Perhaps you haven’t heard of the Bala brothers — Karthik, 31, and Guha, 30. These two technology entrepreneurs have made their mark in the world of video games, a new fields as far as people of Indian origins are concerned.
Despite being around for three decades, the $7 billion entertainment software sector has been largely untouched by the Indian magic. Magic is precisely what the Balas had on mind when they first got into the game.
Sons of physicians Mangalam and Virinchi, the brothers had moved from Chennai when Karthik was seven and Guha six: first to England, and then to the US. In a Rochester basement, Karthik and Guha conceived their company Vicarious Vision in 1991 and developed their first multimedia game for the world of CD-ROMs.
They turned the corner in 2000 with ‘Spiderman’ for Nintendo’s GameBoy colour handheld platform.
The work caught the attention of the industry and Activision rewarded them with the skateboard game ‘Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2’ as a launch title for Nintendo’s new GameBoy in 2001.
It became Vicarious's first million-unit seller. Two years later, ‘Finding Nemo’ provided the encore. Today, Vicarious has published over 100 titles that have sold over 20 million units, generating over $750 million in sales.
After a busy year that saw the release of three games — including two licensed titles based on DreamWorks Animation’s Over The Hedge and Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam — and a high-profile tie-in with the movie 'Spiderman 3' for 2007, the team took a break this Christmas.
Most Vicarious's games are rated 'E', suitable for everyone aged six and older. The brothers feel India's technical education and animation success, along with its movie tradition, can be great drivers — with game design being the only missing link.
(The author works at Crystal Dynamics, a games company based in the Bay area of California)