Gaming spreads to smaller towns

MUMBAI: Gaming is starting to spread to smaller towns and cities and has a chance for becoming bigger than movies among the youth, experts in the sector said.

Indiagames CEO Vishal Gondal said the company’s growth is coming from the smaller towns and cities. “What we have done is set up a call centre to educate people on how to play games. From a four people operation, we now have 400 people. We have worked with BSNL and Airtel to take gaming to the smaller cities and towns. Wee have Jawans at the border playing games.”

Indiagames has bought IP for films and TV shows to make mobile content. "On DTH, we did a game based on the TV reality show Emotional Athyachar. We are looking at how popular TV shows can be switched to a fulfilling gaming experience," said Gondal.
With mobile and DTH penetration growing, there is an opportunity. Tata Sky CMO Vikram Mehra said the company has 600,000 people paying Rs 40 a month for games. "We have targeted women and kids. For kids, we use Disney characters to impart education like maths quizzes and pronunciatio excercises. For housewives, our focus is on content on the TV. They just have to press a button and start. We work on a subscription basis. A new game is given to them everyday. Our content is refreshed hourly. This is much better than somebody paying thousands of rupees on game software that the child might get bored off quickly,” he noted.

Games require low processing power and there are graphics limitations. "This is fine since we are targeting people who have not played before. We were clear when we started two years back that we had to have subscription. Relying heavily on advertising is a risky model,” Mehra said.

Jump Games CEO Salil Bhargava also said that gaming is shifting towards the smaller towns and cities. “The game has to be simple for them to work. Do not expect these people to take a liking to fancy games where you have to press 25 buttons to execute a function. You now have devices that cost less than $150 competing with smartphones. 3G might take 18 months for adoption, but it will grow the gaming market for the mobile. The need is to create local content that people can relate to.”
Zynga Games Country head Shan Kardvil noted that people from 35 years of age to the 80-year-olds play their games. It has an active user base of four to five million in India. “Our success shows that gaming can be mainstream. You have to focus on what people need. One hook for gaming is the gameplay. The design should also be simply to appeal to a 45-year-old. The social connection can also be a strong reason for people to get hooked to a game like Farmville. The language is global. An uneducated janitor can be at a 96 level compared to a 36 level for somebody educated,“ he said.

Sony Playstation country head Atindriya Bose said that one has to map devices and content being thrown on them. It is difficult to drive partners to gaming as they feel odd about it and they also have concerns about the impact it would have on kids. There has to be a symbiotic relationship between industry players to drive gaming to a mass popularity.

The issue of monetisation is also key. Gondal noted that it has moved from things like per download and is about micro transactions and advertising. The economics has gone from selling a box and forgetting about it to monitoring daily and monthly usage. “Only when people consume a game do we make money. If a game is bad and does not attract users, we do not make money. We do a lot of analytics,” Gondal added.

Not all Bollywood content work. Said Bhargava, "You cannot put out games based on Bollywood films for the sake of it. For kids, games based on toon characters are popular."

On the game development front, it was noted that developers shouldn’t simply pitch for doing games cheaply. There has to be a clear perspective on the game or else the product will be bad. The results of having an Indian idea mixed with Western design has been interesting.

"Expats coming here can have an impact on how the local talent thinks and works. A local idea gets tempered with discipline. While creating gaming is an art, understanding users is a science. Creating even a simple game needs great design," said Bhargava.

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