Indians are spearheading the mobile gaming revolution around the world, quietly. Consider this: when a youngster in Australia plays cricket on his mobile, or another in the US weaves Spiderman's webs or a teenager in Russia hits a Maria Sharapova forehand on her mobile set, chances are that these games have been developed in India.
In fact, an Indian provider has developed three of the four games included in the next month's World Mobile Gaming Championships in Singapore.
One reason for the prominence of Indian companies might be the popularity of these games in India itself. Within a year, the market has expanded from a mere Rs 25 crore (Rs 250 million) to at least Rs 80 crore (Rs 800 million) in 2005.
In another five years, it is set to touch the Rs 1,500 crore (Rs 15 billion) mark. "This is due to the stupendous growth of mobile users - at 3 million a month. And 40 per cent of the handsets sold are JAVA-enabled (needed to download games)," says Rajiv Hiranandani, country head, Mobile2win India, a mobile games provider.
The actual number of gamers though is less, at about 5 per cent of the total owners. But the providers expect the country to reach parity with the international standard of 10 per cent soon.
Indian companies such as Mobile2win, Indiagames and Dhruva Interactive have tied up with almost 50 operators each in India and abroad, and 75 per cent of their turnover comes from overseas contracts, making the country a fast-growing outsourcing hub.
"Like the Indian IT industry, we too enjoy the advantage of cost-effectiveness and an English-speaking talent pool," said Vishal Gondal, CEO Indiagames. The Indian developers are becoming a visible force in the global wireless gaming market, estimated to be at Rs 3,000 crore (Rs 30 billion).
Operators such as Airtel and Orange update the 1,000-odd games twice a week. And though gaming contributes a small share of revenues to the operators, its share in the value-added services is increasing manifold ever year.
For instance, Airtel saw a 500 per cent increase in daily downloads in this quarter compared to the last one. It does not matter if each download can cost as high as Rs 99.
Popularity of games prompted Airtel to enable its subscribers to take part in the Gaming Championship in Singapore. The four highest scorers will get to represent the country.
Interestingly, the games have been innovated to suit the local flavour. The popular games in India include Master Blaster Sachin, KBC-2 and Sholay. With increasing competition, the creative team in each company develops at least 10-12 concepts each week, out of which a game is formulated."But India needs to climb up the learning curve fast in 3D and multi-player gaming. We are lacking here," says Hiranandani. That should not be much of a problem for technology-savvy Indian providers.