Tuesday, August 2, 2005

India and the Online Gaming Juggernaut

by Vinay Nilakantan

Will subscription driven Online MMO games succeed in India?

It’s a known and established fact that subscription driven MMO online games around the world are fairly large money spinners. Right from Everquest to Star Wars Galaxies to World of Warcraft have all been able to establish very strong revenue models which have allowed continuous development and expansion of the industry.

In India, gaming is big. How big is it? That’s important to know. The highest selling game within India has been ‘Brian Lara’s Cricket’.

No. of copies sold: Over 25,000

While those are not great numbers by a long shot, they are sufficient for a certain amount of ‘earned value’ within an organization. Of course, those are the official numbers.

The reason I say this is we are now at a stage where the Indian gaming industry and the various companies that are involved in it are making moves on whether the ever successful MMO subscription module can be adopted in India. I urge them all to read this.

Let’s look at a couple of factors:

India and computers: It’s important that we define statistics of the potential target audience.

PC Base

11 Mn

PC Penetration


Internet Subscribers

4.93 Mn (QE June' 04)

Internet Penetration


Broadband Users

0.23 Mn (QE June' 04)

Broadband Penetration

0.02% (Dec' 04)

Source: http://www.convergenceindia.org/ci2k6-conver-india.html

A commonly forgotten factor that most corporate organizations within the gaming space in India fail to pay attention to is the actual configurations of the computer within these statistics. There are computers still running on Win 95, operating with 32MB Ram and depend on the software to render its graphics. Organizations should look a little beyond the above statistics as what they’re doing is allowing a great gaming experience for a potential gamer to be ruined by ignorance and lack of knowledge due to the almost insignificant notification on game software packaging and branding. What does the potential gamer do? Blame the game for the bad experience and never buy a game again. Pay particular attention to this, if you’re concerned about the longevity of this industry in India.

Now – let’s look at the most popular genres of online gaming around the world :


Why the focus on RPGs? It quite simply is the only reason that subscription based PC gaming exists (let’s not go near the web based subscriptions). The genre is oriented towards ensuring a greater game experience as you put in more time into the game.

RPGs as such are a genre which has not been able to take off in India. Whether the reason has been of maturity or whether the reason has been of bad branding, when was the last time you saw a high selling RPG in India? Sure, you have your Diablos and your Neverwinter Nights. The sales from those are so incredibly low compared to sports and action titles, it’s not even funny. “But we sell a lot of Quake and a lot of Unreal games!” Nice try buddy. How does an organization bring in consistent subscription revenue through something like that? Monthly payments: No way. Not going to happen. The average fee is between 7 to 15 dollars per month worldwide. Even with region sensitive pricing – India as such has not been exposed to or nurtured with a model like this. A monthly payment for a game? The same game? Try explaining that to your parents. The only people who would do this are working executives who have been playing games for years and have the maturity to understand why online games have that kind of pricing model. Those kind of people are *extremely* few in number. In fact. I may personally know who they all are. That’s a joke, by the way.

Conclusion: I can keep writing about this but this is what I think we need to do.

Wait a few years. Don’t jump the gun or onto the bandwagon. There is a logical growth that will happen. Sell more regular games. Sell good games. Let broadband penetration increase. Let it become true broadband with 128kbps or more to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience for the user. Let PC prices drop further. Allow graphics cards to enter households through smart and cost effective pc bundling. Promote effective branding. Dispel myths.

If you build it, they will come…


  1. Hi Vinay,

    Very interesting article and very well written one too. Kudos

    All correct --
    Low pc penetration --- bad system config --- internet problems etc.

    Few curiosities -
    1. Do the people (masses) who have PC are actually are game savvy, do they even know something known as Baldur's Gate.

    2. MMPOG - a concept with hard rules for Gamers and Game Developers but what about Ram, Rammu and Raju. They must have never ever experienced such a thing.

    3. Is it important for them that the game needs Per Pixel Lighting.

    4. My aunt goes online to post messages and discuss the future of "Jassi". Not joking she goes one hour online everyday.

    I agree - no point getting into the band wagon of a million $ cinematic to promote your game woth 10 times that.

    But is there a potential *today* of engaging the current online-pc users in *any way* to **Want-To-Pay-Subscription-Fee** and have a good time.

    How much one can minimize the developemt cost and still make a very engaing online play.

    Interactive-Interesting-Mass Appeal-Software == Game for non gamers

    Is it?

  2. Hi Sumit - Good to hear from you.

    All very good points. I see what you mean.

    Could we take this onto the IGDA forums? Ultimately we're hoping that such a discussion might give some insight into companies diving head first into game development without understanding it.

    If it's not too much to ask, would you please post this same comment into the IGDA thread about the blog and we can discuss this further over there.

    Thanks Sumit. Hope all is well in the world of Paradox.

    - Vinay

  3. Hi Vinay,

    Good to hear from you too. I have posted it on IGDA, hope to see some good discussion on it.

    How are things at your end.

    Byt the way I have just shifted out of Paradox, moving on to Hyderabad.