Reliance Entertainment Digital's Manish Agarwal on how to build the next Angry Birds from India

18 Sep, 2013

While a lot of people ask me why haven't we seen a successful gaming company like Zynga or Rovio being built out of India, the thing is that games ultimately is a content business, so you can never be sure that you have made the next Angry Birds, you always wish and hope to do that, but it is also luck. There are a lot of elements that go into making a game and a proper symphony of all these elements is what makes an Angry Birds or a Temple Run.

These elements include the game mechanics, art and graphics, mobile engineering, game monetisation, production, customer acquisition, data scientists and art director. The more number of pieces fall in place, the more the probability of the game succeeding. Product management also plays a very important role since unlike the console games where it is a box product that you finish and ship, today games is a service that continues over a period of six to 18 months.

Now lets have a look at what are the elements that India already has and what is missing.

What India has

Does India have rich story telling art, the answer is yes.

Product management is abundant.

While engineering capability is also there, the fundamental difference is that very few companies have product oriented engineering capabilities, instead they have a service orientation. However, since the raw material is available, with some effort the thinking can be moulded from client servicing to product ownership.

From a customer acquisition standpoint we have enough marketing talent.

What the country does not have is a game designer who can do the game mechanics (primarily because of the lack of exposure). The primary reason for this is that while the richer classes have played the Xbox and the PS3's, the average engineer / designer that come out of colleges have not played as many games.

What it doesn't have

A good producer is missing.

The understanding of game monetisation (since the world is moving from paid to freemium games) is also completely missing in India. This includes understanding about what should the game be priced at, what should the in-game purchases cost, etc.

While art and aesthetics can be done nicely if you have the budget, it is not abundantly available. Only few people have the skills to do it properly in the country.

Hence, if an Indian game developing company can in-source the following four elements- a game mechanics designer, a producer, an economics designer and art and aesthetics to supplement the existing team (or out-source this work), then the end-result of the combination can definitely be the next Angry Birds.

Another aspect to keep in mind is that the domestic gaming market in India is very small. Due to this fundamentally two problems arise:

1. Game developers also come from consumers, and if they were gamers themselves growing up, they become passionate developers and also have a better understanding of gaming on the whole. But this is missing in India. The positive side is that while on a scale of 1 to 10 the quality is 2 today, it will change dramatically 7-10 years down the line. This is because the current generation of school students are highly exposed to games and when they eventually become developers, the quality will increase a lot.

2. Since the domestic market is not big, the risk is higher for developers because they are always playing in the global arena. If that doesn't work out you cannot really fall back on the domestic market. Also, to play in the big boys league you have to invest a lot as well. Understand that for every Rovio, there are thousands of developers who don't make it. But if the developers know that some of my investment will get recovered in domestic markets, they can still keep developing games.

To put it in a nutshell, in-sourcing talent, increased passion for gaming, and domestic market growth combined will result in the next Rovio or Zynga coming from India. And while I cant put an exact time frame for the same, it will definitely happen.

(As told to Techcircle.in's Anand Rai by Manish Agarwal, CEO, Reliance Entertainment Digital)