Mobile Mavens

Does Chhota Bheem Race's chart-topping success prove the potential of Indian-developed games for the Indian market?

Does Chhota Bheem Race's chart-topping success prove the potential of Indian-developed games for the Indian market?

We recently covered the news that Chhota Bheem Race, the mobile game developed by June Software and published by Nazara, had become the first Indian game to top the local Google Play download charts.

Despite unanswered questions remaining as to how sustainable the Indian market is for mobile game developers, this felt like an important moment.

However, with revenue data and retention rates still yet to be revealed, and indeed the huge regional brand power of the Chhota Bheem animated series also playing a part in the success so far, we asked our Indian Mavens:

  • Do you consider this a significant moment for Indian development, and what do you personally take from it?
  • Is this proof that games made specifically for the Indian market can be viable, or merely an anomaly powered by the Chhota Bheem brand?

 

Roby John CEO June Software

As the developer (June software) behind Chotta Bheem Race, I thought it was important to respond first.

We don't read too much into this initial success, since the challenge is sustaining this momentum which is yet to be proven.

The number 1 rank means something because it hasn't been done before. Beating Candy Crush is tough, and the June Software team along with our publishers Nazara Games enjoyed this.

We don't read too much into this initial success.
Roby John

Also, given that Asphalt Nitro has now beaten all of us to number 1, this may also reflect Candy Crush's weakening influence.

This is, as of now, an anomaly. But there are a number of reasons:

  •  Chhota Bheem Race is actually based on our Hit Engine that has been in development for over 3 years and hit a sweet spot when customized for the Indian audience using the characters of the Chhota Bheem world. I wrote a bit about our journey to building it here.
  • We definitely think that the Chhota Bheem brand improves user acquisition, but we would not have players playing endlessly like they have if the game itself was not good.

So, I would say a good game with the right IP can be the winning formula to engaging users in India.

Building a hit game takes time, and we see this as the watershed moment for developers like us to now go build a quality game rather than trying one-off things in the attempt to build a overnight success.

I often say this: "if you have a great game, nothing can stop you, if you don't have a great game, nothing can save you".

Rituraj Behera Co-founder Cympl

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 is indeed exciting to see an Indian game doing so well on the App Store. Congratulations to June Software and Nazara for the achievement. 

It's a significant moment, as it is one of the few Indian games that has done so well outside Teen Patti. But this success has not come overnight.

This success has not come overnight.
Rituraj Behera

As Roby mentioned in the previous mail, if we exclude the outer skin of the game, which is the Chhota Bheem IP, the rest is 3 years of hard work of the development team to polish the game to a high level which is the key to engagement and retention of users.

Personally, if I have to take a key learning from this success it is 2 things:

  • Developing a highly polished and optimized game which players feel like playing again and again should be our top priority as developers.
  • Having a strong IP definitely helps with user acqisition strategy, but if the game itself is not good enough to retain players then that's of no use.

Furthermore, if the game is getting only good download numbers and not strong retention numbers (which I highly doubt, considering that I myself keep playing the game) then it could be considered an anomaly powered by the brand and also the publishing power of Nazara.

But I believe it's a perfect combination of strong IP and a high quality game, because of which the game is getting the kind of success we are seeing today.

Yes, this game is proof that games made specifically for the Indian audience can be viable (and so was Teen Patti), but what's more important to realise is that at the core the game is also smooth, addictive and highly optimized.

Indeed, it's only 15MB on Google Play and works well on even low-end devices, which is key for Indian audiences.

Manish Agarwal CEO Nazara Games

This is a small but sure step towards seeing growth of good quality games developed by Indian developers for Indian mobile gamers.

This is also a great testimony to our belief at Nazara that local IPs resonate well with masses and, clubbed with good quality games, would offer a tough competition to global brands.

However, is this success of Chhota Bheem Race going to pave the way Indian developers and global developers see Indian opportunity?

My answer would still be negative, and would remain negative until “made in India” games start dominating top grossing charts in India.

The number of believers in the future of India is increasing at a rapid clip and it is only a matter of time until both top free and top grossing are dominated by games made in India and for India.

We at Nazara are focused on making this a reality, with the help of the development ecosystem in India.

Roby John CEO June Software

We have been pleased with this initial success of the game and getting to the #1 rank for a bit, but this is still a vanity metric and by no means a validation of anything.

But the Nazara team has been a pleasure to work with and we look forward to many such #1 events in the near future where this is considered less of an anomaly.

Ankush Madad Co-Founder and Creative Head Dropout Games

I'm personally very happy with Chhota Bheem Race's achievements for two reasons:

  • It's good to see the game climb to the top, not just because of its brand value but the level of polish and gameplay depth that has been put into the game.
  • My partial association with the development of the game where I worked on the game design and level design elements in the game.

The entire focus of the team at June Software was to provide the best possible gameplay experience despite the size limitations.

They wanted to focus on key content updates to keep the game fresh instead of cheap cash-grab tactics and bombarding users with intrusive ads, as commonly seen in games based on Indian IP.

I've played a lot games based on Bollywood IPs... they could learn a thing or two from this game.
Ankush Madad

It is definitely a significant moment for the Indian industry.

Having used the game engine and framework at June for this game, I can assure you that It might be the brand name that got the players to play, but it'll be the gameplay that will retain them for very long periods in the future - especially looking at what content updates are upcoming.

I've played a lot games based on Bollywood IPs, for instance, and as a hardcore gamer there's none I can praise so far. They could definitely learn a thing or two from this game.

I believe that we would need to see more of such occurrences before we can comment on whether games made for Indian market work or it's just an anomaly.

If one Chhota Bheem game outperforms other, then it means it's the gameplay that won. If every Chhota Bheem game is successful regardless of genre, then the IP has won.

Vaibhav Chavan CEO and Founder underDOGS Gaming Studio

7+ years of experience in Gaming Industry. Currently spearheads underDOG Gaming as a Game Designer, Business and Product Guy.

There are plenty of games made for Indian market by Indian developers, which have mostly failed.

Many are based on Bollywood movies, which obviously gives numbers because of the brand/IP value, but have always failed to retain players for a longer period.

A few of them also made it to the charts (top 10), but existed only for promotional purposes.

On the other hand, Chhota Bheem Race has done really well for itself because it's a great mix of good game and a popular IP. The ratings (4.2) on the store also prove the same point that the game is actually enjoyed by the players.

But we also need couple more games with similar formula coming out to make a statement on viability. Hope to see some more good stuff coming up, congrats to June Software and Nazara.

Shailesh Prabhu Founder Yellow Monkey Studios

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.

Personally, I feel it's too early to start calling it either proof or anomaly.

It remains to be seen how the game performs in the days to come (after the launch spike) and most importantly how much money it makes.

Will be interesting to see if the parties involved will shed some light on those figures six months down the line.

As to whether it's a significant moment, can't deny that at all! The numbers must be huge.

Abhinav Sarangi Co-Founder All in a Days Play

Chhota Bheem Race going to number 1 in the charts will surely encourage other Indian developers to think a little more about developing games specifically for India.

It tells us that Indian games apart from cricket or Teen Patti can find an audience in India. But as for viability, I agree with Ankush that it is still too early to call. 

If Indian games without using the crutch of recognisable IP start to succeed and it keeps happening on a regular basis, we can safely say that games made for Indian market are becoming viable.

Rakesh Kumar Principal Designer Gamillus Entertainment

To topple the mighty Candy Crush, even if it was for a brief period, is very impressive.
Rakesh Kumar

Whether its an anomaly or proof, the fact that Chhota Bheem Race managed to topple the mighty Candy Crush to be at the top of the charts, even if it was for a brief period, is very impressive.

There are so many games made for the Indian market that are so poorly designed and developed. These games only have a slight taste of India, built solely for promotional reasons and nothing else.

But considering the level of polish and design on Chhota Bheem Race, it can be safely said that a game for our market with excellent design and fun gamplay will always be accepted.

Hope more such games not just reach the top of the charts but stay there as well. Congrats to the Chhota Bheem team.

Features Editor

Matt is really bad at playing games, but hopefully a little better at writing about them. He's Features Editor for PocketGamer.biz, and has also written for lesser publications such as IGN, VICE, and Paste Magazine.

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