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French developer Ubisoft has now got two game development studios in India
French developer Ubisoft has now got two game development studios in India

Why global gaming firms are making a beeline for India

  • India is being increasingly seen as a provider of skill, talent needed to develop modern day games
  • This May, New York-based Rockstar Games acquired Bangalore-based Dhruva Interactive

Online multiplayer games are taking the world by storm. After PUBG Mobile and Fortnite, gamers now have a new favourite in-game Dauntless. Available on PS4, Xbox One and PC, the game got more than 10 million users on-board within weeks of its launch this May.

While the game has been developed by San Francisco-based Phoenix labs and published by Epic Games, more than hundreds of assets including characters, creatures, costumes, vehicles and props used in the hit game were created by Lakshya Digital—an Indian firm that has been working with big game developers for nearly 15 years.

The Gurugram-based company has been involved in the development of popular AAA games such as Just Cause 3, Elder Scrolls Online, State of Decay and Sea of Thieves.

“Until a few years ago, game artists didn’t know what the quality expectations of the global audience were. Today, the artists are working on some of the best projects with more freedom and say in the development process. We are moving up the chain from just being the task developers to partners," says Manvendra Shukul, chief executive officer and co-founder of Lakshya Digital.

Shukul makes a good point. India hasn’t just matured as a market for games, but is also being seen as the provider of skill and talent required to develop modern day games. According to KPMG, India had 275 game development companies this year as opposed to a mere 25 back in 2010.

This May, New York-based Rockstar Games, the company behind games like Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption, acquired Bangalore-based Dhruva Interactive that has been involved in development of games like Forza Horizon 3 and Spiderman.

French developer Ubisoft has now got two game development studios in India. The company is also working with IIT Mumbai on game automation using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).

Clearly, global gaming companies have started making a beeline to tap the Indian talent.

According to Shukul, globally, console space is exploding with new consoles gaming. However, the cost of game development is also rising phenomenally, pressuring game developers to outsource. There is a huge market of services we can offer—it can be art or complete game development.

Oliver Jones, co-founder and director of Bombay Play, a game development company, feels the talent pool has greatly ballooned in the last 2-3 years—from around 5,000 to 15,000 people in just 2-3 years. This has allowed India to have its own ecosystem that is not isolated anymore.

Jones adds, “From what we have seen, we have already reached the point where the majority of AAA games that were released this year would have a team from India making some kind of contributions—be it through asset creation, quality assurance, or content design."

The growing size and involvement of global game publishers and developers at the various game development and animation events like Unity Technologies’ Unite India conference is also a testimony to a buzzing developer scene in cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad and Pune.

The India game developer conference, held in Hyderabad was attended by companies like Tencent, EA Sports, Riot Games and Imangi Studios.

“These events bring game developers together from across the world. They offer a chance for attendees to collaborate, network, share knowledge and showcase their creativity," notes Shruti Verma, head of marketing-India subcontinent at Unity Technologies. A key shift that the gaming industry in India is witnessing is that now there is a lot more focus on game development. Earlier, nobody keenly eyed developing their own game. In the past 2-3 years, however, more than 200 game developer companies have come up, making their own intellectual properties (IPs) in games, according to Shukul.

For the industry to grow, you not only need gamers and users, but also people who add to the ecosystem.

With so much happening in the gaming ecosystem, parents too have begun looking at game development as a viable career option for their children. Today, developers have access to a vast global market with huge financial returns, which has made the game industry very attractive for youngsters.

Jones believes game development tools such as Unity, Cocos and Unreal engine, which have proliferated, have increased efficiency in development dramatically, making game development free and accessible like never before.

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