FAU-G a failure? Why India is yet to produce a world-class smartphone game

New Delhi: India is set to see its smartphone base increase to reach 820 million, currently hovering around 550 million, in the next two years. Despite being the second largest smartphone market in the world (behind China), the country cannot list even a single homegrown mobile-based game that is creating flutters globally.

Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar-promoted Fearless and United Guards (FAU-G), the game that made its debut for Android users on January 26, quickly became the top free mobile game on Google Play Store with more than five million downloads on the Google Play store.

However, over the past few days, the rating has declined dramatically and now, it has just 3 stars for not being as good as the super-hit PUBG that was banned among several Chinese apps.

"What I was really hoping for was that it would replace PUBG's position, but when I played it, I realised that it is (the) worst game I've ever played in my life. This is really disappointing," wrote one of the users who gave FAU-G a star rating on Google Play Store.

India is already among the top five countries in the world for mobile gaming and is heading towards the top three. By 2023, it's expected that the value of the mobile industry market in India will reach around $105 billion.

According to industry experts, the domestic gaming industry would need to develop rich and immersive gaming content that translates into strong user engagement and more importantly, user retention. "While Indian game developers have always had the technical expertise, they have thus far, been hampered by the lack of capital and a clear road to market, among others. This, in turn, has meant an inability to create strong intellectual property (IP), Prabhu Ram, Head-Industry Intelligence Group (IIG), CMR, told IANS.

"Given the strong consumer interest, and VC interest in gaming, we are looking at a strong growth curve for the gaming industry. Indian game developers have an unprecedented opportunity to build immersive world-class games," Ram told IANS.

There are more than 300 million gamers in India at this time. Many of these gamers take part in gaming activities most days of the week. This, in itself, creates an impressive potential for the Indian gaming industry.

Indian studios require significant investment to build good products. Technical hardware, software and artwork require extensive capital expenditures. Moreover, like other IP-driven businesses, game development comes with inherent risks.

These issues are compounded with the recent trend of investors focusing their capital on online gambling platforms like Indian Rummy, Fantasy Sports and Teen Patti.

"Gaming is not supposed to be about gambling, but rather about relatable and innovative interactive content. There is a lot of room for localised content. FAU:G, Tappi and Ludo King are perfect examples," Vishal Gondal, Founder, nCore Games, told IANS.

Gondal said that at nCORE Games, they are also trying to experiment with game formats that resonate with Indians. "For example, FAU:G was launched as a powerful story-driven, single player experience. In the coming months, we plan to add formats that haven't been attempted in the Indian context like Team DeathMatch and Battle Royale," Gondal said.

The next decade will be a highly impactful one for the world of gaming, and the time is ripe to make India the global leader. "I think we have to find our niche where we can excel in this. Capability-wise, we are equipped. My suggestion is that we should pursue mythology-based theme games. We will definitely make a great world class game in this," said Faisal Kawoosa, Founder and Chief Analyst, techARC.

The Indian gaming industry is also witnessing a spike in hiring activity and in January, both gaming sector job postings and searches were up 13 per cent and 15 per cent, respectively, from the same period last year.

As of January, the number of job postings was still twice the number of job searches on Indeed, indicating a significant gap yet opportunity for India's vast talent pool, according to leading job website Indeed.

(To receive our E-paper on whatsapp daily, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)

Free Press Journal