India becomes top outsourcing hub for global games developers

PC games and developers
In your youth, you must have played platform games like “Street Fighter,” “Pacman” and the quintessential “Mario” on huge coin-operated machines in dingy ice-cream parlors with joysticks and buttons. Nearly two decades later, video gaming consoles like Xbox and PlayStation have become a runaway hit among youth and the craze is only growing.

One difference between then and now: Some part or the other of today’s games are now made in India.

After realising its immense potential, global videogame developers and publishers are now making a beeline to outsource work in a country which offers cost benefits and advantages like talent, efficiency and low management costs.

While some leading global players are already outsourcing from India, others are planning their presence in the emerging market — currently pegged at $300 million and expected to rise to $1.2 billion by 2020.

Some developers like Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Zynga and Sumo Digital have already set up shop in India and developers/publishers like Rockstar, Disney, Sony Europe, Sony US and Microsoft Game Studios are already outsourcing from the country.

Industry observers say a majority of the big players prefer to outsource from India to derive the cost advantage. The trend is to have key strategic partners for working on their projects.

According to a report by the NASSCOM Gaming Forum released last month, the Indian market for applied (video) games is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 14-16 per cent, from $40 million in 2016 to $80 million in 2021. Currently across India there are 40 developers of applied games (Independent studios, IT firms venturing into Applied Games and e-learning companies).

“Both mobile games and applied games markets are witnessing rapid growth. The companies are making products for the international as well as Indian market,” said Rajesh Rao, Chairman, NASSCOM Gaming Forum.

According to him, the mobile games market is just beginning to open. “India is now number five in overall (mobile game) downloads. The market is growing rapidly as we are adding 100 million smart phones every year,” he said.

China is many years ahead of India, but he is confident that with a large young population, India will catch up.

London-based Keywords Studios, which is the No.1 games services company in the world, is looking to make India the hub for its operations. Listed on the London Stock Exchange, the company is into various segments of video games like art, game-testing, audio and game localisation.

Keywords, which acquired Lakshya Digital, India’s largest and one of the top five global games services companies, in 2014, wants to bring all its service lines to India in a couple of years.

Besides Lakshya Digital, which does the art and animation part of the games, Keywords has a game-testing division in India that grew to 100 employees within a year of its launch.

“We made a pitch at the London Stock Exchange and the investors wanted Keywords to look at India seriously. They have seen what India has done in BPO. The games are not just about art but also about programming and technology,” said Manvendra Shukul, country manager for Keywords and CEO of Lakshya.

According to Rajeev Singh, Managing Director of the Indian arm of Taiwanese tech major BenQ, India “boasts of a strong presence of technologically-inclined skilled workforce equipped to address various stages of game developments and this has helped Indian developers and programmers get recognised at a global level”.

He said the understanding amongst the gaming developers in India “has evolved with availability of right resources along with companies pumping in the right amount of awareness and avenues for skill development which have in turn taken Indian developers to newer heights.

Companies like UBIsoft and EA (Electronic Arts), which are prolific game developers, are increasingly moving to India for game development to take advantage of our cost-effective technical talent”.

Mohammed Shafeeq and Anuj Sharma / IANS

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