During the 2006 football World Cup, some Indians had a chance at a free kick. Users of Reliance mobile services were able to play a free game and boot the (virtual) black and white ball through a wall of players. If they scored a goal, a Coke logo would pop up on their screens.
Salil Bhargava, chief executive officer of gaming company Jump Games Pvt. Ltd. says “mobile advergaming” could contribute 20% of his revenue within 12-18 months. The industry group, Internet and Mobile Association of India defined advergames in a March report as games specially built around a brand aimed to develop association and strong recall for the brand.
Bhargava found the Coca-Cola tie-up so fruitful that he is setting up a four-person team dedicated to the service. His next advergame is set to launch within three weeks, and will feature a snack brand. Mobile2Win, a Mumbai-based group company of Contests2Win was one of the pioneers of mobile advergaming, having done work for clients in India and abroad. Now others are following in its footsteps, to cater to a burgeoning market of cellphone subscribers.
While the fee structure for this nascent platform continues to evolve, brands pay between Rs10 lakh and Rs50 lakh for a game. Part of this money goes to the mobile companies so they can feature the game in a spot that is easy for its subscribers to find. Similarly, Jump Games has placed advergaming front and centre on its own website, www.jumpgames.co.in .
Like gaming consoles, mobile gaming can be addictive. Sixty percent of the people who played that (Coke) game came back for a second time,” Bhargava said. Before the World Cup, Jump Games also created a game around Coca-Cola Co.’s Thums Up brand, also for Reliance’s mobile network users. It tracked around 350,000 downloads per week.
Overall, the mobile gaming and data industry was estimated to be worth Rs171 crore, according to an earlier report from the association. A Ficci-PricewaterhouseCoopers report in March on the Indian entertainment and media industry said that in 2006 the mobile sector composed half of the gaming market.
Key players in India’s mobile gaming market include Indiagames Ltd, MAUJ Mobile, Dhruva Infotech Pvt. Ltd. and Mobile2win, but other players, such as Hungama.com have made their entry. Bhargava said the mobile gaming industry would become $175 million (Rs753 crore) by 2010.
Mobile advergaming is currently a small portion of the overall mobile gaming business.Rajiv Hiranandani, country head for India at Mobile2win, said India’s mobile advergaming sector is almost ‘non-existent’ right now. It currently brings in $20,000- 30,000 per month, but he expects it to grow to $100,000-150,000 per month next year.
“It is an opportunity for marketers who face so much clutter in other mediums,” he said, noting that mobile advergaming is particularly attractive for the many advertisers targeting younger consumers. He added that advergaming is, of course, one part of mobile advertising, which will explode in India. Worldwide, he said, advergaming will follow the path of product placement in films.
Given this projected growth, the four-year-old Jump Games has been expanding since it received funding from Reliance Entertainment Pvt Ltd (part of the Reliance ADAG Group) seven months ago. Bhargava would not disclose the actual amount, but said it was upward $1 million (Rs4.3 crore). The company opened an office in Pune in January, hiring 40 people and bringing the total to 170 worldwide. Bhargava says he has also bought licences to create games based on some of Bangalore-based Virgin Comics LLC publications such as The Sadhu and Pepsico’s 7 Up mascot, Fido Dido.
The company has also been working to create three-dimensional mobile games and plans to launch games for the BlackBerry mobile email device within six weeks. In addition, the company has done games around Hindi films and stars and is currently working on one around the classic film, Amar Akbar Anthony.