Techie designs online games with Indian twist

Sonali Chowdhury

Playing around was never more serious business but Vishal Gulia, a techie with years of experience in the US gaming industry, was up to the challenge. His experience led him to realise that India was the last big unconquered market in this entertainment segment and he’s come up with a game with a uniquely Indian twist.

Vinashi, which in many ways is a first for the Indian market, has been designed by Mumbai-based Gamiana Digital Entertainment, a start-up launched by Gulia and his partners Burak Balik and Tyler Kim in 2008. Back then, the company focused on publishing cross-platform games for PCs/tablets/smartphones for global emerging markets.
Whereas games are usually either strategy-based or used mainly as a social activity, Vinashi is a blend of both. And what do you know? Within a few months of its beta launch, it’s gaining traction both domestically as well as internationally.

Social Connect
Vinashi is possibly India’s first true MMOG (Massively Multiplayer Online Game), where thousands of gamers log online to play together in a uniquely created virtual game world. MMOG is a genre that has seen huge success globally, in titles such as World of Warcraft.

Gulia’s game is based on prominent Indian civilisations – Maratha, Rajput, Mughal, Vijayanagara and Ahom. What sounds strikingly similar to the famous game Age of Empires is actually a slick product that combines the best elements of strategy games with the new-found energy of social games like Farmville on Facebook.

Play Anywhere
Players interact with other players in the game world by forging alliances online. Vinashi is installation-free and requires no CD or download. Gulia believes the USP of his product is that it is incredibly mobile due to its cross-platform nature. “A user could start constructing his barracks in Vinashi on Facebook while leaving home, train his troops on his Android phone while at work, send an attack from his 3G iPad during the commute home and rally up with his alliance members from his desktop on through his browser when he gets home in the evening,” he reveals.

Game For More
Explaining how the idea originated, Gulia says, “I found the gaming scene in India to be a blue ocean, completely different from what I had experienced in the US. Over the years, I realised it’s not consoles but the online medium that would become the main mode of gaming in India.”

Gamiana’s founders secured under $1 million in funding from the Indian Angel Network thanks to Chetan Shah, who was also their mentor. The company’s first game was Jamia online, a social game aimed at the Turkish market. After this, the company set its crosshairs firmly on the domestic market with a game that was uniquely Indian in content and styling.

Revenue Model
Vinashi was released in its pre-beta form a few months ago on its own website, Facebook and online gaming portals like as a means to test the game with real user input. It will be available in a free-to-play model for users across platforms. Gamiana thus follows the ‘freemium’ model common in the online gaming industry, where the game itself remains free for life but upgrades within the game (like special abilities, power-ups and skills) require to be bought with hard cash.

Making A Splash
Gamiana’s ingenious invention seems to have caught the attention of the gaming community and has several active alliances across it digital landscape. “The game averages a couple of hundred concurrent users and about 20,000 monthly active uniques (MAUs) across social media and the game site,” smiles Gulia.

Breaking Boundaries
Vinashi has transcended national boundaries with users from around 150 countries having tried its beta form. “Today, there are thousands people around the world who know something about Rajputs and Marathas, and a little about India’s rich history,” explains Gulia. “We have an alliance in the game whose members are all Scandinavian and the top user in our game is a Canadian.”

Gamiana is now preparing Vinashi for its commercial launch as well as creating ambitious future projects – a social game based on the national craze, cricket, and a virtual world aimed at teenage girls.

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