Ramayan, Sony’s multiplayer online game to hit the market

Ramayan, Sony’s multiplayer online game to hit the market

Mumbai: Ramayan, the epic, has become even more massive.

The Indian mythological saga will be the subject for India’s first massively multiplayer online game (MMOG), a video game capable of supporting hundreds or thousands of players simultaneously.

Sony Online Entertainment, the global division of Sony Pictures that runs such games, plans to set up a 50 person studio in Bangalore within the next six months to develop the game locally.

“We wanted to bring a game to the Indian market with relevant local content, built by local developers," said David Christensen, vice-president, business development and international operations, Sony Online. The company will enter the market through a joint venture with a local partner that it is yet to be finalized. Sony will hold the majority stake in the joint venture.

Christensen, who spoke to Mint on the sidelines of a gaming summit here, said it typically costs “not less than $5 million to develop a game of this scale."

Sony has licensed the rights for Ramayan 3392 A.D., a comic book released by Virgin Comics, and aims to release the game by 2011.

Multiplayer online games are the highest rung of online gaming but yet to takeoff in India in any meaningful way with poor broadband penetration remaining a constraint. Such games are rich in content and require high-speed Internet connectivity. Level Up Network India Pvt Ltd offers a massively multiplayer game called Ragnarok, but this is an Asian game which the company sells in India, and not an Indian game.

“We feel the timing is right (to set up in India), and numbers will pick up by 2011," said Christensen. Sony owns and distributes seven such games in the US, including Everquest, the second most popular multiplayer online game after World of Warcraft.

Sony also plans to license its existing titles to local gaming partners here, starting with Everquest, by mid-2008, to help understand the Indian market for such offerings.

India is the second market outside its US headquarters where Sony Online is setting up a studio to develop local game content. It did so in Taiwan where it will launch a game based on the popular movie,Kung-fu Hustle, by April.