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3 Tactics to Help Mobile Game Devs Succeed in India

India mobile game market

India is the bull’s-eye on the opportunity map when it comes to mobile gaming. At 1.25 billion people, India’s population is nearly as large as China’s, its culture is more open to western content than its eastern neighbor, and although India has historically lagged in smartphone adoption, it’s heating up now. But perhaps the biggest opportunity in India comes from the country’s growing middle class who make up millions of potential mobile game players.

Similar to other developing nations, though, India is still getting up to speed in the industry. As such, mobile game developers need to learn the market and have patience: the greatest rewards will only emerge after two to three years. As the Indian market coalesces, strategic entrants will gain a foothold that could prove extremely valuable.

Here are three ways mobile game devs can make a mark in the growing Indian market:

1. Localization

India is famous as a land of many languages. Hindi, the largest language, is native to around 20 percent of the population. The rest of the country is a patchwork of languages and dialects, with English as the language of government and foreign entertainment. Common wisdom holds that translations are vital to being accepted in foreign markets, so game developers may assume they need to translate to some of India’s babel of languages in order to succeed. India’s developers and publishers, however, often advise releasing a game in English.

“Indian developers have not really experimented too much with localizing games for the large base of the Indian market,” says Ninad Chhaya, vice president of games at Mumbai-based Robosoft. This reflects what Indians are likely to do when they don’t share a language with someone they encounter: default to English.

Chhota Bheem Math Maths vs Aliens India mobile game

Image via Nazara Technologies

Another consideration is that the lightweight, widely-appealing games that can reach hundreds of millions of Indians don’t need a lot of text. “The types of games [Indians] will play are very casual, which means you’ll make games with a lot of visual cues,” says Manish Agarwal, CEO of Indian publisher Nazara Technologies.

Rather than translating text, foreign developers entering India should either find a local who can help add cultural touch points or study games that had a successful release in the country already.

2. The ABCDs of Content

To appeal to Indians, Chhaya recommends the “ABCD” of content: astrological signs, Bollywood, cricket and divinity. Robosoft’s sister company, 99Games, has been successful with titles like Dhoom:3 The Game, which brought in 20 million downloads and is based on a popular Bollywood action flick.

To appeal to Indians, Chhaya recommends the “ABCD” of content: astrological signs, Bollywood, cricket and divinity.

But other non-ABCD games can still break in, too. “If the content is good, the mechanics are strong, it doesn’t matter if you have a game based on an Indian context,”Chhaya says.

Game developers can also think in terms of currently popular genres. “The big bet would be on casino, gambling and card games,” says Gokul Elayadath, CEO of indie studio Ether IT Solutions. “Even if you release at a high quality [file size] there’s a lot of users ready to play.”

Dhoom 3 The Game India mobile game

Image via 99Games

Overall, Agarwal suggests thinking about audience more deeply than basic stereotypes. “Age and demographics is not the best way to slice it,” he advises. “You should create a cohort based on price point of [their] device, internet savviness and experience of gaming.”

3. Monetization through familiarization

Like localization, mobile game in-app purchases suffer from some misconceptions: Many outsiders see India as a country where users either don’t want to pay or are too poor to pay. The reality is that India’s economy is booming and most mobile users are playing free games as their first gaming experiences.

“India probably has the largest middle class globally, with disposable income to get luxury items, and from a games perspective they don’t mind experimenting,” Chhaya says.

Border Wars Sniper Assault India mobile game

Image via Ether IT Solutions

The problem, so far, is last-mile frictions in payment: Apple hasn’t yet added payment options beyond credit cards and Google has only signed up one carrier to date, Idea Cellular. As of now, mobile game ads are the leading monetization solution for mobile games in india.

Ultimately, devs must recognize that India is a big country, with a culture that’s difficult to understand at a distance: “Whoever wants to look at India should at least come here in person, meet the companies and consumers, have some experience of the variety of consumers,” says Agarwal. “Immersion is helpful for them to get a reality check.”