India is one of the world’s biggest emerging markets with a population of more than one billion people. And now it’s set to form its first-ever independent games trade body.
Traditionally such duties have been managed by NASSCOM (National Association of Software and Services Companies), India’s IT trade association. The organisation had expanded into other sectors such as animation and games, but is now refocusing on its core objectives.
The move led to the NASSCOM Game Developer Conference, which has been running for 10 years now, this year being rebranded to the India Game Developer Conference.
This left organisers - including its ever-present conference convenor Rajesh Rao - on their own when it came to putting the event agenda together and bringing in the funds to actually run it.
I think everybody really stepped up because we made it clear to the team it’s all on us now.Rajesh Rao
While in reality they had always done the former, this year it no longer had NASSCOM’s financial support as a safety net. The organisers and India’s growing games industry were on their own.
This year's upheaval meant that planning for the November conference didn’t begin until June/July - rather than the typical January/February start.
“I think everybody really stepped up because we made it clear to the team it’s all on us now,” says Rao. “I’m really happy the way things turned out.”
Rao calls NASSCOM a “benevolent incubator” for providing fledging support to both the conference series and to the wider games sector. The industry currently houses home-grown companies such as Nukebox, Mech Mocha, Moonfrog, 99Games, June Software and many more. International publishers setting up shop in the country include Ubisoft, EA, Zynga and Yoozoo.
But now that NASSCOM is refocusing on supporting its core vision for IT companies in India and the local games industry has matured, it was time to graduate and run its own event and form its own trade body for all these businesses.
“We’ve moved to the next step, which is to stand on our own feet, which is the right thing to do,” says Rao.
Tentatively called the Game Developer Association of India (the name still needs to be ratified by the companies registrar and be officially recognised by the government), the association effectively came to be after Rao made a call earlier this year to 20 companies for a roundtable in Bangalore.
We’ve moved to the next step, which is to stand on our own feet, which is the right thing to do.Rajesh Rao
With just 72 hours notice, senior execs from India’s top games firms answered the call and gathered to answer two questions: Does India need a trade body? And if so, what do local developers want it to do?
“We had a very engaging conversation and that ended up giving us our mission vision statement, purpose in life, what we want to do now, and what we want to do in the medium and long-term,” says Rao.
That mission statement has not quite been codified as yet, but Rao says it’s loosely based on the lines of the ESA (the USA’s Entertainment Software Association). It aims to represent the games industry where it matters, such as with the government and on policy.
Such issues it could influence the local and federal governments on include pressing home the point that while the games industry is not going to be a mass employer like IT, it can create lots of value and new intellectual property.
The trade body will also help promote the sector to the public to show off a games career as a viable option.
Rao hopes games companies can start pooling together money for training programmes that could help fix the sector’s talent problem. Local studios are struggling to hire ready-made professionals within India to work in games.
“There’s a whole bunch of things we can do together,” states Rao.
Full disclosure: IGDC event organisers paid for our travel and accommodation. Our coverage remains neutral.