'Dosti ka Naya Maidan' has been produced by Saatchi Propagate in association with Content Factory
Multiplayer battle royale game PubG still remains one of the most played e-games in India among the youth. While the PC version of the PlayerUnknowns game, where one needs to survive till the end to earn a "winner winner chicken dinner", has started to lose its popularity, the mobile version with more than 150 million Android downloads is still going strong. India has always been a top market for the game which earns money through various in-app purchases and advertising inventory.
In October 2019, PubG's undisputed leadership was threatened by a new rival - Call of Duty: Mobile. The free-to-play first-person shooter game developed by TiMi studios, a subsidiary of the same parent company (PubG), China headquartered Tencent Games was published by Activision, an American giant in the games space, with titles like Call of Duty and NASCAR: The Game, X-Man, among many others. Call of Duty is a popular franchise that has already launched many versions on PC and Consoles. The mobile version went on to generate 148 million downloads grossing nearly $54 million in its first month, making it the largest mobile game launch ever.
As with PubG, India played a vital role in Call Of Duty: Mobile, breaking all past records. With more than 350 million smartphones, India automatically qualifies as one of the key markets for game developers. PubG mobile has already built a community of loyalists and there are a significant number of players who have taken the game as a full-time career. They make money by winning tournaments and streaming on platforms like YouTube, Facebook and Twitch which attracts advertisers.
PubG Mobile India decided to go beyond the gameplay and interact with the community through a web series. It called for a pitch and Saatchi Propagate got the mandate. The brief was to "Get under the skin" of this community. Titled "Dosti ka Naya Maidan", it is a five-episode series where each episode is an individual story. The series has been produced by Saatchi Propagate in association with Content Factory, based on the insights shared by the PubG India team.
Priya Jayaraman, chief executive officer, Saatchi & Saatchi Propagate, says the series intends to exhibit how PubG is a unifier, a slice of daily life for the entire PubG community, not only the passionate ones but also those who play the game once in a while. "The series aims to show that there is so much more than the gameplay," says Jayaraman.
The first episode of the series has already been released (December 24, 2019) on YouTube by PubG Mobile India's official channel and the remaining four episodes will follow in sequence. Jayaraman shares that the series is targeted at all those who have played the game - the youth of the country, "Though it is conceptualised in Hindi and we have kept it unilingual as the story demanded us to do so, the nuances in the story are relatable for PubG players living all across the country," says Jayaraman.
Each episode runs for about 32 minutes. So, are these 30-minute-long ads? "No!" says Jayaraman. She adds, "We are not selling anything. The thinking goes beyond selling. We need to get into the shoes of our customers, we have to seamlessly integrate not just the product but the service, the brand into their life. That challenge needs us to be much closer to where the customer is, understand the nuances. That is how the content series comes alive with the brand at its centre, which is completely different from a 30-seconder or even a three-minuter which are also forms of storytelling."
The team at Saatchi interviewed around 200 PubG players to understand the language they need to use in order to connect with the community. Jayaraman shares that the constant endeavour was to ensure that it is equally relevant for the "pros" (champions) and the "noobs" (rookies). The lingo includes terms like "OP" which means overpowered, various locations of the maps... while segregating wings in hostels and societies with alphabets 'A', 'B', which is common in India. The first episode shows how the students kept the names on locations of the "Erangel" (a popular PubG map). The episode starts with a newly enrolled student entering the hostel with his parents. When he asks a passerby to help him locate the wing and room, he gets a response, "Yeh to Pochinki mein hai". Throughout the 32-minute-episode, the lingo and behaviour of the characters resemble that of real PubG players. "We wanted to use the language that binds them," says Jayaraman.
The trailer which was released a week ago has managed to fetch more than two million views on YouTube and the episode, in the 24 hours of its release, crossed the 350K mark. It remains to be seen if the series manages to peak as the game did in this country.