Remember Nokia's iconic snake game that we all played when the mobile gaming industry had just hit Indian shores? Well, now this industry is no longer limited to a snake chasing fruits, bugs and chicken. It has, in fact, grown in large proportions and is expected to garner revenue as high as 1.1 billion dollars by 2020.
India may be far from realising the goal of 100 per cent literacy, but when it comes to mobile gaming, India proudly occupies the fifth spot in the list of top countries by mobile game downloads. According to a US-based business intelligence and analyst firm - App Annie, India has progressed from the seventh position in 2015 to fifth in a year's time. Countries ahead of India are USA, China, Brazil and Russia, in that order. While 'Candy Crush Saga', 'Subway Surfers' and 'Temple Run' continue to remain top choices of Indian gamers, homegrown Indian gaming companies are gradually rising in popularity. 'Train Simulator 2016' by the Indian game development company, Timuz, was the only Indian game that made it to the list of top games - by downloads in India.
Elaborating on the third and the most engaging mode, Agarwal explains, "When a brand asks us if they an really involve gamers with their brand, we employ the third option. For example, in the game Chhota Bheem collects 'laddoos', however, we can replace some 'laddoos' with let's say Parle-G biscuits. We can even create a special jingle when the player has won a race. The jingle can be the brand's tune or song. This option is the most time consuming for us and it goes without saying that it becomes a big commitment from the brand to see it through."
Agarwal then tells us that Nazara is pushing for a fourth option which will ensure 360-degrees sales from the online game to offline sales and then back online. "Hypothetically, let's say I am playing a Chhota Bheem game and I have partnered with Knorr soup. Now I can integrate the product in such a way that when you run out of energy you need to drink Knorr soup to be reenergised. However, the bowl of soup can be unlocked with a special code that you get once you physically buy the Knorr soup packet."
Agarwal shares with us a major challenge that Nazara faces while collaborating with brands. He says, "People are still unaware about the mobile gaming atmosphere. While advertising their products, brands are not willing to take the extra initiative to create special promotional videos/ads which are in-sync with the game. What they give us instead are the TVCs, which may not be the best way to communicate with gamers."
Other Indian companies operating in the mobile gaming business include, Timuz, 99Games, Octro, Nextwave Multimedia, Moonfrog, among others. Nazara Technologies, which is headquartered in Mumbai, started its operations in 1999 with SMS-based mobile gaming. However, it was in 2015 when the company listed its mobile games on Google play and iTunes in India. Currently, it offers a variety of games aimed at a wide bracket of audiences. Agarwal explains, "We have three distinct age groups, one is from 5 to 9 years ('Chhota Bheem', 'Mighty Raju'); other is from 8 to 12 years ('Motu-Patlu' games) and then I have 13 years to 45 years male (racing games). Particularly in the age group of 5 to 9, the young parents are the last mile guys who download the app (they are not my direct consumer), get engaged in the process because they will ultimately initiate the download - the game is on their phones. Just like with FMCG products, you have the pester power of kids, the final purchaser is mom and she also ends up eating the same biscuit or ice-cream with the kid."
Just like brands, Bollywood, too, has received irregular features in the Indian mobile games domain. Previously, Indian company, 99Games, released titles like 'Dhoom: 3 The Game' and 'Fan: The Game' - both broke into the top 10 game rankings by downloads in India. It is interesting to note that the release of box-office hit 'Sultan' coincided with the rise to number one spot for 'Sultan: The Game'. Unfortunately, both Bollywood and brands continue to remain an untapped resource for the Indian gaming community and vice-versa.