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Nazara and ZeptoLab on their ambitions for a culturalised Cut the Rope in India

An NGDC chat with Manish Agarwal and Denis Mozorov
Nazara and ZeptoLab on their ambitions for a culturalised Cut the Rope in India
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With an announcement timed to coincide with the opening of India's NASSCOM Game Developer's Conference, Nazara has revealed that it will be culturalising Cut the Rope for the Indian market.

And taking time out of the conference to chat with us, keen to discuss the freshly-inked deal, are Nazara CEO Manish Agarwal and ZeptoLab's Head of Business Development Denis Mozorov.

Cut the Rope and Om Nom is a big brand globally,” Mozorov tells us, as he begins to explain the synthesis of the deal.

“We have now over 750 million downloads of all our Cut the Rope games combined, and the global monthly audience is around 50 million people.”

While this sounds like a lot, he goes on to say that ZeptoLab is still looking to push that further, with the Moscow-headquartered firm identifying local markets - India in particular - as the way to achieve this.

Big expectations

“India is booming now,” he continues.

“The rate of smartphone penetration, of mobile internet penetration - we see those numbers dramatically increasing from year to year, and we want to be here when the explosion begins.”

However, Mozorov says that ZeptoLab is still a relatively small company - “around 100 people, 80 percent of which is the development team” - and therefore doesn't have the resources to address local markets alone.

After about 6 months of searching, it was decided that Nazara was the ideal Indian partner for ZeptoLab.

“The deal began getting structured 2 or 3 months ago, and we finalised everything just a week or two ago, right in time for the beginning of the conference,” adds Mozorov.

The deal was sealed in time for NGDC 2015 in Pune
The deal was sealed in time for NGDC 2015 in Pune

ZeptoLab's eventual decision to partner with Nazara is perhaps unsurprising, given that the latter firm has effectively based its entire strategy around the Indian market and games in their cultural context.

Before leaving to become CEO of Nazara, Agarwal was heading up Mumbai-based developer Reliance Games. Here, his attention was primarily focused on the worldwide market.

“The very simple difference [between then and now] is that I was focused on non-Indian markets, and I was looking at growing our business in the US and Europe,” says Agarwal.

“Our focus was getting split between US, Europe, growing the Indian business, Hollywood IP, Indian IP - too many things happening.”

One vision

However, with Nazara he has an altogether more streamlined ambition: “Here, my sole purpose is to get us ready to ride the [Indian] explosion that Denis was talking about.”

“You have to really bring the local cultural nuances.”
Manish Agarwal

Agarwal goes on to discuss the uniqueness of Indian culture - be it clothing, music, or movies - and suggests that developers shouldn't expect to see success if they fail to recognise this.

“You have to really bring the local cultural nuances, whether you are a global brand wanting to come to India or if you are looking at the local IP,” he explains.

ZeptoLab is clearly no stranger to this concept, having previously worked with Chinese publisher Yodo1 to culturalise Cut the Rope for that territory.

“Initially, many years ago, we were publishing our games in China ourselves. Later on, we figured out that we couldn't do it right because we are not experts in the Chinese market,” recalls Mozorov.

And, while unable to disclose specifics, he notes that “the results [of the Yodo1 culturalisation] were much better than those when we worked by ourselves.”

Know your audience

A good proof of concept that localisation and culturalisation can lead to a larger and more engaged player base, then. But what actual changes will Nazara be looking to implement in its India-friendly version of Cut the Rope?

Will Om Nom appeal to the Indian market?
Will Om Nom appeal to the Indian market?

As well as aesthetic tweaks such as culturalising Om Nom, Agarwal also plans to “optimise the build, because in India the sweet spot for file size is 15MB and below.”

“We will also reduce the price of IAPs to suit India, and will look to bring in another language besides English - maybe Hindi,” he goes on.

These are what Agarwal refers to as the three “lowest hanging fruits,” but he also mentions that Nazara is interested in combining the international power of Cut the Rope with integration of local brands - the specifics of which are as yet unclear.

“We still feel that the potential of this market is much bigger.”
Denis Morozov

Cut the Rope's international appeal should not be underestimated either, with even the non-localised versions boasting a combined 10 million downloads in India.

However, given the phenomenal success elsewhere and the imminent “explosion” in India, both ZeptoLab and Nazara believe that this is just the beginning.

“We would love - and I don't think it's an exaggeration over 3 to 5 years - to have 50 million monthly active users of Cut the Rope from India itself,” Agarwal tells us.

Mozorov is inclined to agree, adding: “we still feel that the potential of this market is much bigger.”