If there is a gaming-development hub in India, it has to be Bengaluru. And it isn't new startups, we’re talking about companies that have been around since the days when the Nintendo 64 meant state-of-art graphics and the number of computers still hadn’t eclipsed the number of human beings. Yet, for some reason, none of them have risen to international prominence even after a long-winding incubation period and India already making strides in other fields related to technology.
Gaming – combining the best of design and programming – is an exceedingly bankable sector. In 2014, the industry had total worldwide revenue of $46.5 billion. Comparatively, the film industry banked a total of $39.1 billion - almost 15% lower. In India, contrastingly, the situation has been different. In 2011, our film Industry was valued at $1.86 billion, while the gaming industry was at $171.66 million, just one-tenth of the former.
However, it does look like the IT-fuelled Bengaluru is reversing this trend. We’ve had a slow start – but the above-mentioned 171 million figure is actually up 18.7% from the previous year (2010, $144.56 million). In other words, the situation is improving. Some Bengaluru companies have been spearheading this improvement, and Dhruva Interactive is perhaps the most prolific of them.
Founded in 1997 when the Indian video games industry was at a very infantile stage, it is India’s first games company and remains vibrant even today. Over its past 18 years of existence, it has contributed to a hundred gaming-based titles. It both develops games, as well as develops artwork for games. And in both these regards – its work is the Picasso equivalent.
Watch this clip of Clara, a character designed in HD (complete with movement) that can perfectly fit within a Playstation 4 or Xbox One gaming environment.
Even in the realm of beautiful landscape and scenic design, Dhruva is leaps and bounds ahead of most other developers. This image of a domed structure, complete with shadows, textures, and layering, is not only visually appealing, but also detailed and immaculately lit:
The range of genres and art-styles explored by the company are immense. Project Spark is a ‘game builder’ project for which they have provided their art services. Its concept art made me gulp and then wipe the resulting tear-drops:
Finally, as far as game development is concerned, some of its casual games like ‘Bazzle’ and ‘Go Flo’ are stunningly embellished. By combining both three-dimensional and two-dimensional graphics' elements, it brings about an absolutely picturesque world, engaging gamers across various platforms, be it Android, iOS, gaming consoles or the PC. The company’s client list only underlines its international recognition, with big international players such as Electronic Arts (EA), Microsoft, Disney, and Capcom to name a few.
Dhruva Interactive CEO Rajesh Rao told Venture Beat in San Fransisco that while gaming isn’t fresh in Indian markets, the opportunity for its mass-market success is. This, he says, is fuelled by an exponential increase in the penetration of smartphones, as well as an increase in the middle class’s disposable income. Of course, he also spoke of hurdles to the industry, such as the reluctance of most Indians to use debit cards or credit cards for online transactions (since most games globally are purchased online). He also blames the pricing model of the current mobile networks as a deterrent. Of course, with a market of 1.3 billion potential gamers, there is a ton of untapped potential.
So Dhruva is a pioneer, a market leader, and a major stakeholder in the growth of the industry. But it is not the only company operating out of Bengaluru worth mentioning.
Juego Studios provides art and game design services to offshore companies, by incorporating vibrant and fresh visuals. While their forte is mostly mobile-oriented games, they also indulge in PC game development as well as design characters, maps, and other elements or ‘objects’ constituting a game. Some of their popular games (most of them for Android or iOS platforms) look a bit like this:
Neat, isn’t it? Their team includes the best of creative and technical minds, working collectively towards producing true pieces of interactive art.
Our nation today has over 900 million handsets. It has an able body of technicians, and a growing cosmopolitan middle and upper-middle class. In other words, it has the perfect ingredients for an industry such as gaming to grow phenomenally. The process has already started, and India is not only consuming video games, but creating them as well. Bengaluru, due to its cosmopolitan nature and its technical stronghold, has been leading this process. It hosts an annual Video Game Fest (VGF) that brings in the best of worldwide gaming culture. It is also the home to numerous institutes for game development and technology. In the end, it boils down to a single thing - a vibrant gaming industry means more employability to two very broad kinds of individuals (designers and technicians), working together in the same techno-creative space.