Mumbai

Ludo in the big league

Right from childhood, Vikash Jaiswal had a fascination for video games. While friends of his age spent money on chocolates or toys, Mr. Jaiswal eagerly waited for his pocket money to be able to play video games like Mario, Contra or Road Fighter at the game kiosks in Patna, where he lived. His passion for video games continued while he pursued his Bachelor of Engineering in Computer Science from MIT, Bulandshahar, and as part of his thesis, he created a game called ‘Eggy Boy’.

In July 2003, PCQuest magazine named it ‘Game of the Month’. “This cemented my love for video games,” says Mr. Jaiswal.

Soon after graduating college in 2004, Mr. Jaiswal came to Mumbai and started working as tech lead for a gaming company called Indiagames Ltd. However, he wished to start his own company. In 2008, he launched Gametion from a rented office in Kharghar, with an investment of ₹2.5 lakh and a team of seven.

The company started by developing desktop or browser games and unveiled 10 puzzles, racing and action games, which became an instant hit with almost 20 million users visiting the website in 2013. However, with the onset of smart phones and increase in mobile gaming, there was a gradual dip in the number of users and it became clear that the “focus needs to be shifted to developing game apps for Android and iOS”, says Mr. Jaiswal.

In 2013-14, Gametion started making mobile versions of its more successful browser games like ‘Baby’s Big Adventure’, in which a baby has to be guided through a maze to reach his milk bottle. However, with games like ‘Angry Birds’ and ‘Candy Crush’ giving stiff competition, none of them really took off.

“In October, 2015, I came across a Snakes and Ladders game app and found it quite interesting,” says Mr. Jaiswal. This got him searching for childhood games. He thought of Ludo, a board game he used to play in his childhood, and shared the idea with his designer and programmer.

“I had not heard of, let alone played Ludo, and hence did not find the idea appealing,” says Santosh Patil (32), team lead, game department.

Mr. Jaiswal, too, had his apprehensions, the biggest being the absence of a game tester in the company. “Moreover, there was a feeling that to develop a game that ranked high, especially number one, it was essential to have a large team and huge resources,” says Mr. Jaiswal. Further, on researching the game on Google, they found different versions with varying sets of rules, some of which, they felt, slowed down the game and made it boring. “For instance, if a player rolls a six, he can throw the dice again. But multiple sixes made the game boring and less engaging,” says Mr. Jaiswal.

Finally, after working for over a year with the help of a developer and a graphic designer, Gametion launched Ludo King in December 2016.

Simple rules

“The design of the game closely follows the original game board and design, hence it is familiar. The rules are quite simple and as mostly everyone knows how to play the game, there is no learning curve,” says Devendra Yeole, graphic designer and animator.

The game also allows the user to play the way they want, such as Computer, Local Mode (i.e. pass and play), Online Multiplayer (play with other players around the world) and Private Multiplayer (play with friends in private rooms).

The game suddenly took off. In less than a year of its launch, the game has close to 50 million downloads with almost 9.5 lakh daily active users, making it the number one game in the top free section of both Google Play and iOS. “We never expected the game to reach such heights,” says Mr. Jaiswal. “Altogether, including Google Play, iOS App Store, Windows Mobile, Amazon Kindle, as well as APK shares, the number of people playing Ludo King is more than 120 million worldwide. About 70% of that, i.e. around 100 million, are in India, followed by Indonesia, Pakistan, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Brazil.”

The game, with its simple rules, has been able to rekindle nostalgia in many. Says Asif Reza (28), a shopkeeper from Devgarh district, Jharkhand, “My friends and I have been playing the game since January. In fact, it has become the craze in our area.”

To help families connect, Gametion has recently introduced a five- and six-player board too.

But due to limited manpower, Gametion was unable to handle the daily active traffic, and a few months into its launch, the game crashed. “We realised the company needed a technically strong team and started hiring testers and programmers,” says Mr. Jaiswal. Gametion now has three testers and five programmers in its team of 18.

While the company’s revenue comes primarily from advertisements and in-app purchases, Gametion ensures the ads are not shown during the game.

Future plan

To retain Ludo King’s No. 1 spot is Mr. Jaiswal’s prime aim. “There are also plans of more updates and customisations to the app in order to keep the game fresh and engaging, and to expand the team,” he says.

Gametion also intends to launch an Android TV version of the game and release it on the Window Store and Samsung App Store, as also the latest 2.9 version. There are plans to tap international markets by collaborating with local game designers and modifying the game to suit local needs. A few more games are in the pipeline.

“The idea and the game itself are key. If the game is good, and caters to what people want, then everything else is irrelevant,” says Mr. Jaiswal.

Gametion

Founder: Vikash Jaiswal

Funding: Bootstrapped

Employees: 18

Founded: 2008

Web: ludoking.com


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Printable version | Jul 23, 2021 10:40:57 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/ludo-in-the-big-league/article20461774.ece

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