Is the Indian Games Industry on the Verge of Being Super?
The only constant in the Indian games industry is evolution. What used to be an almost assembly line-like output of Bollywood tie-in and cricket games on feature phones has developed its own distinct identity and flavour with indie success on PC and console. We’re seeing the likes of Gametion with Ludo King take the nation by storm with its ongoing success and PlaySimple with Daily Themed Crossword and Word Wars proving that there is an audience for games from here to the world. This is not too dissimilar to what we’ve seen in Turkey in recent years with Peak Games and Rollic producing high-quality titles resulting in acquisitions, elevating the nation’s status as a hub for gaming.
Though in India’s case, it’s not just game development either. There’s an accelerated interest from international game companies in the country too. Be it Krafton, Garena, and Riot Games looking to capitalise on the growing esports player base or the ongoing expansion of EA, Ubisoft, and Rockstar Games using Indian talent to build their live services pipeline, India seems primed to be what some consider as the best gaming market in the world — with a large talent pool and fast-growing community around the games themselves. Nonetheless, if you’d peruse beyond the headlines, you’d realise there’s a whole lot more to it than meets the eye.
A Large Talent Pool Without a School
First up is the contention of the talent pool itself. Recent successes have resulted in a tremendous amount of buzz around the business. After all, it’s not every day that you see a game from the country with 251 million daily active users or a games company acquired by a global giant in the space. However, it is important not to get completely giddy by these milestones. Not to take anything away from those that have achieved this, but it is crucial to remember that this did not happen overnight.
Rather, they’re results of consistency at honing their craft. Gametion’s founder and Ludo King creator Vikash Jaiswal cut his teeth in game development at Indiagames before finding success with Ludo King while PlaySimple’s founders plied their trade at Zynga before striking out to found a company and make multiple word games.
The stark reality is that a substantial part of the games business continues to be dominated by outsourcing labour intensive work to India instead of creating new IP. Sure, we have a big pool of talent (as a function of our large population), but there’s little in way of hands-on training to shape their skills to build something new or original when all that’s being done is working on outsourcing projects.
In a way, it’s formidable that the games industry has evolved into the state it has minus any formal, foundational education. Unlike other fields like accounting or engineering, the number of good game colleges in the country is next to nil. When you consider the popularity of video games in this country, it’s really odd that there are no institutions to support it. No surprise that the creators of some of the nation’s biggest hits have asked the government to take note and assist where they can.
The Indian Games Community and Its Future
It’s these concerns regarding game development that impact and inform how the gaming community in the country plays and consumes content. Right now, we’re at that juncture where there’s a strong preference from the community to see content around internationally-developed games such as Battlegrounds Mobile India, Minecraft, Free Fire, GTA V, and Valorant to name a few. What used to be informal gatherings for impromptu CSGO LAN parties has morphed into theatre-filling esports events.
Nonetheless, if the evolution of gaming communities in other large markets like China are any indication, the move towards creating content for locally-developed games is inevitable. Savvy streamers know that the path to having the widest appeal is to collaborate with local game studios to create content that’s specially for an Indian audience.
All of this is buoyed by the fact that digital forms of communication and entertainment have taken a huge leap forward due to the pandemic, propelling India to become the world’s second largest internet consumer with over 750 million internet users.
In the first nine months of 2020, with 7.3 billion installs, India clocked the highest number of game downloads globally, contributing 17% market share of the installs worldwide and is predicted to grow at 40% CAGR over the next decade, creating a market for playing and watching content based on games made in the country.
Streaming and showcasing made-in-India games is not a question of if but a question of when. I’m looking forward to the day when my YouTube feeds are filled to the brim with videos of great games made by my peers.
On the Verge of Something Super?
What’s more is, these are just the beginnings of something monumental as a whole. The silver lining is that it can get better. Initial wins in terms of India’s perceived game development talent and a gigantic appetite for content consumption from its community suggests we’re on the precipice of peak awareness. People are more exposed to the games business than they ever have been and deem it to be a viable career option too. And we’re happy to play our small part in all of this.
SuperGaming exists to create a talent pool of skilled game developers in addition to making games you’d love to play. MaskGun — our twist on the multiplayer shooter formula — clocks in 56 million players and counting while our social deduction game, Silly World has had over 10 million installs in its first four months.
Like our peers, this didn’t come overnight either. We earned our stripes building educational and hyper-casual games for close to ten years before MaskGun, Silly World, and of course the official PAC-MAN game which is running on the June Engine — our made-in-India games tech.
Granted, this is far from the current trend of the simple tap mechanics of a trivia, ludo, or social casino style of game, but we think that building immersive 3D experiences in line with the expectations of what our audiences are playing is the bigger and eventually more creatively fulfilling challenge. Not many in India attempt this at scale due to the sheer complexity making it harder to execute — an online shooter or social deduction game, as we realised, has a lot of moving parts.
Thankfully our team has grown up to tackle these kind of intricacies over years of development, hopefully resulting in something that’s representative of the potential and talent of the Indian games industry when that talent is given the time to grow.
With each game we’ve learned and grown as a team, making us realise that game development is a never-ending process of discovery. After all, you can’t just wake up one day and simply decide to make a GTA or a Fortnite or even an Angry Birds. Unless your handle is Notch and the game’s name is Minecraft, it’s quite likely that your first few games will be stepping stones towards something bigger and better. We hope to use those learnings to help the next generation of India’s talent make better games.
It’s through rigour and persistence that we’re able to be more ambitious in the games we make, allowing us to dream bigger when it comes to putting India on the global gaming map and moving the industry and its ever-expanding community forward to take our craft and theirs to the next level. What started as three guys, a dog, and a dream has become a 120-person strong studio with hopes of making bigger and better games — made-in-India for you and the world.
Roby John is the co-founder and CEO of SuperGaming. You can follow SuperGaming’s adventures @SuperGamingNPC.