Indian Gaming sector: Long way to go but future’s bright

MUMBAI: In North America, every household in two has a gaming console. Although India will take some time to get to that stage, gaming is catching on with the Indian youth today. An animated discussion at FICCI FRAMES with KreedaGames, EA Games, Jump Games, Microsoft, Game Shastra, Indiagames and TechnoPak representatives gives an insight into the what gaming in India is getting at.

TechnoPak CEO Harminder Sahni pointed out, "India is primarily a young country with 39 per cent of the population being under 18 years of age; these are potential gamers. As a gaming market, India is yet to be fully explored and open up. Although Indian gaming is estimated to reach $424 million by 2010, half of us, who are aware of gaming, have never gamed even once in our lives! Seventy six per cent of the 12 per cent Indian gaming population is male and the top two genres of gaming are Sports (73 per cent) and Action (53 per cent) based. The least liked games are education-based with only 16 per cent.

PC games are the most popular and consoles are yet to catch on in a big way. But, as more competition enters the market and distribution improves, prices will fall. EA Games general manager Ajay Khanna suggests that consoles will grow at a rate of 60-70 per cent CAGR. The Indian gaming industry is set to grow to about six times its size by 2012. This can be attributed to the following reasons:

– Growing platforms, increase in the number of home PCs and gaming consoles and broadband connections.

– More hardware will lead to more softwares (games) being bought. Further enhancement of the same through world-wide, same day releases.

– The increase in gaming will lead to more ‘localised’ content being created.

– Since the prices will fall, piracy rates will get lowered down.

– Desire-based consumption.

With advent of new technologies like Flash Lite, Android phones (iPhone), camera and location-based games, 3D games etc, mobile gaming has reached a pinnacle and India is doing its best to match up. Jump Games CEO Salil Bhargava mentioned that most of the new development is happening on the mobile gaming platforms. With more and more users joining the handheld gaming community, brand-based games and/or ad-funded games are the rage. The concept behind it is that no other entertainment source keeps you hooked onto it for as long as gaming does. In the USA, gaming ads cost about 4-5 times more than web ads do.

Capitalising on this concept and much more, Kreeda Games, Quentin Staes-Polet came up with the novel, localised concept of DanceMela. With this dance-based Bollywood free PC game, Kreeda captured the imagination of many players online. Says Staes-Polet, "An average DanceMela gamer stays on the game for about 90 minutes." With this kind of attention-puller, Kreeda introduced small impulsive buys into the game, which are easily payable for, through many options. From a tie-up with NDTV Imagine to rope in Saroj Khan to choreograph you in the game to buying dresses, participating in dance contests etc, DanceMela has it all. Built on rapid prototyping and modular development, this game constantly keeps adding new things. Staes-Polet adds, "Localisation is not a one-off but an ongoing process in a mass, multi-player game."

But to create all these games and keep them coming, a trained, focused talent pool is required and GameShastra India division president Christopher Erhardt seems to have it under control. GameShastra not only creates games but also trains developers at the ISG gaming school, Hyderabad. One of his key focus areas is to resurrect the IGDA (Indian Gaming Developers’ Association) so as to provide the developers with a voice. With GameShastra involved in tools development for gaming processes, transitional services (2D to 3D), program/project management, gaming is becoming more accessible to both student developers and serious gamers.

The road ahead is long but looks bright, thanks to advent to numerous gaming platforms in India. With more and more people slowly becoming aware of gaming as a serious entertainment option, the industry is sure to pick up and run all the way to the finish line. A few ideas, as suggested by the panel, for the hasting up of the eventuality includes releasing original gaming titles, white papers, post-mortem presentations and enough belief to invest.