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Indians getting hooked to social gaming

Indians getting hooked to social gaming

Though dominated by men, gaming has a sizeable women playing as well.

Bangalore: The social gaming landscape in the country is witnessing a growth momentum due to easy access to mobile and Internet facilities which is offering youths exciting platforms for expanding their circle of friends.

The growth of social networks sites, the time spent by users on them, the high entertainment value proposition and opportunity to engage in fun and casual interaction with friends, was fuelling the social gaming market, say social gaming experts.

"Worldwide over 500 million play social games. In India more than 10 million (over 50 per cent) of Facebook users play social games", says Deepak Abbot, Vice President-Product, Zapak.com, one of the leading social gaming players.

"Today conversations have found a new medium of interaction - Social Gaming. Social games now act as mini social networks. They have now become the conversation starters among two people active on the network," says Rahul Razdan, President, Products & Operations, Ibibo web.

According to Razdan, on a social network site, only 10 per cent are really active posting their pictures or providing updates on social life.

But a social gaming format works differently. Here, a user can simply play a game, make a comment and respond to their friend's moves and take active part without really bothering about whether they had something awesome to say or post pictures, as would be required in a social network site.

It creates reasons for interaction with every action of a player demanding a counter reaction. "It is an inclusive traction", he said.

Gaming in India though dominated by men, has a sizeable women gaming population as well. Games that favour aesthetic expressions, building and growing a farm found favour with women, while games relating to mafia, violence and hard core action saw men gravitate toward them.

"The statistics were skewed towards women (55 per cent) when it came to word games", he said. Surprisingly a game like Teen Pati (a game of cards) on Ibibo actually saw 30 per cent of women playing the game on Diwali night, said Rahul.

"The age profile of social gamers is usually 18-34", said Abbot. "The Indian social gamer is a bit younger than the average international gamer", he said.

"Women constitute 30 per cent of the Facebook and Internet users in India, the same per cent can also be assumed in the social gaming space. As the games are more related to building, collaborating and managing these games appeal to women too. There is hardly any skill required to play social games, therefore, gender is not an issue", said Abbot.

Social games are also a kind of a power booster as they allow youngsters to virtually own cars or a farm, operate a mafia, issue challans, generate virtual money and also spearhead a complex virtual action-packed operation.

The challenge in growing the social gaming market for India lies in creating content that has an Indian flavour, says Razdan. An Italian mafia is not everyone's cup of tea here, but an underworld Mumbai gang would find more takers, so would games related to Indian topics.

"Growth will come by focusing on Indian audience and giving them games which suit their entertainment taste", says Abbot. Currently, there were around five to six players in this space in India and globally, there were over 100 studios. But going forward, he says, "There will be many more gaming studios entering the scene".

Keen on cashing on the growing market, players are adding new elements to keep the excitement factor going. Ibibo had roped in celebrities to play games. "A gamer would find it exciting when it is Mallika Sherawat he is playing a game with and to know he has parked a car on her street during the game", says Razdan.

Though still nascent in the Indian market, the evangelisation of the celebrity gaming factor is expected to pick momentum, he feels.

The social gaming platform could be an added avenue for celebrities to interact with fans and add to numbers. "Once the celebrity sees the magic, we are sure such engagements on the social gaming platform would grow", he said.

Cricket, the experts opine, also holds huge potential in the social gaming platform. The euphoria could be translated from the real to the virtual world. "Buying a virtual cricket team" on lines of real time IPL auction, could trigger excitement.

"Social Games around cricket can get popular which are built around and released around IPL and the World Cup. However we don t see these games replacing the physical popularity of cricket. For cricket fans it would be another way to engage with their favourite past time", said Abbot.

Social gaming has also entered the realm of reality based games. "Ibibo has also created a platform for all those who want to showcase their talent by developing reality based social games which are breaking the stereotypical concept prevalent in the TV and reaching to a wider audience. Such reality based game shows where an individual is judged by the user population and rated has found a good response" said Razdan.

Social games also offer a revenue platform through advertisement and brand building and sale of virtual goods. The social gaming platform holds a huge potential in terms of replicating the success in the mainstream media. The number of Indians ready to pay for the games has begun to increase, though several still opt for free online games.

Currently the social gaming space is fairly regulated. The players say that any additional layers of security in trying to regulate the content could spell trouble. They say the space must be self regulated to keep the momentum going.

Going forward, social gaming players need to ensure that the games should hold some inherent incentives and features that would get a social gamer keep coming back, said experts.

Currently, the gaming population largely includes English speaking users with a robust friend network in terms of an alumni network. To increase the number of gamers, players would have to devise games where those lacking such robust friend network could still play.

"Delhi, Mumbai have the greatest number of gamers, followed by Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad. (This is proportional to the Internet penetration in India.) Social gaming picking up in tier one and two cities depends on the penetration of Facebook in these cities, which is currently low", says Abbot.

first published:February 07, 2011, 10:13 IST