While India is a land of opportunity with untapped growth, the market is still nascent and its gaming community inexperienced.
Across the country, 4G is a rare commodity, while the lack of an online ecosystem makes it hard for Indian gamers to download large files, updates and purchases.
Then there's the issue that ecommerce is still in its infancy in the country.
Not only are some players unwilling to pay with their phones, but a game with IAPs costing $2 equates to 126 rupees. In some parts of the India that's a day's salary.
So following on from our first India Mavens discussion, we asked our experts:
It’s been said that the Indian games industry faces a huge obstacle in convincing the public that games are a legitimate medium and source of entertainment – and as such something worthwhile paying for.
What steps does the industry have to take to overcome this?
Rakshak Kalwani is game developer and founder of VR Playing Games. After completing his engineering degree in 2010 he worked for a few startups and game studios, working on games such as Draw War and educational apps such as Splash Match Grade K before finally starting his own studio in July 2014.
The masses tend to form an opinion based on what is projected by the media. However, do we see any media coverage over our game industry? I would say not really!
So it isn't really the public's fault if they don't see it as a legitimate medium - after all, they aren't being exposed to it enough. Look at how all the other sources of entertainment get shined in the media's lens.
The public right now is apathetic towards the industry.Rakshak Kalwani
The steps that the industry needs to take is to have as many conferences/gatherings/media events as possible to highlight the products being created here.
The media can then do write ups on people involved in making these games and throw some light on what goes into making these products.
Only then can people ultimately can realise that perhaps spending 60 Rupees would be a lot more beneficial as an entertainment than blow a thousand bucks on a movie they may/may not enjoy!
The public right now is apathetic towards the industry and its players, but the industry together with the media's significant involvement can change that.
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.
I think spending habits are deep rooted in upbringing and social structure. They will only change with generational shifts spanning multiple years.
I simply think we need to make great games and wait until the market starts paying - until then small and indie devs should look at the global markets
Manish Bhatia is a Computer Engineer by profession, and has been working with Winjit Games for 11 months as a project coordinator. He is passionate about India's games industry development, and aims to soon establish himself as a games industry evangelist.
There are hundreds of games being uploaded every day to the different app stores.
Discovery of games is our biggest need; just getting featured by Apple or Google is not a sustainable model. The game has to have something in it.
When it comes to discovery of a game, IP is a big help. I also agree with Rakshak's point that we need more events, conferences, media events eventually educating people about gaming and gaming development taking place in India.
Indians are typically very, very value conscious.Manish Bhatia
But Shailesh here puts a very good point - spending habits are deep rooted in upbringing and social culture. Indians are typically very, very value conscious in that, "We pay more for a diesel car, because the cost of fuel is cheaper than for a petrol engine."
But I also disagree with Shailesh on the point that the change with generational shift will span over multiple years. The current young population - the young consumers of the future - have grown up playing games, and with people becoming technologically educated with each passing day, it shall not take a long time.
The primary focus for now is to make good games and work on ad based models because a country like India has high tolerance for advertising.
I agree with Shailesh and to further add to the point, India is a cash market and it will take some time for people to get adjusted to epayments.
Mobile operators and app stores can play a huge role in easing the payment process by structuring balanced carrier billing programs. Most people in India don't want want to pay for games and even people who want to pay do not have the means to pay because of very low credit card penetration.
Carrier billing can offer great prospect to monetize mobile consumers who do not own a credit card.
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.
Yes, India has still not come to terms with gaming as a legitimate medium and source of entertainment, but to provide a solution to this problem we need to understand why that’s the case.
As Rakshak rightly said, the masses have a herd mentality and they often follow what is generally projected and perceived in the market. That is the reason why Bollywood and cricket are valued the most as a source of entertainment.
We would pay hundreds of rupees for movies and even thousand of rupees for a cricket match, but not even consider paying Rs. 60 for a premium game on the App Store.
Most Indian parents still consider playing games as a complete waste of time. We need to communicate to the masses that games are not only fun but also engage our brain (think Candy Crush) along with creating a healthy environment of co-operation and competition (think Clash of Clans).
Most Indian parents still consider playing games as a complete waste of time.Rituraj Behera
There is a clear value perception for Bollywood and cricket as those in the profession are not only highly paid but also highly respected. Similarly, people need to see digital games through the same lens.
Only when we Indians see value in playing games and also understand that developing games is also a great career prospect will things change. For that, again as Rakshak suggested we need more events like the recently held PGC Bangalore, GDC and similar events with the same covered all over media channels.
Also, there should be big game competition events for avid gamers to consider even playing games as a profession like we see in other developed countries.
Once we create a holistic ecosystem then people not only would be encouraged to play games but also will consider game development as a potential career. They will then start valuing games for what it is.
Games are not only a source of entertainment but also a source of income and therefore something definitely worthwhile paying for.
If I knew how to get players to pay, I would be sitting by the beach in my private island sipping a Cuba Libre.
On a serious note, I feel that Indians do recognize gaming as a viable medium of entertainment. However, as Manish pointed out we are value conscious and the multitude of free and quality gaming options on mobile is so high that convincing someone to pay becomes very difficult.
As a gamer, I have paid whenever I have seen a game promise an unique experience. I will not pay for the latest match-3 or endless runner, but I will gladly pay for Device 6 and Democracy 3.
So what can we do?
As game developers, develop experiences which are so unique that it compels players to play and pay. As media, highlight these games when they come along.
There is a divide between pricing and ability to pay too. Pricing of games and in-game products right now is based on western purchasing power parity because the major store fronts are western - minimum spend is $0.99 which makes no sense to an Indian.
The Indian would rather spend that dollar on an awesome sandwich for lunch instead of a lollipop in Candy Crush.
The industry needs to work together to
- Make great games (our responsibility as developers)
- Provide ways for the consumer to purchase in any way they choose (carriers responsibility to recognise the opportunity and not behave predatorially with content creators)
- Create multiple distribution channels like the main app stores, 3rd party and other India specific distribution channels (this is Indian entrepreneurial responsibility)
- Localize current incumbent App Store and Google Play to make purchase sizes and payment methods appropriate for India.
Changing the mindset to pay for games is a collective effort that will be many small steps taken together rather than a giant leap.
Changing the way people think is probably the hardest thing to take on.
Elon Musk is spending millions on SpaceX trying to get human beings to think about the potential of humankind again and only just making a dent a decade later.
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.
Changing mindsets and spending habits for entertainment
It isn’t just games – all digital media is widely regarded as something that should be available for free or at minimal cost. Movies, music, foreign TV shows – these are all things that are pirated extensively because, more than anything else, the option exists, and has done so for years.
Setting mindsets is something that should have been done 15 years ago - before people got used to picking up fake DVDs and passing around their entire music library on CDs.
It’s only when people stop illegally downloading television shows and movies that you’re going to see a willingness of the majority of mainstream consumers to pay for games because they are games.
There's also large amount of value that people associate with physical goods and experiences that they find hard to transfer over to digital experiences.
That’s not to say that people don’t pay for things – cable/satellite TV subscriptions are paid for because there is no free alternative for the content they offer. People go to the cinema to watch movies all the time because of the experience it provides.
With the growth of ad–supported games, the standard of what people expect to have to spend on a casual, mobile game effectively becomes either no money, or whatever it costs to remove the ads.
As developers, it’s important to develop unique experiences that are strong enough to compel users to pay.Mithun Balraj
I think Abhinav has got it right – as developers, it’s important to develop unique experiences that are strong enough to compel users to pay – ideally, these won’t be be easily cloneable, leaving the inevitable copies that pop up incapable of capturing the original’s core.
Media coverage and visibility
Yes, we do need more media coverage of games, but neither the media nor their audience can be expected to care about games just because they are games.Indian developers need to get better at PR and telling people why they should buy their games.
Even if a game is good, that doesn’t necessitate that it will do well in its respective stores - good games can fail because they just aren’t marketed well. If your game isn’t found after a few minutes of browsing the store then what are the chances that someone playing it is going to think it’s worth spending money on?
I’ve spoken to dozens of developers whose plans for their games is to ‘put it up on the Play Store and see how it goes’, without any real structure to their release. We must also accept that the stores have their limitations and there is scope for working completely outside of the framework that Apple and Google provide.
Games as a legitimate medium
I think we can all agree that we need more media coverage of games and game-related events, but for games to be seen as a legitimate medium there needs to be more than just coverage; there is dialogue to be had beyond the facts, figures, reviews and announcements – dialogue that is already happening in other parts of the world.
The gap here is in part due to the almost complete absence of critique, but there is also something to be said about the lack of diversity and depth to the games we’re producing. Apart from the sleek, streamlined experiences that we’re starting to see from India, we also need people in the game space that are doing experimental, odd and offbeat things.
Granted, games that address this area may not hold much promise in terms of large-scale profitability, and the mobile platform may be less suited to them than the PC/console, but without this happening somewhere, can we claim that games actually are anything more than just a way of killing time?