Mobile Mavens

Indian Mavens reflect on the events of 2015 and reveal fave games of the year

Indian Mavens reflect on the events of 2015 and reveal fave games of the year

The recent discussion in the Indian development community has been all about local vs. global, spurred on by the recent, chart-topping success of games made for India - first Chhota Bheem Race and more recently Virat Cricket Challenge.

And while that was the subject of our last Indian Mavens discussion, it's a topic that still strongly reverberates throughout the discussion in this end-of-year edition.

The first order of business, however, is to reflect on the events of 2015, both in India and globally. So we asked:

What was the most significant event in mobile gaming in 2015?

(and, what was your favourite mobile game?)

Ankush Madad Co-Founder and Creative Head Dropout Games

Lots of amazing things happened for Dropout Games in 2015. There were two equally important moments for us, which were:

This has significantly improved our relationship with Apple and that will help us with our upcoming game Blyss.

As for my favourite mobile game in 2015, I'd say its Alto's Adventure. It has an uplifting vibe about it. The game never feels tiring or old.

In the wider industry, the Activision-King deal was a shocker. One of the biggest and most significant deals for sure.

I'm waiting to see what comes out of it. Another event which might prove to be of major significance is the inclusion of 3D touch in the new iPhones.

A whole lot of control-related gameplay innovations can be created by utilising the 3D touch.

Siddharth Sivaraman Co-founder Dastan Games

Whether VR on mobile is going to do well is still anybody's guess.
Siddharth Sivaraman

I felt one of the more significant things from 2015 was the launch of the Gear VR and some of the amazing games that came with it, like Ustwo's Land's End.

Whether VR on mobile is going to do well is still anybody's guess, but the Gear VR itself is pretty amazing - and the fact that its now available to consumers is quite an achievement.

This year was great for games too, with so many innovative titles launching across all platforms. My favourite game was probably Prune and among those that came from India, Socioball was one of the best I've played this year.

Manish Agarwal CEO Nazara Games

For me, the highlight is the gradual shift in mindset of developers in India on content made for India.

From April's PG Connects Bangalore to now, I have met lots of developers who weren’t even considering India until last year, who have now approached us with their India-centric game concepts - though they are still very sceptical on monetisation in India.

However, the good news is that they are not scared of making great games for local market and all they need is to see others sharing this risk with them.

That is what makes me super hopeful that Indian mobile gamers will see lots of good quality games on local themes in 2016, as I have always been a strong believer in the quality of local developers, especially when it comes to free to play casual games.

Another heartening development is the rise of local games in the Indian Play Store’s top free charts, which shows that finally gaming has reached masses and it is no more confined to the few millions of Indians who are well-travelled and hence only global games topping the charts in India.

This augurs very well for India market, and taking this phenomenon into top-grossing charts will boost confidence of the local developer ecosystem even more, creating a virtuous cycle for Indian mobile gaming market.”

Personally, my favourite game is Chhota Bheem Jungle Run - not because it was published by Nazara, but it shows that if you have sharp understanding of the target audience and don’t fall prey to temptation of developing game for yourself, you can be highly successful both in terms of revenue and recognition.

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.

For me, I am not sure we have had a significant enough moment this year. More of the same. Hardly any quality games coming out.

I think, as always, too much is being made of the whole local market only lapping up games with Indian IP (for a week or so, but how long do they sustain there?).

If you can make a good game, you can get users worldwide. Games can and do transcend language, they do it all the time! If only the industry here weren't so busy designing for numbers to show investors.

Games can and do transcend language, they do it all the time!
Shailesh Prabhu

What amuses me is that plenty of the well-travelled Indians assume the West to be just one culture and hence they can make games for "their culture". Makes sense, right? As if Finnish Culture is the same as Texan culture and the same as Australian culture.

Yet we can have world-beating games from all those places, but us Indians, we, apparently, can only think of Indian culture. Yet the same world-beating games top our charts continuously.

I don't see that changing unless the games we make, behind that Indian cultural skin, is good enough to capture the globe, and if that is so, why would you want to limit to India only?

That would be the significant moment in Indian games industry for me.

As far as my favourite mobile games of 2015 go, in no particular order, Prune, Does Not Commute, Her Story, and Shadowmatic were all great.

My favourite Indian mobile games of 2015 were UNWYND and One More Run.

Deepak Madathil Founder Pixel Ape Studios

When I think of 2015 and mobile games, the indie game Her Story haunts me like nothing else.

The storytelling and the charm literally broke all boundaries for a mobile game I had set in my tiny little head, as an indie dev as well as a gamer.

When it comes to games made in India, Socioball tops my list with its originality and the remarkably brilliant way of of harnessing social sharing to frame new levels.

And UNWYND, for managing to last for less than 15 minutes on my Android device and amazingly beefing up to stay forever on my iPad as my go-to puzzle game.

Personally, 2015 will remain engraved in stone since this was the year I strafed a bit from playing games and started making them.

Huemory is the first title from my studio and, with Bluk next, it looks like there is no looking back.

Let me slowly fade to 2016 saying that PG Connects Bangalore 2015, which I totally missed out on, has been praised as one of the top mobile game events that happened to Indian Indies - I am looking forward to its 2016 reboot!

Anila Andrade Producer 99Games Online Private Ltd.

There were several significant global highlights (that were quite unanticipated, or were experimental) in the mobile gaming arena - the King acquisition by Activision, mobile gaming ads in Super Bowl, etc.

The games that captured most of my attention in 2015 were Star Chef and SpellUp for obvious reasons, but besides these, I have a couple of other favourites - Criminal Case and Crossy Road kept me very busy.

What is important is to ensure that there’s a purpose to whatever is built.
Anila Andrade

In the Indian mobile gaming space, there was a fresh new outlook - MoonFrog funding on the basis of their poker game Teen Patti, 99Games funding on the basis of their global restaurant and cooking themed game Star Chef.

Why this is of significance to me is because it allows us to understand the sentiment of Indian developers here - one studio focussing on delivering content for Indian consumers and the other with focus on the global consumer.

From my point of view (which is mainly drawn on the basis of the experience we’ve had at 99Games), there is no right or wrong approach to things - should you go global or desi?

Do Indian consumers appreciate only content made for India, vis-à-vis western content - there’s no right or wrong answer to it and this will always be debatable.

What is important is to ensure that there’s a purpose to whatever is built. When we started off at 99Games in early 2009, we placed our bet on the global story and designed games keeping global in mind.

We were a very small studio, with no gaming veterans. We designed games that we thought were fun.

Star Chef

We were always praying for a feature from Apple, worked with external publishers to publish our games (The Jim and Frank Mysteries with Chillingo), got ditched a couple of days before launch by an external publisher for our game Dream Star and finally, from these experiences, got around to building Star Chef that has garnered us over $5 million in revenue on one platform alone.

A lot of hard work and perseverance is what paid off, and I truly believe that anyone else can also make it big if they persevere - be it if they choose to make their own games or work with an IP.

While IP based games have their own perks (think free marketing and word-of-mouth) it does come with its own challenges - huge licensing fees, working with revenue shares etc.

While this might not be an easy approach for indies, joining forces or collaborating teams would definitely help achieve more and much faster!

Having said this, I’m looking forward to taking on to what 2016 has to offer us as well as to the gaming community in India.

Abhinav Sarangi Co-Founder All in a Days Play

For me, 2015 was a continuation of 2014 with regards to mobile gaming.

The top grossing charts mostly remained static with the top developers digging in and becoming entrenched. At the same time, the number of quality games releasing world wide kept increasing.

It became harder than ever to compete in the mobile gaming market, and we even got a term for this: 'Indiepocalypse'.

It became harder than ever to compete in the mobile gaming market in 2015.
Abhinav Sarangi

It is not all doom and gloom, though; we had Activision-King deal which will lead to more investment in mobile gaming, as will the initial success of Gear VR.

And games like Prune and Her Story keep pushing the envelope with regards to what mobile games can be going forward.

2015 was a good year for us at All in a Days Play, too, as we crossed 10 million downloads for our games. Having so many people play our games is an incredibly humbling experience.

Adding to the global vs. Indian debate, we have been focussed on global audience from the start - less than 1% of our players are from India.

But with the encouraging response that Indian games have been getting in 2015, we have started seriously considering developing games just for India. We feel 2016 might be a breakout year for games focused on India.

My favourite games of 2015 were Horizon Chase, Score! Hero and Lifeline.

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.

For me, the most significant moment in mobile gaming was the commercial success of Crossy Road - a simple game developed by 3 people in 12 weeks which ended up earning $10m in just 90 days.

We also got to see Pocket Gamer taking interest in Indian mobile game development scene and Reliance Games providing a wonderful platform like GameHack for indie developers like us.

The biggest business deal in gaming - Activision acquiring King Digital Entertainment for a massive $5.9 billion - also took some of us by surprise.

My favourite games of 2015 were Crossy Road, Word Up (Made in India) and Mr. Square (a hardcore yet extremely fun puzzler).

Joel Johnson DigiKhel

I'm particularly excited about the potential of the TV-focused products.

The uptake has been slow thus far in 2015, but I'm eagerly looking forward to seeing a revolution in the near future in the television space!

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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