Utpal Borpujari

October 12, 2009

Films Go Gaming

By Utpal Borpujari

If you are crazy about both masala films and online or mobile gaming, you probably are having a whale of a time these days. And why not? – with gaming portals discovering that the goose laying the golden eggs in their case could be games derived out of Bollywood fantasies, the Quick Gun Murugans, Kamineys, Bhootnaths and Bal Ganesh’s are expanding their presence far beyond the big screen, as games playable online. As gaming becomes an increasingly popular – and serious – pastime among kids, teenagers and even adults worldwide, online gaming companies in India are slowly but surely realising the huge potential that lies in Bollywood-based games as a business proposition. And with mobile phones penetrating the interiors of the country at a rapid pace, film-based games have a huge potential market to offer themselves, the cliental comprising film-mad millions.

Take Indiagames and Zapak, arguably the two biggest players in the business, for example. Both in recent times have launched a number of film-based games and say that the response has been more than just encouraging. With the country coming out with around 1,000 movies every year, with a little less than 150 of them being in Hindi, while Telugu and Tamil industries release more than that number, the opportunities to go filmy-gaming seem to be endless. And from the signs of it, the trend is picking up fast. If Indiagames has almost simultaneously released games based on the movies Kaminey, Quick Gun Murugan and Aagey Se Right recently through a tie-up with UTV Motion Pictures, Zapak, a Reliance ADA group-owned company, has come with ones based on films like 13B, Luck By Chance and Aa Dekhen Zara.

“The market size of gaming is about Rs 200 crore as in 2008, and in the next three years it should be four times larger going by the massive increase in data access services. Already many people have phones that have GPRS, but they don’t use it, but once GPRS usage becomes as popular as SMS, the gaming market will really explode,” says Samir Bangara, Indiagames COO. Of this film-based games are going to corner a market share of 15-20 per cent in the next about 15 months, and soon that will be up to 25-30 per cent, he says. And not just films, but even game zones dedicated to specific film stars have a big potential, if one goes by the response to the Salman Khan Zone created on Zapak. Says Arun Mehra, Chief Marketing Officer of Zapak Digital Entertainment Ltd, “Zapak started associations with the Bollywood world first by associating with the biggest stars in the industry – Salman Khan and Bipasha Basu. We created exclusive games around these stars as we wanted to give more to our users in gaming itself. The Salman Khan zone has recently touched 10 million gameplays,  which is a huge achievement.”

The nature of film-based games naturally depend on the theme of the film. So, the game inspired by Vishal Bhardwaj’s Kaminey matches the film’s action-packed theme, with chases, fighting cops and  taking risks populating various levels. And to give the player an adrenalin rush, he or she gets to don the avatar of Charlie, the ‘bad’ Shahid Kapur! The game based on Quick Gun Murugan replicates the South Indian cowboy’s ways with the gun, with players getting to play on his misadventures, their shooting speed and reaction time getting tested. The game based on the film Cash similarly is an adventure game going with its theme, while child-friendly games developed out of the themes of Bal Ganesh and Bhoothnath successfully targeted the children with their themes. Giving variety are games like the one developed out of Saas Bahu Aur Sensex, where the player gets to dabble in investments in property, mutual funds, stocks, etc., or the one based out of Karzzzz, reflecting the movies reincarnation theme, asks players to reconstruct the broken pieces of the protagonist’s past life, or for that matter, the one created out of Luck by Chance, which, as the theme goes, is about luck and the roll of dice.

“Movies in India have a huge fan following and it gives us an excellent opportunity to extend the experience of films like Kaminey, Quick Gun Murugan and Aagey Se Right to the user’s mobile screen, giving the fans and core gamers alike an opportunity to relive these films while on the move,” says Bangara, whose company, with tie-ups with over 80 telecom operators in 67 countries claims to have a 55 per cent market share in the mobile gaming industry in India.

But not all movies can possibly have games based on them. As Mehra explains, the concept has to be such that it can be integrated into a game, which means action flicks, sports based movies or suspense thrillers would generally make good games. “The basic idea is to give the user a virtual experience of the film by capturing its essence,” says he. The life of movie-based games, quite obviously, depends on the performance of the game, but that is not always the rule. Mehra says, “Once the movie is off the theatres, if the gameplay is exciting and engaging, people come to back to play it. In fact, games extend the life of a movie by providing an experience for the end user capturing the essence of it even after its theatre screen life.” But the fact is that a movie-based game has its biggest visibility while the movie is playing at the theatres, which is why, Mehra says, a game is promoted heavily about two weeks before the release of the film. “Film-based games gain instant popularity close to the release of a particular movie as the life of the movie is short lived. Non-film games work better in the long run as they are a part of our catalogue for a longer period,” he says.

The logic behind choosing a film for game development depends on how the theme can be developed for gaming. As Bangara says, “The strength of a good game designer lies in his capacity to create a good game on almost any subject. For example, for Ghajini we did a memory-based game and also an action game, and it proved to be enormously successful. For  Kaminey, we worked on its association with horse racing. Usually action, racing and cricket are the most popular themes. We take inputs from producers and directors and pick up themes and build them into games.”

Indiagames has about 20-22 film-based games in its kitty, and plans to launch another 15-18 this year. “While the Ghajini game has been most successful so far, games based on Jodhaa Akbar and Quick Gun Murugan have been quite popular,” says Bangara. His company is also developing games based on Ram Gopal Varma’s upcoming Rann as well as Wake Up Sid and Main Aur Mrs Khanna, while its earlier successful games include the one based on Munnabhai MBBS. Another one just released is based on Ashutosh Gowariker’s What’s Your Rashee?, which capitalizes on the internationally popular dating and dressing up game formats, and David Dhawan’s Do Knot Disturb.

But it is not only Bollywood-based games that are attracting gamers. Zapak, for example, has hoted games based on Hollywood movies too, apart from a game based on Tamil hit Kireedom which did pretty well. With the craze for films replicating onto the gaming world, and with mobile devices and the Internet penetrating the interiors of the country more and more, the future looks only rosy in this wedding of gaming and movies. 

(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 11-10-2009)


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