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Games People Play

Game sales are rapidly outpacing movie ticket sales, but it's games with a social feature that are scoring heavily online.
twitter-logoChitra Narayanan | Print Edition: May 10, 2015
Games with social feature scoring heavily online

So relentless has been Candy Crush's march - it has 66 million players worldwide - and its London-based developer King's grip on the games market that it has prompted the founder of Zynga (the company that created the Facebook sensation Farmville and games like Poker) Mark Pincus to come back to lead his company. Once a market leader, Zynga floundered as it did not anticipate the mobile revolution and Pincus ceded way to a professional CEO, Don Mattrick. Pincus' return, however, has surprised analysts, who wonder whether he can really change the game for Zynga.

It takes little to disrupt the games industry, but the trends are clear. Games research company Newzoo forecasts that in 2015 mobile game revenues will zoom past those of console games for the first time. As per Newzoo, globally, one billion hours daily are spent on games - five times the amount of time spent on YouTube or Facebook. Newzoo's research shows game sales will rise to $102.9 billion by 2017 from an estimated $91.95 billion in 2015 and $81 billion the year before.

"The present and future of games are mobile," says Parikshit Madishetty, founder and MD of Grid Logic Software. The game money development company provides support to casino and social games (it's through their product that users pay money to play the games) in the UK. But as the scene shifts to mobiles, social integration is becoming important. Indeed, mobile games with a social plug-in feature, which means you need to log in through a social network, are ruling the playlist. Social plug-ins, says Madishetty, help the game development company capture the demographics of the players. "It helps us track the user, what kind of user is he, the age group and the gender." The other advantage of social plug-ins is that push notifications and in-game appointment reminders can be sent to users to rejoin the game. The more the players come back, and the longer they play, the more the monetisation. This is where Candy Crush Saga scored. It's viral and offers deep social interactions requiring friends to help each other in order to progress. Angry Birds too tried being a social game on Google+ Games platform but it was a half-hearted attempt.

Madishetty says social games earn revenue either through virtual or real currency, which players use to get to the next level of the game when they can't crack a certain level, or through advertising revenue. He says brands that do in-app advertising on gaming platforms have become smarter, as they weave in their ads into the games. "Brands have moved from impressions to engagement. So you might be forced to view those ads to collect those chips needed to get ahead in the game."

Grid Logic has now launched its own game - Taj Rummy - in India. The Indian version of the 13-card game can be played on handheld devices as well as desktops. Madishetty says 90 per cent of the users return to play the game again. Most gamers are between 25 and 35 years and 40 per cent gamers are women, he adds.

At a time when other online ventures are struggling to monetise, gaming companies seem to be scoring better. Already, many have migrated to the next level - putting video experiences into the game!


LISTENING POST

Linking up with Lynda

LinkedIn is stepping up the value chain with its $1.5 billion acquisition of skills development company Lynda. com. From simply being a professional networking site connecting jobseekers to job givers, LinkedIn has now become a one-stop place where not only can candidates hunt for jobs but upgrade their skills. As Ryan Roslanksy, Head of Global Content Products at LinkedIn, posted: "Imagine being a jobseeker and being able to instantly know what skills are needed for available jobs .. and then be prompted to take the relevant course to help you acquire this skill." Lynda.com offers its members access to 128,000 training videos on business, software, technology and creative skills. It seems like a win-win partnership.

Reliance gets Chatty

After homegrown messenger app Hike launched by Sunil 'Airtel' Mittal's son Kavin, it's the turn of Mukesh Ambaniowned Reliance Jio Infocom to foray into the space with Jio Chat. Launched on iOS and Android platforms, Jio chat looks quite similar to WhatsApp. Though it does have some additional features such as group video calls and 'send a doodle'. But the acid test is in whether it can attract users away from other chat apps they are comfortable with. Facebook-owned WhatsApp has a formidable 700 million monthly active users. Tencent-owned WeChat has 468 million active users, while Hike has just 35 million so far.

Saavn Strikes a Sharing Chord

Music streaming app Saavn has added new social and sharing features to its service. Users can now follow their friends' or celebrities' playlists and tune into their activities. They can also tag friends in songs and playlists and those tagged can comment on the music. A lot can happen over music!

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