India’s mobile gaming market is big. Not just in comparison to PC and console gaming; it is big, period. PUBG Mobile’s revamped avatar Battlegrounds Mobile India had 100 million registered users in India, before it was mysteriously banned last month. The pandemic breakout hit Ludo King has over 500 million downloads.
Clearly, the opportunity for small-screen gaming is big in India, with both Indian and foreign studios showing increased interest in penetrating a market that is ripe for a classically ad-dominated business model. But game studios operating in India are turning to a more tantalizing prospect: developing mobile games in India for a global audience.
“70% of the employees that we have work on about ten to 15 games that are primarily for the global audience,” Kishore Kichili, the India country head of Take Two Interactive-owned Zynga told Entrackr in an interview. Zynga has a significant presence in India, and recently released two games in collaboration with the Indian government to mark the 75th year of independence celebrations.
Even so, Kichili stressed, Zynga’s Bengaluru office was focused on starting game development from Indian talent that could be marketed globally.
Zynga isn’t the only one. Gametion, the developer behind Ludo King, said in a blog post that Indians weren’t alone in helping the company break download records. The game “not only attracted more native Indian players but also gathered an expanding player base in the American and European countries,” Gametion said in a May blog post. While the studio doesn’t disclose a breakdown of downloads by countries, it said that the game’s surprise success took it “to places where the Ludo game wasn’t even known.”
There’s a distinction to be made here between game studios that do outsourcing work in India and those that are actually creating and ideating new games from India. For instance, developers like Electronic Arts and Rockstar Studios have a significant presence in India, but they generally do not work on titles that are conceived and executed by Indian teams. These teams usually do manpower-intensive and time consuming work like quality control and handling development tasks that the main teams cannot handle.
But now, studios seem to be warming up to building on this presence to release original content that is, for lack of a better term, made in India.
At least one developer leapt at the opportunity fairly early — Super Gaming, a Pune-based startup, released a game that found decent success abroad before ever becoming a known name in India. MaskGun, a first person shooter game that Super Gaming developed, was able to garner 42 million installations, most of which came from international audiences until PUBG was first banned. The game got more than 62 million downloads as of this April.
The focus abroad makes sense — while developers can gain massive reach in India, most users in India don’t spend on games, meaning studios are limited to ad revenue from them, Zynga’s Kichili pointed out. Meanwhile, he added, talent in India to develop these games is in good supply.
Support from the government has also started coming in slowly — the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting set up the Animation, Visual Effects, Gaming and Comics (AVGC) task force in April, which has been holding discussions with game developers to create Indian stories for a global audience. Kichili is a part of that task force.
“It will be in our best interest to take those [Indian] concepts and build a game for a larger stage, and maybe localize that for each part of the world,” Kichili said.
Update (September 6): Added updated download numbers for MaskGun.