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Gaming, India's new fad
Priyanka Joshi | March 29, 2007
Gaming is where money is, or so believe the gaming players in India. Consoles, online, multiplayer, casual and mobile games are expected to generate more than $100 million for the Indian gaming industry in 2006-07, according to a KPMG report.
From multinationals like Microsoft and Sony, Nintendo to domestic wannabes like Indiagames, Paradox Studios, Hungama, Mauj Telecom and Dhruva Interactive, everyone is busy spinning out games.
Conservative estimates peg the next-generation consoles like Microsoft's Xbox, Sony's PlayStation, and Nintendo's Wii, to lift global revenues in 2007 to $16 billion, an impressive 23 per cent increase. Industry watchers expect the console market in India to reach approximately $54 million by 2009.
Sony will launch its Playstation 3 (PS3) in India on April 27 and will offer the 60 GB model at Rs 39,990, which is costlier than Microsoft's Xbox 360 that retails at Rs 24,000 (approx).
Rohit Sharma, COO, Zapak Digital Entertainment, says, "Consoles are for, may be a million serious gamers. It is online or PC platforms that will draw the largest revenues in Asia-Pacific."
Zapak, which made its debut four months back, claims to have a million registered users already and is well on its way to clock 10 million users by the end of 2007.
Alok Kejriwal, CEO of Games2Win says, "A decline in content provider's reliance on international game titles and going to Indian developers will be the trend this year."
He calculates that almost 70 per cent of the content today is international titles or based on borrowed formats, which does not cut the ice with masses. Also, five million broadband subscribers don't really help the online and PC game market, Sharma predicts.
The online gaming market is gathering steam. India will have 40 million broadband connections in the next three years, so it's just a matter of time before gaming companies like Zapak start minting money.
To help overcome the primary problem of reaching out to the masses with it's gaming products, Zapak plans to launch up to 50 gaming cafes, a model that has been perfected by countries like China.
"Within the next two months, we will launch eight game cafes in cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Chennai, Pune and Chandigarh," says Sharma.
The company is looking to set up 50-seater cafes that will be dedicated to games and will be located in areas that will attract young crowd. Zapak Digital Entertainment, a Reliance ADA Group venture will be investing $100 million over the next three years.
Among the 15-odd game development and distribution companies, the outlook for mobile games looks the most promising. Right now, the mobile gaming market is about $200 million in the US, and around $3 million in India.
"The fact that we have over 170 million mobile subscribers in India is a good enough bait for most game developers," says Neeraj Roy, managing director and CEO of Hungama Mobile. He calculates that mobile subscribers are downloading 13-15 lakh (1.3-1.5 million) units of songs, ringtones and other value added services per day.
He says, "Among these, around 30,000 units of games get downloaded and although that's good for starters, it is nothing to be exuberant about."
Popular mobile games are primarily bollywood movie games, priced between Rs 50 and Rs 150.
Although he reckons that "mobile game's revenues might slide south" this year. Kejriwal, however, has his doubts "There is a certain level of fatigue setting in among content providers," he says, "the direct impact of this will hit the bottomline."
Women and games
Women and games is a potent mix, yet in India there are no takers for this. None of the game developers in India have women audience in mind while designing a game nor do they think of targetting the women consumer with their products.
Marking a humble beginning, zapak.com, a Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, recently announced the launch of zapakgirls.com, labelled as an entertainment destination for the trendy women. Zapakgirls.com will offer international quality games which have simple yet mind tickling gameplay.
Says Rohit Sharma, COO, Zapak Digital Entertainment, "In western countries, women constitute over 50 per cent of the online casual gaming community. According to reports tracking the activity of Indian women online, it has already crossed the 12 million mark, which is 32 per cent of the total online population and this percentage has a potential to
While the preference of women gamers is clearly games requiring lesser instructions and time to play, Zapak is keen to pampered this niche segment. Zapak claims that 12 per cent of its registered users are girls and the number should touch 25 per cent soon.
The various genres of games available on zapakgirls.com are strategy, puzzles and arcade. The company has also added a few cliched corners like an audio-video tarot forecast and forums dedicated purely to women and fashion trends.
Massive multiplayer online games have finally caught the fancy of Indian game developers and consumers. Zapak, Games2Win are investing heavily into building a MMOG platform, "to increase consumer stickiness."
MMOG is a genre of online computer role-playing games in which a large number of players interact with one another in a virtual world, describes Wikipedia. As in all role playing games, players assume the role of a fictional character and take control over many of that character's actions.
Albeit, Indian players have a long way to go with features like character customisation, churning out new content, has to be balanced with broadband penetration.
But Alok Kejriwal, CEO, Games2Win, feels, "Players generally are unwilling to forsake their favorite MMOG even after reaching the game's level cap and exhausting its endgame content due to the community ties formed while playing. This is the part where advertisers and game developers monetise their capital."The viability of sponsored promotions, sweepstakes and competitions held in the fantasy MMOG arena is mindless. "Sponsorship of such an event allows marketers to reach an otherwise elusive audience," points Rohit Neeraj Roy, MD and CEO, Hungama.