An exciting segment for the gaming industry is the ‘iSegment,’ says Dhiren Shah, MD and CEO, Mile Nine Studios, Mumbai (http://bit.ly/F4TDhirenS). Hinting at the opportunity for games that target exclusively iPhone and iPad in India, he adds that this refers to the premium segment, comprising passionate gamers, who may be less price-sensitive, but tech-savvy and high-earning. “The size of this iSegment is 100 million globally, and the size of iPhone4 alone is 1.8 million in India. If you go by the growth of Apple, this segment is growing very fast, importantly, with the same demographic structure,” avers Dhiren, during a recent interaction with Business Line. Our conversation continues over the email.
Excerpts from the interview.
How do you see the opportunities before the gaming industry in India?
In the last 15 years, India has witnessed considerable economic growth. This, in addition to its demographic structure, offers immense potential for the gaming industry. An amalgamation of our culture, rising urban incomes, education, IT development and telecom growth offer the perfect platform for the gaming industry. IT and telecom considerably drive the gaming industry. In fact, by 2013, the telecom subscriber base is expected to increase to 725 million with a mobile penetration of 60 per cent.
While the global gaming industry is growing at 22 per cent, the Indian gaming industry is valued at Rs 10 billion and is expected to grow to reach Rs 38 billion by 2015. India offers a huge pool of talent in the IT and programming sector which plays a substantial role in the development of quality games at reasonably lower costs. Additionally, while the gaming industry is picking up, serious players and investors are entering into the industry, consequently facilitating its further growth.
Recently, 3G rollout in India, an increasing number of high-end mobile phone users, and broadband and DTH penetration into homes, contributed to the strong market currents that the Indian gaming industry is now riding on. Over the years, the price of games has come down significantly, making games more affordable to Indian gamers.
High-end mobile phone consumers, for instance, a growing iPhone consumer base, point towards a promising future for the mushrooming gaming industry. These buyers thus become a very lucrative segment which includes a premium, tech-savvy population which, evidently, has higher disposable incomes.
Would you like to specify a few key areas of gaming in which India has the right potential?
Outsourcing came as a big break for the Indian gaming industry. Primarily, India’s outsourcing businesses cater to the US and the UK gaming market. With its existing IT infrastructure and talent, India can be a dominant player in the global games production segment. The strong infrastructure and capability to deliver high quality work can act as driving factors to increase our outsourcing pie in the international gaming market.
India offers a significant cost advantage to the global gaming industry. When the global market witnessed an economic slowdown, expenditure reached the top of the priority lists of game manufacturers in developed countries. Indian gaming industry can take the advantage of the present global economic environment as it offers significant cost reduction to the gaming production houses while maintaining the global standard of work.
However, content plays an important factor in the gaming world. An industry which is primarily dominated by mid- to small-sized players is not doing enough to create and distribute its own content. Intellectual property (IP) is one of the core areas where our gaming industry needs to work with greater focus. Furthermore, for the international market, it is also very important to understand their culture and interests while creating gaming content. Content localisation and distribution can play a vital role in the industry.
These factors coupled with extensive industry support in the form of funding, and an environment for domestic market development, can steadily further the progress of an emerging gaming industry.
Are Indian companies leveraging gaming for building their brands and business?
At the moment, the gaming industry is an emerging segment in India. It also offers innovation in brand building and a new way of interacting with the target groups of customers in any brand campaign. Brands can reach their audience with an option of multilevel interactions, which help create high recall value.
Some big business houses have already carried out in-game advertising campaigns for their brands. (Recently, Mile Nine Studios developed a game for Tata Indica Vista called Paint Ball Hitch to bring out the brand proposition effectively and build steady recall in the consumers’ mind aligned with the company’s current communication.)
Currently, around 45 per cent casual gamers in India are women; and women are increasingly and more frequently playing games in India. Therefore, advertising in any gaming content developed for targeting women gamers can be a very attractive proposition for a women’s brand to reach the TG with customised interaction. Success of in-games advertising will be a win-win situation for both the brands and the gaming companies.
What are the factors that stand in the way of India realising its potential in gaming and what are the antidotes?
Indian gaming industry will only be negatively affected if the growing demand of gaming professionals is not met. Going by the industry’s growth rate, India needs a large number of skilled gaming professionals. Talent is the key to achieving the true potential of the gaming industry in India.
Along with quantity, the quality of games produced is just as crucial. Highly skilled professionals are required to produce stunning designs and fresh concepts using the best in technology. Training and development programmes for the gaming industry professionals are crucial to meet future demand and supply needs. There is a scarcity of skilled gaming professionals in India and this is restricting the growth of the industry.
Piracy is another important threat, as in any other entertainment segment. It discourages investors and professionals to take necessary risk for the growth of the industry. If incentive gets reduced by the piracy, the growth story of the gaming industry can be derailed. The Government should address the piracy issue through effective policy and regulations.
In addition, tax and customs duty imposed on the gaming industry are considerably high in India. A sound Government policy that focuses on the reduction of taxes can be a strong catalyst for this industry. It can reduce the production cost, making the Indian gaming industry more competitive at the international level.
To those who aspire to be the part of the gaming industry, your tips on the skills they should have.
The success of the gaming industry largely relies on an ideal blend of technology, talent, creativity, marketing, and distribution. The people who want to be a part of this advancement have to find their niche in these fundamental areas. But the technical professionals who are into production and development need a high level of creativity and technical skill, in addition to a strong passion to produce stunning games for the world of gamers.