Be Indian, play Indian: Indian-themed games make inroads

Bangalore: Foreign superheroes and characters will have to make way as the Indian-themed games laced with Bollywood masala, Indian cricket fever and ancient mythology make their presence felt on the social gaming scenario.

"Indians want Indian content," said Rajagopal Menon, Director of Games2win, whose games like The Great Indian Arranged Marriage, Turbo Cricket, KissMat have found takers.

"Bold and Beautiful was great 20 years ago when Star TV first came into India, today even MTV is desi", says Menon.

"Secondly, Indians are getting richer and are willing to spend. The Law of Demand and Supply takes over from here. Cricket and Bollywood are testimony to the fact that Indian content has arrived and how!", he said.

According to Rahul Razdan, President - Products & Operations, ibibo web, Indian social gaming is going the mainstream cinema and television way, where locally created media has managed to make a strong statement.

"The Indian gaming audience is looking for stories and characters they identify with and situations that are nearer home. It is local that has a bigger appeal, similar to mainstream cinema and television," he said.

Sony Playstation, leading console game player, which has partnered with Bollywood blockbuster franchise to create a PlayStation game on the movie `Ra.One` starring Shah Rukh Khan, said Indian based theme is popular.

Atindriya Bose, country manager, Sony PlayStation, which has rolled out games based on mythological characters like Hanuman, said, "It was better to have known characters, known storylines instead of a new story, creating new characters, as the market here still had to mature.

"The comfort level with these charactes and story line was higher especially in first time gamers", said Bose.

Sony has also tied up with known IPs like Tinkle comics for creating games with now famous characters like Suppandi, Shikari Shambu. "There is automatic acceptance", he said.

Games like Street Cricket have also been widely lapped up due to its Indian flavour, Bose said.

However, Menon cautions "These gamers demand quality games as they are exposed to the best content from across the world and will not settle for less".

It is contemporary game setting and simple but interesting game play that will work, opines Menon.

Razdan says that social games here were like soap operas, where the stories keep evolving on continuous basis. The game progresses on the basis of the reaction from players."There is an opportunity to introduce contextual elements and add excitement as the game progresses."

He said when ibibo launched the game `Yes Minister` which revolved around the concept of raising one`s voice over corruption and building ideal India, there were 50,000 players in the first week of its launch.

The numbers doubled to 100,000 in one-and-half month after introduction of an Anna Hazare element to the game during the anti-corruption campaign. The numbers augmented further due to the contexual relevance, he said.

It is not just Indian original games but also Indianised versions of foreign games that saw players getting hooked on to the game. Farming games, which as a genre exist globally, and call on players to sow crops, harvest, plough money; when given an Indian flavour saw a better uptake.

The company, at the height of onion prices, delivered onions at the door step of players who had grown and harvested the highest number of onions. "Only a local player can understand the sensivity of onion prices", he said.

"Local created-content is going to be the engine of growth", says Razdan.

The next medium of distribution that will take the local content gaming to the next level is the mobile platform.

Social networks is another platform that could provide that momentum. "We are adding a social layer to all games and our best cricket game, Ulitmate Cricket is being taken to Facebook", says Menon.

Brand building through gaming could be another avenue that holds potential, says Bose. MORE "Great content is hit anywhere. If a great desi game is appreciated by Indians in India, NRIs also like it", says
Menon outlining the growing opportunities in the market.

According to Bose, the company has also found overseas takers for its games that were popular in India but have been modified to suit international audience. "There is a global foot print while using an Indian storyline".

However, some of the games that had an out and out Indians story line like Battle Royale and Chandragupta Warriors, that focussed on Indian history and battles, were more suited to the Indian gaming audience, he said.

However, Rijul R, a game developer, said Indian-themed games should be made more interesting to catch the attention of players.

Local content games still lack the technology edge and the prowess of a foreign developed game. "Look at counterstrike it is still one of the popular games even after all these years. We need to have such games for the domestic players to make an impact", he said.

The promotion and marketing component of foreign game developers was another factor that Indian gamers would have to match. "Today the trailer of a game developed by them is so captivating, that it is enough to get the players hooked on and try the entire game", he said.

Apart from the usual challenge of growing the market, limited broadband penetration, technology lag and the tax structure was a worrisome factor for the players.

However, despite the limitation the Indian market was definitely an attractive market, opines Bose.


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