The following article is based on my own interpretation of the said events. Any material borrowed from published and unpublished sources has been appropriately referenced. I will bear the sole responsibility for anything that is found to have been copied or misappropriated or misrepresented in the following post.
Vinay Yadav, MBA 2015-17, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur
Gaming in India is still little understood but there is so much happening behind the scenes that it would surprise even the well informed. For instance, not many know that in a recent FIFA online tournament, at Yiwu in China, the fourth place in the competition was taken by a Kolkata boy named Santanu Basu. In somewhat the same fashion, and on the other side of the game console, it is news to many that some of the world’s most popular online games have been developed here in India.
As the global games market continues its growth to a projected estimate of $ 86.1 billion in 2016, gaming itself is beginning to be seen as a mainstream source of entertainment for families. This shift has taken place over the last 10 years largely due to smartphones becoming a popular gaming platform and also the fact that we are now seeing the first generation of gamers become parents. A lot of parents in their late twenties and early thirties have had access to video games growing up and in many cases still continue to have a keen interest in gaming. This leads to a lot less resistance from parents when it comes to their children’s interest in playing video games.
Games are also now becoming increasingly ambitious in terms of graphics, quality, presentation and realism due to the fact that modern gaming devices such as the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One have exponentially higher processing power. However, this increase in quality and complexity of games often leads to higher development costs – games with development budgets of $ 50 million are not uncommon anymore.
The development cycle for a game includes many different steps such as game concepts development, scripting, programming, character design and creation, animation, level creation and testing. The cycle is divided into 3 stages, pre production, production and testing. Pre-production involves concept art creation, game design and prototyping. The bulk of the work of creation takes place in the Production phase and includes creation of actual game assets, level creation and programming. Testing is a big task for game developers. There is a wide range of formats, platforms, carriers and handsets that the games have to be tested for. Typically there are separate teams for porting and testing; some companies prefer to outsource this activity to specialized units.
The increasing cost of game development is now pushing developers to routinely outsource key components of their development work to countries like India where there is a highly skilled workforce but relatively low costs as compared to the west. Apart from lower cost, another benefit of game development outsourcing includes access to a larger talent pool, since companies require a large number of developers only during the key production phase and cannot afford to keep them for the entire development cycle of the game. Thirdly, there are certain skills that many game developers do not have access to, for instance, specialized work such as game testing and localization.
Game development outsourcing is a promising trend for a country like India where there is abundant talent in programming and art. Outsourcing also allows Indian game developers to get exposure to working with some of the best creative talent in the world, pick up new skills and work to international standards which help in creating a solid base for future home grown game development companies. If one has any doubts about the quality of game development talent in India, one might want to look at the fact that top international studios such as Electronic Arts, Ubisoft and Zynga have already set up development centres in India. An opportunity to work on top international game titles – whether at a studio developing original content or handling outsourced work gives young people an alternative career path that is both fun and stable with good salaries and great growth prospects. That the gaming industry has made serious inroads in the country is also be evidenced by the number of institutions that have cropped up and which offer specialized courses in game design and 3D art. India already boasts over 100 institutes offering game designing and 3D art courses from basic to expert levels. This large base of trained personnel is also supporting the trend towards gaming as a viable career choice.
Many indigenous companies are now competing in this space and have aggressive growth plans for the future. Indian studios such as Lakshya Digital which specialize in games art outsourcing have worked with some of the top global game development studios in key areas like game art. Working with international studios has its own challenges such as executing projects efficiently to the international standards of quality. Companies like Lakshya tackle this by making investments in hiring mentors in the US to hand hold art teams in India for better results and developing special proprietary software to manage game art development projects efficiently and to global standards.
The biggest indicator of the immense potential game development outsourcing possess as an industry however is the fact that the global gaming market is dominated by the growth in emerging markets with the Asia Pacific region estimated to occupy a leading 37.9% market share in 2016. According to NASSCOM, the Indian gaming industry is close to $ 890 million and there are over 100 game development organizations in India already.
Nothing can validate the promising growth of the gaming industry in India better than the very creation of a specialized NASSCOM game developers conference (NGDC), with their motto wherein they “aim to bring to the forefront the exciting gaming ecosystem that exists in India.”