Unlike the west and Japan, which learned gaming via consoles, and Korea and China (via PC), India could be the first 'mobile gaming-first' market.
Given that context, we asked our Indian Mavens:
Do you think this will change the way that the Indian mobile games industry develops, perhaps even being a weakness as consumers don't have a traditional of longform gaming?
More positively, are there any mistakes the west in terms of mobile gaming becoming mass market that India can now avoid?
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.
Since the advent of mobile gaming in India, the masses have slowly started adopting digital games as a medium of entertainment.
Even though there have been PC/console gamers in India from before they make up a very small percentage of the population. Therefore, if you consider the mass culture then India could be considered a "mobile gaming-first" market.
This will definitely change the way Indian game industry develops.
We are not used to playing the same games or have the same gaming environment as the west. We have started understanding games for what they are recently and still find excitement in casual games. Whereas the gamers in the west have gradually matured from casual to semi-core and then to hardcore gamers.
We are not used to playing the same games or have the same gaming environment as the west.Rituraj Beher
As far as being at a disadvantage, I wouldn't say so because of the fact that the gaming experience when it comes to PC, consoles and mobiles is so different.
Gaming is always evolving, saying that we are at a disadvantage would be saying that science students in the 21st century are at a disadvantage when compared to those in the 19th century. While it does help to look back and explore what happened in the past, it is not necessarily a disadvantage.
Mistakes can be made and seen anywhere, it does not have to be west necessarily. But yes, as more games are developed in the west there sure could be mistakes proportionately. Also, we can learn from them the fundamental mistakes already made as they started off early.
The most important thing is to understand the experience you are trying to create and the market for which you are creating the experience.
Mithun works towards building the indie development community of India and popularizing game culture by providing coverage of local events and hosting meet-ups, game jams and talks.
Whether you consider it a weakness or not, it definitely is new terrain that we're traversing, and thus has to be approached differently.
I'd say that more than avoiding mistakes that the west has made, developers should be wary about blindly trying to adapt the west's successes.
The games that we are putting out now are shaping the idea of the country towards video games on the whole, and as we are mainly drawing from the west's move towards free to play, this is the image of video games that we are reinforcing.
There's huge potential as soon as developers can figure out how to turn non-paying customers into paying customers.Mithun Balraj
In India, releasing a game that requires players to part with money is now immediately more challenging than in other markets as the standard cost that people associate with the consumption of games is zero; if the first five games a person has ever played are free, why wouldn't they assume that all games should be free?
And if the only games they have played are those that work around the free-to-play model, there's also a higher chance that they will be content to stick to that kind of game and averse to 'risking' money on premium games.
Now that we've gotten the market that we have, we're actually at an exciting stage though - there's huge potential as soon as developers can figure out how to turn non-paying customers into paying customers.
But instead of merely emulating western models and trying to make them work in India, we should understand the fundamental differences in our market and not be afraid to stray from the paths that are being followed elsewhere as we cater to it.
Poornima has been part of the gaming industry for over 15 years and undertaken roles varying from Game Designer to Producer to Studio head and Entrepreneur.
She has been part of companies like Indiagames (Disney India), Jumpstart, GSN Games etc.
She is currently a Director of Design at Zynga.
She has worked on franchises like BioShock Mobile, How to Train your Dragons, Neopets, and FarmVille 2: Country Escape to name a few.
She is a Women in Games Ambassador and also a Hall of Fame Inductee at the Global WIG Awards 2020, making her the first Indian game developer to receive such an honour.
Some of us entered the gaming industry because we were amazed by the games made in the west. This hasn’t really changed now, even with the mobile gaming scene. Except for the fact that we were mostly PC gamers.
Of course a few managed to procure consoles and be called console gamers too. This drove us into the barely existing Indian gaming industry that was focused on mobile games for the international market; usually US of A.
There were some PC games rolled out for the Indian audience, which could not meet the standards of its western counterparts. So naturally, the gamers moved towards better quality and developers stopped making content specific to the region. They focused on things that would make them money; survival was and is essential.
Not having a traditional longform gaming may not necessarily be a weakness. It just means that there are different expectations at play.Poornima Seetharaman
With the rise of the smartphones and social games, things changed. Mobile is as much a market as any other platform. The operator shares were gone and publishing a game became easy for an individual let alone a company. It also helps that it is the only platform that has penetrated India in a big way, given its ease of accessibility.
Not having a traditional longform gaming may not necessarily be a weakness. It just means that there are different expectations at play here.
What may start off as a quick and casual gaming session may just evolve to long form gaming in the long run with India as expectations build up and more and more consumers get used to the idea of playing and hopefully paying for more sophisticated gaming experiences.
Many mobile gamers don’t consider themselves gamers. It is an activity they do, much like watching television. The labels doesn’t really matter as far as we have these consumers hooked.
As Mithun said, we have to figure out how to turn our non-paying customers into paying customers; and that is a huge task! This is one of the main reasons many of us make games targeting the global audience and not restricting it to India.
On learning from any mistakes the west made, it definitely helps. However we also need to factor the differences in the setup, the culture, the reach etc., thus making it evident that we will run into our own set of mistakes.
There is also the question of whether one wants to make games for the Indian audience. And the industry itself is divided on this. ;)