Mobile Mavens

India has a burgeoning indie scene, but can it find commercial success?

Indian Mavens weigh up the creative/commercial balance

India has a burgeoning indie scene, but can it find commercial success?

Pocket Gamer Connects Bangalore 2016, and the Big Indie Pitch in particular, proved that the Indian games industry has talent in spades.

What's less clear, however - and a question has considered elsewhere - is whether these creative indies are ready for the global market.

As such, we ask our Indian Mavens:

  • Do you agree that the creativity of indies is the most exciting area of Indian game development right now and, more importantly, do you think these studios have the business sense to become commercially successful?


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.

The creativity of indies has been the only interesting and encouraging area of the of Indian game development since forever.

Commercial success means different things to different indies. Most indies I know aren't looking for capital or aren't looking to grow to be Supercell. They need to make enough for a decent like and their next few games with their small teams.

That is their strength. Plenty of them recognise that and are playing to that strength. That, in itself, is great business sense right there.

So yes there is a lot of business sense in the indie scene, however the measures of success need context, more now than ever.

Chirag Chopra Founder Lucid Labs

I absolutely believe that creativity of indies is the most exciting area of Indian game development.

Not only we are seeing more and more Indie game devs taking bold steps to innovate, but I know a few companies who have also started investing in creative and new ideas instead of usual casino and card games, maybe after getting inspired by indies.

I think there are lot of mentors and good people in our industry who are ready to share their knowledge and expertise.
Chirag Chopra

If you compare last year's PGC with this one, you can clearly see there were a lot of new indie devs present there, showcasing all sort of creative and fresh games.

I am so surprised and proud to be a part of this booming cult. Finally we have people thinking outside the box with a craze to innovate and build something new.

Talking about business sense, I had no business sense when I started but now I can say that I have some idea about what I am doing and how to make money out of it.

I think there are lot of mentors and good people present in our industry who are ready to share their knowledge and expertise if you show interest and have something good in your hands.

I remember at the time of Stay, Mum when we were showing it around at conferences, a lot of people like Roby John (June Software) and Rohit Bhat (99 Games) offered their guidance related to the business part and how to go about it.

So I believe that if you have no business sense, have developed some good games and don't know what to do with them, you should start attending conferences and meet-ups, talking to people who have been in this industry a long time, and asking for their advice. I am sure the majority of them will offer their guidance.

Roopak Nair Business Leader - Live Games & CMO Reliance Games

Definitely, this year especially, we've seen amazing creativity on display in the Indian ecosystem - to the extent that the jury had to shortlist six teams rather than five for the Big Indie Pitch finale at PG Connects Bangalore this year.

During our interactions with the ecosystem of over 1000 indie developers in the last 2 years, what they seem to lack is the depth of understanding of a complex marketing landscape and how to navigate it with limited budgets, defining the right approach to monetisation design via ads and in-apps, and leveraging analytics to continuously improve engagement and retention.

Commercial success is a relative benchmark, and I am sure most of these startups are looking to generate positive momentum in their business.

However to scale their success they would need to get more facets of monetisation, analytics and marketing right in their business.

Poornima Seetharaman Director of Design Zynga

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.

It is indeed the time of the indies! It is great to see such wonderful games coming out of India. On being commercially successful, I'm not sure how they stand.

Not everyone is lucky to get the best of both worlds; a few are.
Poornima Seetharaman

Most of these games are absolutely fun to play and yet revenue is not something that is a given, no matter the quality of the game.

Indies are looking to make their mark and be known in the gaming industry at the moment and not focusing on making the next hit (revenue wise), although everyone does wish for it.

Eventually, in my opinion, they will have to see it as a business because regular cash flow is needed in order to make many more great games. A trade-off is always there.

This is where talking to the industry's business minds and getting their advice makes sense. Not everyone is lucky to get the best of both worlds; a few are.

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.

After looking at the work top six finalists had done in PGC this year I can definitely say that the creativity of indies is the most exciting area of Indian game development.

I could see the passion and intensity with which all the finalists had presented their games and also the quality of those games. These people are putting their heart and soul to achieve their dreams and creating unique experiences.

Business comes second once you have found where your heart is.
Rituraj Behera

In terms of business sense, I prefer passion and love for developing games as a starting point. Business comes second once you have found where your heart is.

That is when we can figure out what should be our commercial goals to continue developing games and doing what we love. Also, what is commercial success is subjective, some might define top grossing charts and some might define making enough money to work on the next game as commercial success.

But, only future can tell if they have it in them to be commercially successful based on their goals, hard work and most importantly perseverance.

Siddharth Sivaraman Co-founder Dastan Games

As pointed out by Shailesh and Chirag, there's certainly an abundance of creativity among indies, and has been so for a while.

From a business point of view, based on whatever limited interactions I've had these past few months, it seems to me that Indian indies are actively exploring different ways of balancing the creative and business side of game development.

One example is people making multiple games at the same time, with one being a quicker, more casual/mainstream game and another being a longer and more sophisticated project.

Another is people focusing more on Steam and consoles as a viable medium after all the 'Appstore is a wasteland' articles that've been cropping up lately.

These thoughts are based on some very limited interactions/observations, though, so I may be completely off the mark.

Abhinav Sarangi Co-Founder All in a Days Play

I agree that the creativity of indies is the most exciting area of Indian game development. But at the same time, we have a long way to go.

I would like to see Indian indies compete with the world for awards like IGF, Apple Game of the Year, etc. In recent years, we have seen some award winning games come out of India and I expect to see more of that happening in the future.

Since we are a young industry, Indian indies are still trying to learn how to balance creativity and business decisions when it comes to games.

As an industry, we will only get better at making games which innovate and are commercially successful.

Features Editor

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


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