afaqs!

Bollywood loves online gaming

By Nisha Menon , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Digital | December 22, 2011
Film production houses are now launching online games to coincide with movie releases. Is this just another marketing tool, or a money-minting exercise? afaqs! finds out.

With Don2 set to release tomorrow, one can see King Khan going all out to promote his ambitious venture. Along with a slew of marketing initiatives that have been unleashed in the last few days, is an online game based on the film. Developed by gaming firm Gameshastra, the game offers the player to experience the film in an interactive space.

Online gaming today has become a must-promotional tool for Bollywood producers. Big blockbusters like Dhoom 2, Ghajini, Drona, Tees Maar Khan, Delhi Belly, Bodyguard, Ra.One, and now Don 2 are all perfect examples of how Bollywood is marrying online gaming and film marketing.

Marriage of convenience

So, what's pushing film producers towards online gaming for movie promotions? Many believe, gaming is one of the most addictive and engaging forms of digital entertainment, so there is definitely a logical convergence between the two.

Games, to a considerable extent, help increase the shelf life of movies and enhance top of mind recall. They are advantageous to producers as they create excitement and buzz around movies, and help connect with the moviegoer. Ra.One is a good example of how the theme of a film was adopted into a game and gave the player a realistic experience of being a superhero. UTV Indiagames launched the cross-platform social game on Ra.One, accessible on all social networking platforms like Facebook and gaming platforms like Nokia Ovi, Android, Apple, and DTH.

Deepak Abbot, vice-president, product strategy at Zapak.com, says, "Both mediums complement each other well, and help in the overall earnings. A good game replicating the movie storyline will definitely evoke more interest in the user to watch the movie."

Bringing in the moolah

Many feel that online games and movie tie-ups are gaining so much popularity because they are cost-effective. Besides, the fact that movie-based games are now treated as an independent product means some serious revenue being generated.

Vishal Gondal, CEO, UTV Indiagames, says, "Releasing online games prior to a movie release started out as a way to market the film and create hype around it. But, that is not the case anymore. With a proper revenue sharing model put in place, production houses look to earn money through tie-ups with a gaming company."

UTV Indiagames tied-up with Parle G for the Ra.One game, which paid them a fee for brand placement in the game. Speaking about this tie-up, Pravin Kulkarnii, general manager, marketing, Parle G, says, "A brand placed within a game based on a movie is consumed well as the brand recall is extremely high. We, as a brand, decided for a tie-up with UTV Indiagames as the game theme goes well with our brand image."

Decoding the business model

There are quite a few revenue models prevalent in the industry. Gaming companies and production houses go for a mix of revenue sharing arrangement and work out the formalities in accordance to the merit of the film, cast, and other such factors.

Initially, the gaming company paid the production house a minimum guarantee to adopt the theme and build a game around it. The guarantee amount depended on the lead time given, the type of film, the production house, and the cast.

In the second model, which is the revenue sharing model, the gaming company gets the rights to use the content of the film to make a game, and pay a part of the total revenue generated through downloads, clicks, usage, or ad revenue to the production houses as per a pre-fixed ratio. The share generally varied from 45 per cent to 60 per cent in favour of the intellectual property owner.

The third and the most prevalent model of revenue sharing is a mix of the minimum guarantee and the revenue share model. In this case, as per mutual agreement and the title's performance forecast, the gaming company pays a part of the minimum guarantee, and gets a percentage of the revenue earned by the gaming company, as well.

Ashish Gupta, head D2C, Jumpgames Pvt Ltd, Reliance Entertainment Ltd. says, "Gaming firms further tie up with telecom carriers and websites. They get revenue share from selling ad space, or directly selling the game to the consumer. Generally, the deal is for 12-24 months, so game publishers can monetise anywhere between Rs 10 lakh to Rs 40 lakh in a year. But, again, there are no set rules for this."

Game publishers recover their investment from traffic on site, paid ads, exclusive publishing rights, and directly selling it to end users. The revenue is dependent on game play, brand, the time of launch, promotional value, and deals with third parties.

Is it profitable?

The trend of online gaming around a film plot can be traced to Hollywood, where the movie script and the gaming script are worked upon simultaneously. Sufficient production time and the budget ensure that the game is par excellence in all respects. A 'Mission Impossible' or a 'Lara Croft: Tomb Raider', cannot be imagined without their online game avatars.

In India, the scenario is quite different. Here, an online game is usually included in the marketing mix after a film is ready, or is at its final stages. The lead time for the gaming firm to develop a game is just about four-eight weeks. "In India, unlike Hollywood, a gaming company does not have enough time to come out with a product that is of superior quality. Here, we depend predominantly on the virality of the medium for the game to become a success," says Manish Malik, assistant vice-president, Hungama Digital Media.

Alok Kejriwal, CEO, Games2win, doesn't see any real money in this business. He opines, "Gaming companies tend to get overpowered by the aura of Bollywood and fall to the temptation of getting into the rut. An online game does nothing to bring revenue to the production houses. I believe that gaming companies that launch products to coincide with movie releases are bankrupt of ideas."

He also feels this kind of an association is not at all cost-effective for the company. "When a gaming company is paying money to a production house, and in most cases, is unable to recover what it has invested, how can it be a cost-effective proposition? In fact, it is cost-remunerative," says Kejriwal.

Brand strategy specialist Harish Bijoor, concludes, "Though this entire alliance is not profitable, it is becoming popular as it offers a greater level of engagement. In most cases, these are experiments. Sometime they work, sometimes they don't. But, in the future, this will change. Well-thought of marketing strategies will be brought in to make this a profitable alliance."

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