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Gaming studios focus on Indian characters in games as brands eye growth through collaborations

Both national and international gaming studios are adding Indian themes and characters to their games to tap the country’s huge gaming population in the country.

By  Tasmayee Laha RoyDec 5, 2022 1:48 PM
Gaming studios focus on Indian characters in games as brands eye growth through collaborations
The backdrops to the game’s environment are drawn in the Pahari art style and combine hand-painted textures rendered in 3D.Some are keeping it more realistic. Inspired by films like Satya, Gangs of Wasseypur and KGF, Bengaluru-based gaming studio Hypernova Interactive is coming up with a game called Mayanagari. (Image source: Hypernova Interactive)

Gaming content in India is experiencing a paradigm shift, with developers adding an Indian touch to their games to create more relatable content for the over half-a-billion gamers in the country.

Everything from mythological characters and Indian freedom fighters to the slum dwellers of Mumbai are coming to life on the Indian gaming storyboard.

Both international brands and Indian gaming studios are working on Indie games to cash in on the trend and attract brands that are looking for engagement and reach amplification.

Games like Raji, Asura, Rainswept, Guardians of the Skies, and many others are the new additions to the Indian gamers’ download list.

It is a case of demand and supply.

A recent Lumikai report says India accounted for 15 billion game downloads in FY22 and also had the highest share of game downloads (17%) globally in that year.

Games played in India had 2 billion cumulative monthly active users(MAUs) in the period and the top 10 games had a cumulative India MAUs of 358 million.

Lokesh Suji, director at the Esports Federation of India, says everyone wants to tap this reach, and a unique selling proposition always helps. For now, the hook is going desi.

“India has the second highest number of gamers worldwide so it is enough to have a captive audience to launch a new product. Indian gamers are largely into shooting and racing games and game developers are adding Indian themes to these games to build a loyal user base and use the reach to pitch to brands for activation,” Suji says.

Interestingly, the same report also says that 80 percent of gamers show a proclivity to play games based on Indian Intellectual Property and 69 percent of non-gamers claim they would play an Indian IP-based game.

How are developers adding the desi touch to games?

Basically, the themes, characters and storylines of the games are getting Indianized.

For instance, Raji is an action-adventure game set in ancient India. The game developed by Nodding Heads Games, based in Pune, revolves based around a young girl named Raji.

The backdrops to the game’s environment are drawn in the Pahari art style and combine hand-painted textures rendered in 3D.

Some are keeping it more realistic. Inspired by films like Satya, Gangs of Wasseypur and KGF, Bengaluru-based gaming studio Hypernova Interactive is coming up with a game called Mayanagari.

“It is a game inspired by one of the largest game franchises worldwide, GTA (Grand Theft Auto). Our game is an expansive 3D open world gangster game where you play a character who's caught up in a life of crime and you play through his storyline,” says Mayur Bhimjiyani, the co-founder and studio head at Hypernova Interactive.

Hypernova’s game creates a Mumbai vibe, recreating the narrow lanes of the slums of the city. To add more character to the game, the studio is also working with four rap artists from across the country. Reble, Sikander Kahlon, Rapper Big Deal and Dharavi rapper gang Dopeadelicz will create a multilingual number for the game.

Hypernova Interactive is in talks with several brands across the board for collaborations.

Brand Integrations

Internationally, brand integrations in gaming is a common phenomenon. Popular labels like Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Balenciaga have already made their way into the gaming world through various initiatives and now Indian games are offering similar partnerships to brands.

“Brands can simply buy ad inventory that would be displayed in the journey of the player in the game or there can be custom integrations too. For instance, since my game has cars, the car can be of a certain make. Similarly, integrations can be done with clothes, gadgets and many other elements in a game,” Bhimjiyani says.

Integrations, according to experts, can range between Rs 25 lakhs and Rs 2 crore, depending on the reach of a game and also the kind of inventory purchase.

In fact, gaming brands, especially the international ones, are also adding India special features to their marketing playbook to attract the gaming population.

Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI), for instance, had a Ganesh Chaturthi celebration in one of its games.

“In India a lot of games really come and go and that has created a level of uncertainty. You don’t want to get hooked on a game and have that gone in a while. This is why local publishers are delivering Indianised games that is inspired by Indian culture and has a strong Indian storytelling push and international gaming studios that are planning to go big in India are adding Indian elements to their games,” says Abhishek Aggarwal, co-founder and CEO of gaming marketing brand Trinity Gaming.

The government push

Talking of Indian culture and storytelling, the government too is pushing the same agenda for the sector.

Earlier this year, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting launched a game called Azadi Quest in collaboration with Zynga India. The game aims to acknowledge the contribution of Indian freedom fighters.

The way ahead

Bharat Patel, chairman and director of the mobile game and block chain app development company Yudiz Solutions, says the growing gaming population in India is forcing international studios to come up with Indian themes.

“The India story is very strong when it comes to gaming and for a lot of games played globally, the work is done in India. Be it the storyboarding or the VFX and the availability of talent that is already exposed to global trends makes it easier to apply the rules for creating Indian games.”

Patel, who is also working on multiple India- themed games in collaboration with technology partners, says it is only a matter of time before the likes of the Mahabharata, Ramayana and other Indian epics get gamified.

First Published on Dec 5, 2022 1:48 PM