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India: Destination Next for the International Gaming Industry

India is fast emerging as a key one-stop destination for game development with research firm AC Nielsen estimating the Indian gaming market to hit $50 million in 2005.

Game development today is a $10 billion industry in US. India has more than a finger in this lucrative pie. It has emerged as a key one-stop destination for game development. According to research firm AC Nielsen, the Indian gaming market is expected to be worth $ 50 million by 2005, with console and PC gaming break up of $ 35 million and $15 million respectively. Most Indian developers have the global wireless gaming market - worth a staggering $550million - in their sights. All of the big Indian development companies have distribution and marketing partners abroad and 75 to 80% of their turnover comes in from the international market.

Why India?

A typical game title today takes around 24 months to make and will have a production budget of $ 4 -10 million. The game industry is under increasing pressure to reduce development time and the cost of production. Reason enough for major publishers and studios to look at outsourcing development.

This is where the Indian game developers with their world-class quality and game development experience step in. India has excellent programmers and the rapid growth of the market is adding to the allure.

The Indian market has 4 to 6 large game development companies with 50 seats and more, while there are another 100 odd small game developers with 5 to 10 seats, which are dedicated to developing for the wireless Leading Indian game companies like Indiagames, Dhruva Interactive, Paradox and Mobile2Win develop for a range of platforms such as PC, console, wireless and online.

Key Segments

Outsourcing to India in this sector can be divided into three broad segments:

  1. Computer games that are delivered on disks or CD-ROMs and played on a PC.
  2. Video games that use dedicated consoles to play the game.
  3. Wireless games market that is dominated primarily by games played on mobile phones.

Indian companies are aggressively developing games in all these three segments. India has carved a niche for itself even in the console market dominated by giants like Sony's Playstation 2, Nintendo's Game Cube and Microsoft's Xbox.

Another overlapping segment has opened up with the advent of online functionality in the computer and video games market. Nearly 1.5 million people in the United States played games online using their Playstation 2 or Xbox console in 2003, with that number expected to rise exponentially every year. With online connectivity, data can be updated constantly by downloading content, making the game fresh and relevant through out the season. The console and PC based online gaming are separate non-competitive markets although Indian companies produce games for both worlds. Console games are more action oriented and graphics heavy while PC based games tend to focus on role-playing and first person viewpoints.

Indian companies cater to online only game sites as well, with titles delivered via download or streaming technologies rather than on a disk. Big names such as AOL, MSN and Yahoo are joining the likes of Shockwave and RealNetworks to offer online gaming communities. Online only games tend to be simple, often based on puzzles, board games and quizzes. Another small sector is that of Advergames, where companies look at enhancing their brand image by employing games to hook the user to a particular brand. These games are not restricted to the Net and can be deployed offline, on media like kiosks.

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How Does It Work?

The distribution pipeline that extends from IP owner to the consumer includes, the IP owner, Publisher, Content developer, Carrier and the consumer. There are also Portals and aggregators that could be part of the distribution.

Usually game publishers identify properties around which they can have successful games. They then approach the owners of the desired IP and purchase the license. Next they assign a developer the task of developing a game around their content. Once the game is ready, the developer is paid his development fees and the publisher then releases the game to its partners, which are carriers and portals. The carriers and portals then offer the game to the consumer via downloads, portals or consoles. The carrier and the publisher then share the revenues generated from consumers. A lot of developers are moving up the value chain by becoming publishers.

While a majority of the 100 odd small sized game development studios in the country are service oriented and offer a low cost solution to the international client, the big studios are bullish on quality and do not use low cost as their plank while pitching.

Two Success Stories

In a very short span of time, two Indian studios have hit the ground running in the gaming sector.

Indiagames has developed games around 'The Day After Tomorrow', Bruce Lee, 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' and Spiderman. The company has built up a successful model in which it acquires licenses for popular icons and properties and develops games around them. While Buffy and Spiderman appeal to a huge cross section of the demographic, games around Bruce Lee are targeted at markets like China and the ASEAN countries.

Dhruva Interactive released Pat Cash Tennis in UK at the time of Wimbledon. Vodafone gave it the Game of the Week position during the final's week and there were goodies like Pat Cash signed Tennis racquets, T-shirts and bandanas. The icing on the cake: the grand winner gets to play with Pat Cash. Dhruva's strategy is not to restrict itself to the hardcore gamer but to appeal to the more broad based audience. Recently, Dhruva released two games that were highly successful in the international market. These are Geoff Grammond's Grand Prix 4 (PC) and TOCA Pro Race Driver.

The Development Cycle

The development cycle for a game includes game concepts, scripting, programming, character design, animation, level making and testing. The cycle is divided into 3 parts, Pre Production, Production and testing.

Pre-Production involves concept art, game design and game dynamics. Production is final concept arts, modeling, animation and programming. Testing is a big task for game developers. There is a wide range of formats, platforms, carriers and handsets that the games have to be tested for. Typically there are separate teams for porting and testing; some companies prefer to outsource this activity to specialized units.

The Indian game developers take their games seriously and spare no cost or efforts to enhance the entertainment value that their games offer. Their credo is not trying to save money in production, but making a product that is a hit.

Skillsets and Software

Indian game creators are rungs ahead of the competition when it comes to skill sets and software. Game development requires specialized skill sets that are not easily available. A good game can be created by the right combination of design, programming and creative effort.

Key skill sets for game development on various media available in India:

PC: Shockwave, Flash, Visual Basic, Java, visual C++, DirectX, Open GL, Graphics software like Adobe Photoshop, animation software like Maya, 3D Studio Max, Lightwave etc.

Console: the respective software development kit, Visual C++, Dire ctx, open GL, Graphics software like Adobe Photoshop, animation software like Maya, 3D Studio Max, Lightwave etc.

Pocket PC: Flash, Embedded Visual C++, Embedded Visual Basic, Personal Java, graphics software like Macromedia Fireworks, Freehand, Adobe Photoshop, animation software like Maya, 3D Studio Max, Lightwave etc.

Mobile phone: Visual C++ for native application development, J2ME, VB, WAP, ASP, JSP, graphics software like Macromedia Fireworks, Freehand, Adobe Photoshop, animation software like Maya, 3D Studio Max, Lightwave etc.

Future

The future for India's game development community looks bright. Take for example the case of mobile gaming. It is the rising star in India's fast growing mobile business. Gaming is the key element in operator's and content developer's strategies to develop new, high value revenue streams, beyond basic voice services and simple text messaging. The growth of this sector has attracted publishers, developers, animators and content providers and is also stimulating the development of innovative business models.

Across Asia and especially in China and India, the growth in cellular subscriptions is blazing. China alone has 330 million mobile phone users. A lot of developers from across the world have been attracted to this market owing to the sheer numbers. India too is a large market and currently has 40 million users. The number of Indian users is expected to touch 80 million by Dec 2005. There are around a million GPRS consumers and 1.4 million java enabled handsets. The number of paid downloads for GSM handsets in India is around 600,000 a month, while there are another 15 million free game downloads in the CDMA space. In-stat/MDR expects that the Indian mobile gaming market will generate US $ 26 million in revenue in 2004, and will increase to $ 336 million in annual revenue by 2009. A huge new market is waiting to be tapped.

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