Gaming app developers in India are seeing a boom, with high downloads both in India and around the world. While Indian developers have long been used for outsourcing in console games, the app economy is enabling them to make their own and many have been successful.

The game makers: Chaitanya Prabhu and Real Steel

Meanwhile, Jump Games India and UTV Indiagames (taken over by Disney in October) have both seen multiple gaming apps downloaded over a million times on the Nokia Store (formerly known as the Ovi Store).

Why are Indian gaming apps succeeding when Indian PC games didn’t?

The math is good

Parking Frenzy and Alok Kejriwal.

An Indian studio can make more games for the same money, giving it a better chance of landing a hit. Even premium games are easier to make in India, says Vishal Gondal, managing director, digital, Disney UTV (formerly Indiagames). “If you’re looking at premium gameplay intricacies, it can go up to 1 crore with a 20-person team," he says. The cost would be significantly higher abroad.

Indian developers operate in the middle ground between independent developers and the big studios in the US. As a result, smaller studios in the US are finding it harder to make a profit.

Consider Rod Green and Yeong-Hao Han’s iPad game Brainsss, which they released through their independent studio, Lonely Few. The two made a beautiful and enjoyable game that really stood out in the App Store.

But while they got a lot of positive press and were featured by Apple, they still weren’t able to make a reasonable profit.

In an email, Green explains, “We decided to survive on our savings to make Brainsss." The game cost Lonely Few $20,000 to make; a reasonable figure for the quality of the game. He continues, “(Cheap) games like Angry Birds are actually the exception, so we felt we were on the mark." Unfortunately, Lonely Few saw a return of only around $31,000.

An Indian developer can release five simple games for the same amount of money, and look to generate better returns across all the games, even if some fare badly.

Mobile apps are easier

IPL Cricket Fever and Vishal Gondal.

Rohith Bhat, managing director and CEO, Robosoft Technologies, says, “At Robosoft, we have worked on some of the top video-game titles. We’ve had experience with Tomb Raider, LEGO Star Wars II and Fables. However, we were just one of many firms who worked on those games." On the other hand, a game like Robosoft’s WordsWorth is a lot simpler.

If the basic gameplay mechanic is clever, the production values and complexity that define a modern console title are not needed—people are looking for games that are fun, but simple.

Kejriwal says, “Parking Frenzy 2.0, the app that went to the top of the App Store, looks like shit. Honestly, the art is terrible—the roads are a muddy brown and the cars don’t look good either. But the game is really good."

Chaitanya Prabhu, Mumbai-based business head of Jump Games, adds: “Mobile games are short, simple experiences. You have to make a good game, and not overwhelm the user with complexity."

The dive for simplicity also makes it easier to work without a game designer—someone who works out all the complex interactions, the rules of the game.

“Few game designers are available in India. The rest of the work is technical work and for that we have a lot of good people. So we’re hiring designers in the US," Kejriwal says.

Gondal agrees, but adds: “Right now, we are 6 out of 10 in design skills. There are some good people, but it’s a small pool. However, gaming is catching on, and I believe that in the next 5-10 years, we’ll have the quality people we need."

This simpler gameplay and art of mobile games, combined with the lower cost of development in India, puts us in the Goldilocks zone and this could in turn, in a few years, create a pool of skilled designers and developers who will bring India on to the global game development scene.

gopal.s@livemint.com

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