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Topical gaming appeal

Based on news and current affairs, online and mobile phone games that invite consumers in India to take potshots at stuff that upset or excite them in real life are gaining traction. Himani Chandna Gurtoo writes.

business Updated: Oct 21, 2012 21:41 IST
Himani Chandna Gurtoo

You have surely heard of the highly popular game, Angry Birds, which a huge number of consumers across the world are downloading on to their mobile phones and tablets. But have you heard of a game called Angry Anna? This game features Anna Hazare fighting against corruption in the government system and for the improvement of the Lokpal Bill. It has been developed in India for Indian consumers.

What started off in recent times as internet games for computers and mobile phones based on cricket events, the Olympics and Bollywood movies, is building up into something much bigger today, tagging on to current affairs. There is a range to choose from, including Mehengai, Know Your Politician, Slap the Politician, Fly Air India, Stock Market Suicide, Laadli and Kill Kasab.

This mushrooming trend of games riding on ‘breaking news’ draws from the West. Among the latest in the US is a game called Romney Veep Dating – based on the US presidential nominee, Mitt Romney – that allows gamers to make their choice.

“The topical games category is attracting youngsters. These games are not just played by the geeky boys, but also interest girls,” said Alok Kejriwal, founder of Mumbai-based Games2win.

“It's never been a better time to be a game developer. It's also never been more competitive – 8% of our turnover comes from such news-based games,” Kejriwal estimated.

Savvy Khan, 25, a news reader at a popular radio channel, is a crazy gamer who otherwise appreciates Playstation-based gaming. However, topical gaming content attracts him as well.

“These games play with my emotions. While playing, I feel connected to the cause. For example, I feel good while killing corruption and scoring by slapping politicians,” he explained.

The games are highly relatable, based on the events they draw from. That’s the reason why this genre of games sees rapid-fire launches, keeping the space fresh and dynamic. Naturally, like the events themselves, the games are also short-lived, lasting as long as the events stay relevant. Also, the games are pretty simple, unlike the longer-format, more complex online and offline computer games that people play for hours, days or even months.

Local and multinational online gaming companies, including Geek Mentor Studios, games2win, Hungama, Zapak and others are moving quickly on this opportunity.

“Topical games are lucrative because they are based on easily available content, followed by billions of downloads. We have deployed a team of six people as a ‘quick response team’ which follows headlines and creates games within 18-20 hours,” said Manish Malik, associate VP, gaming and applications, Hungama.

In spite of their shorter shelf life, topical games are a shortcut to popularity. “We need just one game to go viral and we become a brand. However, we try to work on topics that have slightly longer life that could justify return on investments,” said Deepak Abbot, head (product), Reliance Entertainment Digital, which owns gaming site

According to industry experts, a gaming company can build a topical game with an investment of under Rs 1 lakh, if the game is being created by an in-house team. If the format is being outsourced, the investment runs into lakhs of rupees.

Advertisers too, are interested. “Advertisers are keen to be associated with ‘headline’ stuff. Moreover, with the proliferation of smartphones, mobile downloads is emerging as a lucrative revenue model for us,” Kejriwal said.

It is anticipated that this gaming category will attract the largest proportion of online users across demographic categories. Revenues are expected to come from advertising and micro transactions, with in-game purchases of virtual goods and additional levels.

Industry sources also agree that news-inspired content and gaming tablets are the future of handheld gaming, which will soon have their own share of the market.