There's an excellent piece on the challenges faced by mobile gaming in India at this present moment, written from a user's perspective, on the blog Youth Curry. The blogger, Rashmi Bansal, runs India's leading youth magazine -JAM - and is a keen observer of media/marketing trends in contemporary India. She writes of the challenges faced by her in getting the Don game that she's downloaded on to her cellphone to work, and using that as a take off point, comments on a wide range of Indian mobile gaming issues. Some samples:
(Writing about Rei, a game by Mauj)....The game itself is a snake adaptation where a Hello-Kitty kind of girl-character goes around collecting hearts. And there is no challenge in terms of higher levels, speed, or difficulty either. I can see even my 7 year old daughter getting bored of this in a jiffy.
The gaming companies can themselves identify and promote select titles which have wide appeal. Additionally, they should send out mobile games to be previewed and/ or reviewed by the media - the way audio companies send CDs or movie companies invite journalists to press shows. Given that youth is the target audience, even bloggers could be enlisted. The point being if the game is good, the ensuing positive recommendations will drive downloads. And if it's bad, well, those are the games which could be sold cheaply. And feedback would be valuable when developing games in the future.
Read the whole post here.
The way I see it, with mobile games, as with gaming in India in general, the challenge for the game companies lies in figuring out how they want to treat the games they offer - as a service or as a commodity. Even if they're treating them as a commodity, to be churned out, sold in enough numbers and then forgotten as their attention shifts to the next product, it is to their advantage to produce games with compelling content, and ease of use. However, wouldn't it be wiser for them to treat what they offer as a service? Here's a great chance for a game company to build a brand based on qualities like comfort, reliability, ease of use, courtesy and prompt attention in case of problems experienced, etc. If any of these companies can crack this (and Indiagames might have a lead start in India from what Rashmi writes), then they go beyond being mere content providers... they become entertainment brands in their own right. And in an era of choice, if I'm ecstatic with one gaming experience chances are that I'm going to continue patronizing the brand that provides me with that experience - just like I do with my airline, or hotel, or favourite film director.
Herein lies the challenge for the Maujs and the Indiagames of today (and I would imagine, for other global mobile game companies too): they need to stop thinking small, focus on brand building, and reimagine themselves from a neighbourhood tailor mentality (making salwar suits for aunties and 'didis') to that of a Westside or Provogue or Polo Ralph Lauren.