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4 things learned about India's games industry from the NASSCOM Game Developer Conference 2016

Reflecting on the Hyderabad conference
4 things learned about India's games industry from the NASSCOM Game Developer Conference 2016
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India's NASSCOM Game Developer Conference 2016 marks the second time has attended the event.

Relocating from last year's conference in Pune, this year the NASSCOM Gaming Forum brought NGDC to the Hyderabad International Convention Centre.

Firsthand learning

It was an opportunity to go hands-on with several in-development games during judging for the Upcoming Game of the Year awards, catch up with our Indian Mavens and to generally immerse ourselves in the local games development community as much as possible.

But now it's time to reflect. What were the most significant lessons we learned from our time at the conference? 

Click through below to find out.

#1: The rate of cultural growth is phenomenal

The rate of cultural growth is phenomenal

At the reveal of App Annie and NASSCOM Gaming Forum's Indian mobile gaming report, there was one graph that stood out.

Showing how the number of established Indian games companies has risen over the years, it revealed that as recently as 1997, there was just a single games company in the entire country.

This was started by NASSCOM Gaming Forum Chairman Rajesh Rao, who told that when interviewing candidates, he would often have to introduce them to the consoles of the day himself.

Leaps and bounds

When compared with the mature gaming culture and industry that already existed in countries like Japan, the US and the UK back in 1997, it almost beggars belief.

However, what's perhaps even more surprising is the rate at which Indian gaming has advanced since.

Now home to 250+ companies, the Indian games industry has gone from strength to strength - but is still far from mature and faces many challenges.

Regardless, this growth of industry has coincided with the growth of gaming culture in the region.

underDOGS Studio collects the Upcoming Game of the Year award
underDOGS Studio collects the Upcoming Game of the Year award

Entrants for the Upcoming Game of the Year awards included two 14-year-old developers who had received funding, a Game of War pro gamer-turned-developer and a stay-at-home mother who developed a casual game in her spare time.

Mobile gaming and widespread internet access appear to be the dual engines of this growth.

The majority are still self-taught, but the number of students and children at the conference show that they're doing so younger (and better) than ever.

Showing support

The lack of government support for the industry remains a source of frustration, particularly for India's indies, but the new state of Telangana (of which Hyderabad is part) is moving things forward in this department.

It's set up the T-Hub, India's largest incubator for startups, and pledged to create a world-class gaming and animation hub known as IMAGE City in Hyderabad's Ranga Reddy district.

Of course, this is but one state - and far from a magic bullet. What it shows, though - as we've seen elsewhere - is that when you nail the culture, the business will follow.

The NASSCOM Game Developer Conference 2016 itself, attended by a record 1,700 delegates and hosted in one of India's biggest convention centres, is a great example of this.

#2: Local developers unconvinced by $1.1 billion projection

Local developers unconvinced by $1.1 billion projection

As revealed on stage in a swanky 'White Paper Reveal', NASSCOM Gaming Forum Chairman Rajesh Rao revealed its report on the Indian mobile games market, in partnership with App Annie.

The headline figure? App Annie's forecast that the Indian mobile games market will enjoy revenues of $1.1 billion by 2020.

This is an undoubtedly impressive figure, but is it really plausible? Even Rao told that he was sceptical at first.

“We debated a lot with App Annie,” he said. “They were very strong in their feeling about the numbers, we were less so… but they have better data than us.”

Gut feeling

The general feeling among other Indian developers we spoke to was similar.

Most felt the projections were generous, and that achieving such significant growth in just four years was unlikely.

However, what they might be missing is that nowhere in that figure is it implied that Indian game developers would get a slice of this.

It seems extremely likely that they would, given the number of Indian developers already targeting the local market, but for the most part this $1.1 billion will be powered by the King's and Supercell's of the world.

What if it's wrong?

Perhaps there's more to it. Perhaps Indian developers have seen something about the country's gamers firsthand - some unsolvable, essential opposition to IAPs that App Annie's raw data can't account for.

But if App Annie's figures are overambitious by a significant amount, it might already be too late for the developers who realise they've backed the wrong horse.

Speaking of which...

#3: Smart devs target India now to reap rewards later

Smart devs target India now to reap rewards later

There's nothing to say that companies focusing exclusively on the Indian market are doing anything wrong.

Nazara, perhaps the most high-profile developer and publisher with this mission statement, seems to be ploughing this furrow to some success.

However, the developers that stood out at NASSCOM Game Developer Conference 2016 were those who had games for the global market as their primary revenue stream, while also building a foundation in the Indian market so it's ready should there be a boom.

Laying the groundwork

“If I were here, working just in this country, I would want to establish cultural franchises - even if they couldn't monetise yet,” said Boss Fight Entertainment Chief Creative Officer and keynote speaker Bill Jackson.

“The smart studios are building franchises that they can leverage for years.”

However, companies such as June Software (developer of the Chhota Bheem series) and Timuz prove that it's possible to do this while also enjoying financial success outside of India for the here and now.

#4: Divide between business-first Indian evangelists and creative indies

Divide between business-first Indian evangelists and creative indies

It's a cliché that India is a country of great contrast, but it is nonetheless true.

This also seems to be the case with its games industry.

On the one hand, there are those who have a vested interest in growing the Indian games industry, evangelising Indian content for Indian users and free-to-play monetisation.

On the other, there's a generation of independent developers disillusioned with this narrow focus, harbouring greater creative ambitions than Teen Patti.


Indeed, notable by his absence at the conference was Shailesh Prabhu.

Formerly of Dhruva Interactive and Nazara Interactive, he was a prominent member of India's indie scene until moving to Copenhagen in June.

His reasons for doing so, he told at the time, were “mostly due to creative dissatisfaction back in India".


underDOGS Studio CEO Vaibhav Chavan explained at the conference that one of his great regrets about the Indian games industry at present is its lack of community - why can't the burgeoning Indian industry work together in the same way they do in Finland?

In Finland, the smallest indies and the biggest companies have a culture of togetherness and information-sharing, accepting their essential differences and finding mutual benefits.

When both sides of the Indian games development community can find this compromise, the entire industry will benefit as a result.