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December 6, 1999
You never get enough of cricket? Well, you're in luck then. Now, when you pull off your gloves and pull off your helmets, you can click up a few wickets at indiagames.com, which claims to have launched the very first online cricket game, in collaboration with ICICI.
"We basically have Indian content, packaged in an interactive manner. There were always game sites like gameland.com, Microsoft's zone.com, shockwave.com. But we wanted to make a game that would be relevant to Indians all over the world. And what could be better than cricket? Cricket sells like hot cakes in India", says 23-year-old Vishal Gondal, CEO, indiagames.com.
Some history, you asked? Well, indiagames.com shot to fame during the Kargil war when they developed a game wherein players could gun down Nawaz Sharief and other Pakistanis. It was a one-sided game since the Indians could never lose.
During Navaratri, they offered an online dandiya, which became an instant success. "We had about 25,000 hits and 50 per cent of our traffic was from outside India," confirms an excited Vishal.
So what is the technology that goes into developing these games?
"The unique thing about us is that there is no outsourcing involved. We develop all the software in-house. The intellectual property rights always remain with us", he says.
The programmers use Java, Shockwave and Macromedia Director to write the games.
"Our server in the US can keep track of 15,000 players at a time and we are now in the process of upgrading it. Currently, we have around 20-25 beta testers spread across the globe. They get their remuneration in the form of freebies," he says.
But there is one slight hitch in this game: You only get to field and your job is to ensure that your opponent, the Cyber Cricketer, can't score well.
"That means you have to allow the Cyber Cricketer to take the minimum runs possible by taking the maximum number of catches. So there is just no scope for batting. Now why deprive players of something they would simply love to do?
"Oh that's the next version of the game. How can we let everything out at once? We are coming up with six more versions of the game. We too have to profit, you see. Our last and final version will be the one that will have everything; batting, fielding, bowling...," says Vishal.
The sponsors, ICICI bank, offers an online facility for customers to open a new account. If you wish to play the game, you are first taken to the ICICI site where information about their interest rates, demat services, loans etc. is displayed. ICICI also gives away prizes to the top10 scorers and promises the winners that their names will be featured on the site.
Vishal doesn't seem too comfortable with this question.
"There is no registration involved in playing the game. You can directly play..."
So what advantage does ICICI get?
"The details have to be given only if you want to submit your scores."
But wouldn't every player want to submit his/her scores, we ask.
He relents: "To be very frank with you, we are just a three month old site. So we are still in the process of getting the disclaimer into place. Maybe it should be out in two weeks".
How long is the contract with ICICI, we ask.
So how can you have the disclaimer so soon? Wouldn't ICICI object to this?
Now Vishal is dumbfounded. He definitely does not have a convincing reply here and tries to dodge the question.
Currently indiagames.com is looking for venture capital. "We have venture capitalists in touch with us. But we are not giving out any names yet. The deal will be closed soon. The only information I can give you is that PriceWaterhouseCoopers is doing our valuation," says Vishal.
The company, it seems, will now be bursting into a lot of activity. Apart from the six new versions of the cricket game, it has plans to develop a host of other games, among them gilli danda being one of them. But they choose to be tight-lipped about their strategies.
"You will have to wait for that. But I tell you, we have lots and lots of things coming up in the near future", says the CEO.
For one, indiagames.com is very soon going to be selling CD-ROMs in the market despite offering downloading facility from their site. Pat comes the explanation: "If you want to download any game from our site, it will take at least an hour. If you buy the CD, that too (the connection charge) works out to be the same. So instead of paying the money to the ISP, we get all the money. Our CDs are going to be priced at around $ 10-15 and will be available in the US and in the Gulf countries."
Not willing to disclose further details, he diverts our attention to the company logo:
"Have you seen it," he asks us. "We are trying to bring out the child in you," he says, referring to the tyke included.
"At indiagames.com, people can compete with each other and win prizes. That's why our catch phrase is, Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander.
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