Game Development in India

Business week is tracking video game development for mobile phones by Indian dev. shops. The particular game in focus will be published by Indiagames is called “Emperor Ashoka”.

Application development for mobiles has a relatively lower entry level in the software development industry, costs less but it does require expertise in art and design. In order to overcome this barrier, Indiagames enlisted the help of a UK-based shop Short Fuze. This is an interesting development. Packaging any product destined for the shelves (in this case 3G wireless operators) requires a complete spectrum of skills. Indian developers definitely have the skills to bend the rules of software development. On the other hand, there seems to be a lack of confidence in the skills that require a combination of creative and artistic talent. I find it hard to understand this lack of confidence. Indian artistic talent is held in high regard the world over.

To be fair, the publishing company want their finished product to appeal to a western audience (primarily). Hence the hiring of a UK-based art and design company. The foreign touch is very evident in the appearance and costumes of the characters and the level design. It is evident that Indiagames is sticking closely to the “Prince of Persia” model. Lets give the target market a slick looking product first. I anticipate that the company (and Indian mobile companies) are missing out on a great opportunity to begin building on the Indian mobile market first. In fact, the first few comments on the Business week forums was from a reader of Bengali who objected to the use of the form of goddess Kali in the game.
The challenges in cultivating such a market at home appears to be a lot more difficult than exporting to an already established (western) market. Is it really that difficult to get the middle-class Indian to part with his cash? If Pizza Hut, Subway and McDonalds can do it, why can’t the software industry? I have several misgivings about the fact that Indian software shops are mostly in business for foreign markets.

I appreciate the hard work Indiagames have put into this game. The game screenshots look great. I also like their thinking, they want their players to be able to play the game across platforms, on the PC, on the mobile, and even on their gaming console. It might take a while, but that is definitely innovative. To save your game on the PC and then pick it up where you left off while riding the subway – I like! They are also hoping that the exotic nature of their game will allow it to gain some mileage over the other games available to mobile phone users. Have a look at some of their existing games. I am sure “Emperor Ashoka” will match up to the high standards.

Update (6th Feb. 2006): Piracy in the Indian Gaming Industry [ContentSutra].