and local language conversions as well, Sawhney said.

Answering a question on whether they had sought the experiences of cricket experts for designing this game, Sawhney said, ?Our animators told us that they had watched 1,000 days of actual cricket before designing it.

One can just log on to and play this game for free against anyone in the world immediately.

Beginning with the toss and weather conditions the game goes on to give the liberty to try all possible strokes and bowling styles by the book. At the same time it allows to try out innovative shots, choose the field settings, face a no ball, derive the benefit of overthrows and even get run out.

Kapil Dev said, "Today the youngsters are no longer content with usual ways of playing, they want to explore more effective and efficient ways to play, to utilise time. This multiplayer online cricket game from Zapak has all the features that make cricket exciting and we will see this is as big a hit as the original game itself

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