Chinese mobile game publisher Youzu recently made the surprise move of setting up an Indian office in Pune.
Headed up by Nazara Games' former head of mobile game publishing and marketing Anuj Tandon, Youzu's Indian arm is setting out to develop four to five games specifically for the local market.
And what's more, it's also been suggested that Indian acquisitions and investments are on the cards, amounting to a potential investment of up to $10 million in the country.
But how is the local industry reacting to this? To find out, we asked our Indian Mavens:
- What's the significance of Youzu setting up shop in Pune?
- What form do you predict its reported $10 million investment in the country taking?
Youzu's entry into India can prove to be an amazing step for the Indian game development scene in general.
If it proves to be successful, it'll definitely encourage other major giants to take a leap of faith in the growing Indian market, or at least set up shop to target global audiences.
I am also excited about the genre they're planning to work on. Read PocketGamer.biz's previous article stating that they're thinking about experimenting with the RPG genre, and publishing local and international content for the Indian market.
India had a very large userbase base on Ragnarok Online more than a decade ago. MMORPG is one of the genres Indian hardcore/midcore gamers enjoy a lot.
Even to this date, Ragnarok Online's international community comprises of a huge chunk of Indian players. So, its definitely a genre Indian gamers are familiar with.
The issue related to making money remains the same.Ankush Madad
But at the same time, Level Up Games had to shut shop in India as they were not making money along with other issues they had faced. Shailesh might be able to shed some light as he had worked with them.
My point being, the genre is a popular one but the issue related to making money remains the same.
Flixy Games, as we've previously discussed, is also attempting something similar, bringing Japanese RPGs to Indian audiences and tackling these challenges.
I would love to see how Youzu differentiates itself from others making games for India and if they'd be able to successfully monetise Indian users.
Looking forward to what others think about this step.
Shailesh Prabhu is an Indie Game Designer from India who has been designing games for over ten years. Seven years ago he founded Yellow Monkey Studios and is the recipient of numerous game design and entrepreneurship awards around the world. Socioball, HUEBRIX, It’s Just a Thought are some of his recent games. Shailesh is also an excellent cook, loves playing tennis, gardening and DIY projects apart from sporting facial hair.
As someone who worked at Level Up Games, I can tell you that the Indian user base was abysmally small.
On average, we had 100 concurrent users and at massively planned and promoted events it touched 1,000.
To contrast, the Phillipines server routinely had 100,000 concurrents and during events that touched two million concurrent and upwards.
That's probably the reason why they shut shop, but it was a great introduction to MMO world for Indian gamers.
With better internet speeds, a much bigger hardcore gaming community, things should be different this time, considering they make money from their userbase.
The RPG genre has a considerably smaller userbase as compared to more casual games, and the current userbase in India is monetised almost entirely by global genre leaders such as Clash of Clans.
Anything competing with them will have to be a deep and rewarding experience, both in terms of gameplay as well as polish.
If Youzu is serious about this market, they’ll have to invest pretty significantly on product development.Amit Goyal
So if Youzu is serious about this market, they’ll have to invest pretty significantly on product development.
Furthermore, it is difficult to say at this point how much time a mobile RPG targeted to the Indian audiences will take to break even.
It’s going to be quite a tightrope to walk and Anuj will have to figure out a lot of answers. How much to earmark for production vs. marketing? How to make the game relevant enough for a more midcore audience that demands more than just localised content from their game?
It’s going to be a tough nut to crack in my opinion, but Anuj, having seen both sides of the coin with his experience at Rolocule and Nazara, might be the man to crack it.
But I won’t be surprised if we see a casual Cricket/Bollywood game next year from Youzu either.
If nothing else, the Indian market can expertly break down mountains made of dreams and wads of cash and give back nothing.
First of all, I would like to congratulate Anuj.
Anuj has done some really good work with Rolocule and Nazara, so I am looking forward to Youzu India's games.
With a reported investment of $10 million, they can focus on bringing really high quality gaming experiences, and I think this studio will be a good addition to the gaming industry in India.
Pune is a college town and as such a good base for hiring talent, so I think the choice of Pune will work well for them.
There are a few other gaming studios too based in Pune, so I think it can emerge as a good hub for game development.
Having said that, any new startup faces its fair share of challenges, even more so in India where the gaming market is still nascent.
The market is still unproven from a revenue potential perspective and it is hard to predict the appetite for local gaming content. So I wish them good luck and hope they can bring some high quality locally targeted games.
It's always a heartening sign to see global players place their bets on India.
In this case, Youzu appears to be dipping their toes in the India market to see for themselves if it's early enough (or too early) to take advantage of the massive downloads India is generating.
Going by Anuj's recent interviews, the plan in the short-term seems geared towards social casino and casual strategy-based games.
Youzu is a public company, and hence will be under greater pressure for quicker results.Joel Johnson
These choices suggest a focus on the monetisation potential in India as against acquiring a significant mindshare of the Indian playing audience.
I think it's a smart move given that Youzu (unlike many other large developers looking at the India market) is a public company, and hence will be under greater pressure for short(er) term results.
There's also a not-as-highlighted plan for exploring traction for existing Youzu games in India. I'd guess that this latter exploration (both their PC and mobile properties) is more likely to receive the lion's share of the investment, compared to the development of new mobile products for India.
Regarding the development of mobile games for India, Anuj seems to have set a very ambitious target of five games.
While it may be far quicker to build social casino titles for India, running them after launch will take significant effort and investment.
The most popular formats (Teen Patti and Rummy) have already established a significant hold, and breaking into this is going to leave very little time and energy to develop new titles, especially in casual strategy!
It would be an incredible achievement if Youzu India is able to pull this off though.
While this seems a minor investment by Youzu given their size, I really hope this will translate into the local team receiving the larger benefit of experience Youzu has from their international studios.
Mentorship and guidance is something our young industry folks are sorely in need of, and this will only help us in the long run.
Congrats and Best wishes to Anuj Tandon.
Flixy Games is currently in touch with multiple Chinese and South Korean gaming companies who want to launch their games in India.
Based on our interaction with them so far, they understand very well that the game has be localised to suit the taste of the player being targeted and are looking to either partner with a publisher or may prefer to enter the market themselves.
In China, launching a game has become a bit tough as Chinese state administration wants to review all the mobile games being launched for their content before giving their stamp of approval.
$10 million is a lot of money when compared to the recent Series-A funding raised by our Indian gaming startups.Felix Manojh
In addition, they have even banned South Korean games from being published in China.
So from my perspective, Youzu setting up its office in India is to capitalise on the second largest smartphone userbase in the world which currently has no clear market leader.
As their home markets becoming increasingly competitive, this is just the beginning and many more would want to launch their games in India from this year onwards.
$10 million is a lot of money when compared to the recent Series-A funding raised by our Indian gaming startups.
I can only interpret that Youzu is quite serious about its investment and is adopting a long-term view to capture a significant market share of Indian smartphone users with its high quality games.
After launching Avatars Clash - Comet on Mahaar and studying the behaviour and gameplay pattern of close to 50,000 installers, I can confidently say that the problem in India is not that the RPG genre is not famous on mobile.
The real problem has got to do more with the overall size of the game.
Since most mobile RPGs are made using stellar art and animation effects, the size of the game exceeds 200 MB on average.
Most Indian users currently are running out of space in their mobile phones due to the low storage options and so are being forced to delete apps (some which they really like).
Until this problem is solved specifically for India, it would be tough to secure a high retention rate and thus a decent user base.
Most midcore mobile gaming companies split their game app by uploading a portion of the app on the Play Store and require users to download game content immediately after the app is downloaded and opened.
We tried this approach initially and found that quite a lot of installers don't want to download more game content from server after opening the app.
We solved this problem in Avatars Clash (which was initially 210 MB) by packaging close to one hour of gameplay in a 60 MB app, so that player can engage with the game for a considerable time before deciding to download the remaining game content from the server.
So, India has its own set of problems to be solved and $10 million should comfortably help Youzu to solve them using their new Pune setup. Exciting times for Indian gaming industry are ahead.
Best wishes to Anuj!
India will see more of such players wanting to explore newer markets, setting up shop here.
From what I can gathered from published info, I do not see any new approach or vision than what we have all been discussing / ideating for all these years.
Users are more engaged in the whole experience of movie watching, and hence are paying for it.Laxmi Desai-Khanolkar
I am not a believer of "local" content, really. If the games or gaming platforms are made more contextually local, then we may have a success story here.
Let me explain this a bit. Today, the Indian gaming market is facing just one big problem: non-paying users. But on the other hand, we see that same user is spending a lot more on watching a movie.
That is because (in my opinion) they are more engaged in the whole experience of movie watching and hence are paying for it.
If some of Youzu’s investment is devoted to solving this problem, instead of just creating the content, we may see better results.
Gosh! I am finding myself writing the same thing on this forum again and again. I think it is important for all of us embrace the truth so that we can think completely differently.
A smaller developer cannot do it but someone with deeper pockets can, and I really want to see different experiments done - not just the same things with different budgets.
My name is Rituraj Behera and I am Co-founder of Cympl, an Indie game studio started back in November 2012.
I had begun my career as an application developer but I always loved playing games which attracted me to the fast growing mobile games industry.
I had started the organization with a vision to create high quality mobile games and an attitude to learn & improve everyday.
It’s great to hear that an international publisher like Youzu is interested in testing the waters in the Indian market.
This is a good sign for the Indian gaming industry as we would expect some high quality games coming out of such studios catering specifically to the local audience, something I have always felt has been scarce for the Indian market.
With $10 million investment I am sure Youzu must be looking at having the best infrastructure and hiring the best talent.Rituraj Behera
Also, Pune is certainly starting to become a big hub for game development studios in India and with the addition of Youzu setting up their own studio, it is only going to make the city even better for further opportunities in game development.
With $10 million investment I am sure Youzu must be looking at having the best infrastructure and hiring the best talent in the country to create a team that can deliver on high-quality casual strategy and social casino games.
As Anuj already mentioned, they are also looking at making investment in strategic partnership to find studios working on similar genres and achaieve their goals quickly and validate their assumptions on the Indian market as soon as possible.
But, though casual strategy and social casino games have been doing well in India in terms of monetisation (relative to other mobile games in India) there are already strong players in the market in these genres and replacing them will surely be challenging.
Just making the content locally relevant might not be enough to grab the attention of such audiences and it would be interesting to see what innovations Youzu uses in these genres to dominate the Indian market.
Anyway, I wish Anuj Tandon all the best in his new venture and I hope that he succeeds in achieving his goals!