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Settle scores, the fun online way!

Breaking news? Before you know it, it has inspired an online game. And they even sell you morals – minus the preaching. Ruchi Hajela tells us more.
Hindustan Times | By Ruchi Hajela
UPDATED ON APR 15, 2008 11:06 PM IST

A wardrobe malfunction at a fashion show? Bollywood star gets caught in wildlife hunting? Popstar gets divorce?

Even as reporters scramble to tell the story to television audiences, experts, geeks and creative thinkers are at work at another industry – a fascinating new one – where games are being invented to match themes that connect with the people.

Take for instance the online game Mucca Chucka created by Scotland-based T-Enterprise. The game that uses Adobe’s Flash player technology for interactive content is based on former Beatle Paul McCartney’s divorce with fashion model Heather Hills. Mills threw water over McCartney’s lawyer Fiona Shackleton and later went on to receive $48 million of McCartney's fortune in a settlement. You as a player score points by throwing virtual water over depictions of McCartney and Shackleton – as if you were the virtual Ms Mills.

Thematic games are interactive games of short duration and are a rage on the Internet. Unlike old-fashioned heavy-duty downloads, Flash-based games are smaller in terms of file size (about one MB) and are run in an Internet browser, which means a user can play the game online on the specified link. The small size of these games works in the favour of the genre as even those who may not have high bandwidth Internet connections can enjoy these. Flash-based topical games are usually casual and come free of cost and are supported by advertising.

Conventional PC games on the other hand are much heavier in size, almost about 3-4 GB, more intense and one has to buy them. Indian companies are no less than Western counterparts when it comes to using technology creatively. Venture-funded online gaming company Games2Win has more than 100 thematic games in its portfolio. “Unlike foreign games, consumers can relate to these games since they are based on situations in India,” Alok Kejriwal, Founder & CEO, Games2Win, told Hindustan Times.

Taking inspiration from the malfunction mishap at the recently held Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week, the company has relaunched its game ‘Miss Malfunction’. The game has you playing a fashion photographer who is on the lookout for any wardrobe slip on the ramp. According to Games2Win, about five lakh players had tried the game within five days since ‘Miss Malfunction’ got launched. “Users are driven towards topical games because of overall high decibel media noise about such topics,” Rohit Sharma, COO, Zapak Digital Entertainment Limited told Hindustan Times. “Topical games do well around the event dates and the game-play goes up by almost 400 per cent,” he added. Both Games2Win and Zapak, which is controlled by Reliance ADAG group, offer free games supported by advertising.

According to industry experts, it normally takes about three to six weeks to develop games but in the case of an event, the entire team burns the midnight oil to complete the entire process in the shortest possible time. For the time being, these games can only be played online. However, Games2Win has plans to make these available for downloads as well.

According to a study conducted by industry chamber FICCI and PricewaterhouseCoopers, the online gaming market in India is worth Rs 25 crore and is estimated to multiply to Rs 160 crore by 2012, a cumulative annual growth of about 45 per cent.

Industry players believe the market is a lot bigger than that. “The market is as big as about Rs 100 crore considering there is a Rs 75 to Rs 80 crore grey market that exists out there,” says Kejriwal. According to industry experts, thematic games contribute about 20 per cent of the overall online gaming market. The company had launched a game called ‘Game for Money’ around the time of Union Budget this year. The game puts the player in the role of an investor playing with various options in order to get rich—and you lose in case you go bankrupt.

Earlier around the World Aids Day in December, the gaming portal had introduced ‘Play Safe’ a humorous game that promoted the idea of safe sex without any moral preaching.

Not very long ago, Games2Win had also launched an investment-based game in which investors jump off buildings when there is a market crash – a bit like the suicides that hit Wall Street in the 1920s.

The localized game, in a humorous spin, showed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister P Chidambram holding a net below the falling investors in order to save them.

The story, of course, had a moral that should not be lost on the players: Be careful while investing.

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