When it comes to building games based on social sports, you cannot copy the logic from other successful social games and apply the same logic directly, says Swami Venkat, Founder and CEO, iNexgen Games Technologies P Ltd, Chennai (http://bit.ly/F4TSwamiV). Many social sports games have tried that model and failed, he adds, during a recent interaction with Business Line . “Social sports game is a special genre that has its own advantages. We need to build a plan and design based on the strengths of the social sports.” Our conversation continues over email.
Excerpts from the interview:
First, how is the next-gen game different from its predecessor?
The future of gaming and innovation in gaming have clearly moved into social and mobile, mainly because it is easy to develop and distribute to millions of users. Console games are dying, due to the lack of resources, escalating costs in making, longer release cycle, cumbersome distribution strategies and heavy marketing costs.
In fact, console makers (XBox 360 and PS3), and console game developers have realised this fact and have been integrating to Facebook through ‘Facebook Connect'.
It is possible to study the user behaviour, playing pattern and feedback and do enhancements to the social games. Ninety per cent of the console gamers never play and complete the game they bought for, say, $40; and 90 per cent of the social gamers never pay for the games they play.
It is, therefore, a wise strategy to release the games on multi-platforms and maximise the reach to provide unsurpassed quality of entertainment to the next-gen gamers.
One of your first products was a game for Facebook. Can you walk us through its different stages, from ideation to launch?
When Chari and I wanted to develop a great game for the Indian gaming market, we unanimously selected cricket as our core idea. For obvious reasons, known to 1B people! We also have a past experience developing a successful cricket game for ESPN-Cricinfo.
We chose our first launching platform as Facebook, after carefully studying all the available cricket games including those on Facebook. All the games use the social networking feature to post the score and not tapping the real potential of it. We believed that cricket deserves a much more engaging game on social media that will make the players experience the excitement of playing cricket with their friends. That's how we started ‘AllRounderz' and the game is currently available at http://apps.facebook.com/allrounderz.
We can proudly say that AllRounderz is the world's first true social cricket game on social media. We have also introduced the world's first women's online cricket, introduced S. Venkataraghavan as virtual umpire, and true 3D experience to the players. Our game is skill-based.
What are your observations about Indian online gamers?
We have a huge market for online games in India. The critical challenge we have is the monetisation of those games. Indian gamers don't want to pay for the games, thanks to the piracy market culture, which shakes the movie industry also.
Age group 18-24 is the majority of the demography that plays games. Even if they are ready to pay, we don't have a right payment mechanism, as most of them won't have the credit card, which is the most common online payment mode so far.
Zynga has come up with game cards, sold through cyber cafes and retailers.
Social games and casual games are also having a wider reach of audience, including women above 34.
Since most of the social networking sites offer open platform for the developers, thousands of applications/games are launched every day. The major challenge for the game developers is to retain the customers for a longer duration.
Is there a potential in gaming that corporates in India are yet to tap?
Traditionally, India has proved as a top-notch and cost-effective destination for outsourced work. Most of the companies have been focusing on this and also distributing international titles. Only a very few have tried to tap the real potential of Indian gaming market by releasing games for the local market.
Movies, music and cricket are the major forms of entertainment in India. Many games were made based on them and none has achieved a huge success. Several years ago, nobody in India would have predicted/ anticipated that Zynga-type of games would be highly successful in India. The message is that Indian gamers are ready to consume games, if they are good.
More companies should come forward to experiment, innovate, and improve the current genre of games. At iNexGen, we are improving the popular game with some innovations in the game play. It is also wise to plan for both products and services to protect your bottom line.
Your views on the skills most wanted in the gaming industry.
Honestly, the animation and games industry has not grown to the level of IT in India, mainly due to the lack of quality and quantity of resources, and certainly not due to the lack of business opportunities. Games development involves two major categories: Games art, and games programming. You need to be really talented to perform either of these.
Developing art assets for games that will go into multi-platforms requires special skill. You need to design high quality assets that will be rendered on multiple devices in real-time with limitations based on the device's configuration. Game programming requires both programming skills and understanding of mathematics, physics, and knowledge about the integration of several third-party tools. Any good game programmer can become a good software programmer in IT industry, but the reverse is not true.
The government and parents play a key role in getting recognition for this industry. Animation and games should get into the school curriculum, at least as optional subjects. Colleges should come forward to offer recognisable programmes for the students. Parents should also encourage their children if they are interested in games development and animation.
An overview of some of the exciting projects currently pursued by iNexGen...
Our framework is based on ‘Game as a Service' that can be utilised by the top brands for their social media strategies. Our plan is to introduce user-engaging features, provide a solution to the brands to tap the power of social media, introduce real multi-player, conduct school/college/corporate tournaments online, launch the game on multiple platforms (iPad/iPhone/Android, other SNS, and mobile SNS), create a cricket community that can collaborate, share and learn. We also plan to develop other similar social sports on social media. Everyone is looking for ways to make the players spend their real money for virtual goods. We are planning to provide a platform where players can exchange their earned virtual coins to buy real goods through our game.