Henry Ford introduced a revolution in the Car market by making cars affordable and available to the masses. Social gaming has done the same thing to gaming – we are all gamers now and we have the cows, orchids, mafia clans, and cities to prove it
The organizers should have introduced a mini-game for the audience in this session – guess how many times the name Zynga comes up in this discussion less than 20, 20-50, or 100+. I am going with 20-50 and I’ll let you know how accurate I was with my guess!
Giving their 2 cents (it’s all about micropayments!) on this panel are Rajesh Sawhney from a big corporate into gaming, Ashish Kashyap whose company is famous for its Zynga “inspired” games, Kalyan Manyam who has a social start up, Robin Alter a veteran of Indian gaming, and Mohan Kumar and Mukul Singhal who bring the VC flavour to the discussions!
Rajesh starts off and bang in sentence one we have mention of Zynga (Zynga count: 1). Rajesh believes that India will have a variant of social gaming – mobile social gaming – since mobile users in India outnumber regular online users.
So the first question by Rajesh is – how does Ashish of iBibo compete with Zynga? The irony of that question is not lost on the audience!
Ashish deftly answers by not getting drawn into the Zynga comparison and talks about Teen Patti the most successful Indian social game as per him. Developing a local payment system was key to the success and now his company is opening its platform for 3rd party developers a la Facebook! His mantra clearly seems t be ecosystem creation!
Ashish mentioned Zynga just once for the record (Zynga count: 2)
Ashish has a good news/bad news newsflash for us – good news is that paying users are on the same conversion rate as global trends, bad news is the ARPUs are really low.
Robin answers the delicate question of why they became a services company after originally being a game studio instead of the other way around! The essence of Robin’s answer is that they tried hopping on to the MMO bandwagon and got derailed by the social gaming explosion!
Hmmm, most panellists seem to talk about macro factors rather than talk about products at a micro level – is the lack of a AAA title the reason behind this? Credit to Ashish Kashyap for at least mentioning a product of his – Teen Patti.
Mukul’s got a great track record at Saif Partners with successful Indian start-ups but not one of them is a gaming company and he gets asked the obvious question! Mukul believes Indian consumers will pay for quality entertainment but right now his money doesn’t seem to be where his heart is! He refuses to be drawn into a successful template for an Indian Zynga (Zynga count: 3) – honest and candid feedback!
Chinese game are highly localized but again beyond cricket and Bollywood we don’t seem to be that local in our gaming tastes.
The baton passes to Kalyan who makes a great pitch for casino types games – pay money to get money. Kalyan is also looking at real world rewards and gamification of customer experiences as the other strong area for growth.
His start-up Mojostreet = a location based mobile game – has an innovative model where merchants pay to be part of the network and users play for free. They are focused on smartphones but interestingly have given iOS and Android a pass and have targeted RIM and
Symbian – because Indian users are still predominantly on these platforms.
Mohan’s VC firm has invested big in the U.S. but what about India? He talks about three phases. Phase I – getting women to play games. Phase II is getting console type gaming into social games and moving away from Facebook. Phase III –is gamification – making day to day activities game-like.
Mohan echoes Rajesh’s point about the intersection of mobile and social. He is another Android-fan!
Rajesh’s final question to the panel is about Google+, do they think it will impact social gaming? The silence on the panel seems to indicate that it’s just too early for anyone to take an intelligent shot at it!
Of all the three panels since the morning this one was probably the most restrained – probably a sign that it’s time for Lunch! Which it is!