What started with our childhood favourite Mario has come of ages. PSP, PS2, X-box…you name it and they (developers) have created gaming series for all the gadgets which cater to audiences across age group. Of all these mobile gaming is really catching up, given the penetration of smartphones and the comparatively lower ticket price (as loo as Rs 5,000) of smartphones. Right from that elderly boss going gaga over Angry Birds to ‘Talking Tom’ loving toddlers and fangirls of Fan: The Game to Temple Run lover college guy, mobile gaming industry has managed to cater to everyone, thereby emerging as the next potential avenue that is raking moolah.
Amidst the highly fragmented gaming industry, where moile games are mushrooming every now and then, brand licensing as served as an effective tool for developers to address the challenge of discoverability, says Anila Andrade, AVP – Operations at 99Games – the developers of game based on Dhoom 3, Fan and Sultan movie.
What made you enter into mobile game in a full-fledged manner?
Initially we started taking a few gaming clients where we started doing work for them from windows to mac and started getting comfort factor in gaming. When the app store was launched in 2009, we felt it was just the right time for transition and create something of our own. This was when 99Games was born.
Initially we had to do nothing with gamin; we were not a hardcore gaming company. Our focus has been mobile gaming all along. Initially we focused on creating more content as games are very casual in nature, anybody can pick up and create a game like word game or so on. We were the content providers for gaming industry. Over the years, we have had 17 mobile centric games in our portfolio. We initially focus on iOS and eventually on android with strong content. At that point of time India wasn’t really on our radar but we were tapping the global markets.
How has been the stint with Indian markets?
Most of our games have catered to western audiences, whereas India wasn’t our primary market. Indian markets became our priority when we inked pact with Yash Raj Films for Dhoom 3. That was our first licensed game where we partnered with another brand (YRF) and created a game out of a brand. Until then, it was always our own in-house IP and not any brand per say. Working with Dhoom was an experience that made us learn how licensing adds value to gaming.
According to you, how has licensing proved to be an effective strategy for gaming industry?
Content in India has really definitely evolved because if you look at gaming itself as a market, it is very over-saturated at this moment. There are players all over, discoverability is a problem and there are thousands of games available in the store. How would any consumer pick up your game out of that lot is not easy at all. There are companies who have hoards of marketing budget to promote their game and move up the chart and even if your game has quality content, it fails to stand in competition. Consumers may not really notice your game in such a case.
Creating a game out of a licensed brand, for instance Dhoom in our case, solves the problem of discoverability. The consumers are familiar with the franchise, given the movies released in past. The brand name gives credibility and visibility to the game which in turn drives the number of downloads.
How do the developers monetize through gaming?
Though the brand ensures discoverability, but in terms of monetization, there is an aspect attached to it which is the way the developer has designed it. In Indian context we have freemium gaming model where game is available to customers free of cost and over the time developers can earn.
Another is try-before-you-buy model wherein the customer can try for five or ten levels and then they have to pay to play further. This used to be the fundamental business model. Eventually entered premium level wherein consumer has to pay upfront if he wants to play, which allowed consumer to play up to all the levels. Now the freemium model is something pre-dominantly prevalent wherein all the levels are for free but in order to progress from one level to other, there is some cost in form of buy-a-booster which is optional. It is an in-app purchase model, wherein the customer pays real time money over a period of time.
Does the model matter in case of brand licensing pacts?
In case of a brand based game, the business model does not matter. For instance, FAN: the game got instant promotion due to Shahrukh Khan connect, which would have costed us a fortune had it been just another game. We go free promotions and visibility.
So far you have had pacts with YRF only. Are you looking at other studios as well?
We are open to form alliance with other studios as well. With YRF, we started with Dhoom. If you look at the Bollywood movie based games, the lifespan or the shelf life is small and just as long as the movie lasts.