Cricket is a huge deal in India.
The country is home to the world's most popular cricket league in the Indian Premier League (IPL), a brand with an estimated value of $4.2 billion.
And with millions of fans across India, it's no surprise that cricket has long been a staple for mobile game developers targeting the local market.
One such studio is Nazara Games, whose commitment to local mobile game content for the Indian market has seen it top the country's Google Play charts multiple times.
Cricket has always had a major role to play in the company's strategy too, and that's still very much the case.
RCB Star Cricket, a partnership with IPL team Royal Challengers Bangalore, launched in April and Stick Cricket Virat & Rohit, a product of partnerships with Stick Sports and IPL stars Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, followed in early June.
As such, PocketGamer.biz reached out to Nazara CEO Manish Agarwal to discuss the opportunity in cricket and the IPL for mobile games developers.
PocketGamer.biz: How and when did the opportunity for you to partner with Royal Challengers Bangalore emerge?
Manish Agarwal: Royal Challengers Bangalore is one of the most popular teams in the IPL, with a massive fan following on social media.
This was a great opportunity to leverage the popularity of the IPL.Manish Agarwal
The RCB team is always looking for exciting brand partnerships to grow their community and augment the RCB brand.
In this context, the RCB team approached Nazara via Pokkt, which is the leading gaming video ad network in India and Asia, seeking a partnership to create an interactive community platform around the RCB brand which can engage with RCB fans throughout the year.
For Nazara, this was a great opportunity to leverage the popularity of the IPL, demonstrate the appeal of creating locally relevant games and to demonstrate gaming as a very potent vehicle to build a highly engaged community.
Have you been surprised by the success of RCB Star Cricket so far? Why do you think it has proven so popular?
Definitely, it's shot through the charts like a rocket.
It reached number one on Google Play in India within 48 hours of launch, which was a great testimony to the combinination of simple pick-up-and-play gameplay and the mass appeal of the RCB franchise and its captain Virat Kohli.
The RCB game is tailor-made for millions of IPL fans as like in the sport itself, gamers enjoy hitting sixes and fours very frequently and the game has very intuitive game progression which takes the player on a streamlined journey through the game.
Live operations in the form of daily/weekly tournaments and the Hall of Fame of winners was a big driving force behind RCB Star Cricket notching more than two million downloads in 45 days.
How is the game's performance comparing to other recent Nazara releases?
The RCB Star Cricket has seen the fastest rise to a million downloads on Google Play within our gaming portfolio, which boasts of many other successful titles that have hit the number one free spot on Google Play.
RCB Star Cricket has seen the fastest rise to a million downloads in our portfolio.Manish Agarwal
The game has fantastic engagement metrics, with very high retention for day one and day seven, and continues to get a high number of downloads even after the IPL finished a fortnight ago.
Recently, Gujarat Lions have also released an official mobile game and you've launched Stick Cricket Virat & Rohit. Do you predict that the IPL and its teams will increase their involvement in the mobile games space?
Games form a natural extension to any sports events as well as brands.
We believe that other teams will also start venturing into the mobile games space to continue engaging with their fans throughout the year on a more interactive and engaging platform.
We believe that the success of the games will depend very heavily on the collaboration between franchise and game publisher, as well as the passion of the franchise to truly build their game into a highly engaging community platform.
An IP partner who is passionate about making their game a success is important.Manish Agarwal
It seems that there are a number of cricket games in the Indian mobile market. How does one stand out in this environment?
IP definitely helps a lot in getting the game discovered on Google Play and the App Store, but having an IP partner who is passionate about making their game a success is also important to sustain the excitement level among fans.
A partnership with RCB not only got us the reach of their social media, but they also created very exciting video content which helped in creating the right virality for RCB Star Cricket.
Besides the IP itself, it was important for us to understand what RCB fans expected from an RCB game and crack the core cricketing experience of playing for the fun of batting.
Continuous iteration based on consumer feedback helped us to drive engagement levels.