HOW TO DEVELOP CASUAL MOBILE GAME INDUSTRY IN BANGLADESH

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In 2016, the Global game industry stands at $99.6 Bn. However, despite the tremendous potential, we failed to capitalise this growing market. As of 2016, our total revenue from games has not reached $5 Million in one year. At this rate, we shall also miss the opportunity to capture our Bangladesh market, valued at $15m+. In sharp contrast game companies from India and Sri Lanka are capturing their local market and expanding into the international market. For example Indian, Mobile Game Studio Nazara Games reported a revenue of $33 Million in FY 2015-16 (47% of that revenue coming from Indian Market).

 

As an industry insider, I think we are not growing because of three primary reasons:

  1. Our entrepreneurs are talented but lack focus, patience and long-term vision.
  2. We have a critical shortage of funding in Bangladesh. Very few local investors understand the game industry and want to invest in it.
  3. Lack of Game studio friendly policies.

So First let’s discuss focus and long-term vision. We as an industry right now should only focus on Casual Mobile Games. I shall give my justifications in a while. However, first let us discuss game industry in general, we divide our industry into three major segments:

PC Games – Comprises of all hardcore PC games, Massively Multiplayer Online Games, Casual Web Games and VR games (HTC hive and Oculus Rift)

Console Games – Xbox, Playstation, Wii, Apple TV games and VR Games (Playstation VR)

Mobile Games– Android, iOS games and VR games (Samsung Gear VR/ Google Daydream)

Note that; VR is not a segment on its own. Rather it is a piece of pie for all three sections.

Although Mobile Games currently accounts for only 37% of the global games market, it is the fastest growing and largest of all three segments. In 2013, total revenue from Mobile games was $17.5 Billion. Fast forward to 2016, it more than doubled to $36.9 Billion. This sudden boom is caused by Southeast Asia’s (Especially China) appetite for Mobile games. And the trend suggests that the next growth shall be fueled by India and subcontinent in general. So situated in Bangladesh, gives us a competitive advantage.

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Now before we discuss why should only focus on casual games, let us first dig down into games in general. Games are divided into Hardcore/Core Games and Casual Games. Core games are primarily intended for seasoned gamers and game hobbyists. Primary characteristics of Core games:

  • Storyline: Typically hardcore mobile games follow a central niche story. This helps the player to feel more connected to the game.
  • Great Graphics and Effects: Hardcore Games usually try to push the boundary of modern mobile phones and tablet. Moreover, even an iPhone 6 can outperform a PS3, leaving a lot on the table for us the game developers.
  • More elements but less innovative gameplay: Core games usually wow their players by adding many features to the game. However, the game mechanics stays very basic.
  • Paid games and priced in the zone of $4.00-14.99. Some of these games are free, but they soon become unplayable if you do not.

Examples of Hardcore Mobile Games: Infinity Blade, Unkilled, Asphalt, Submerged.

A casual game is targeted at a mass audience. Their simple rules typically distinguish them. Casual games require no long-term time commitment or special skills to play. Primary characteristics of Casual games:

  • Simple Gameplay one, two or maximum three interactions in a game.
  • Short game sessions. Allowing people to play during lunch breaks, in between meetings or on public transport.
  • Very familiar gameplay but interesting game mechanics.
  • Free to play or priced not more than a Starbucks coffee. Moreover, the free ones come with advertisements and various in-app purchases.

Examples of Casual Games: All games from Ketchapp, Noodlecake, Boombit and many other publishers.

So why as an industry, we should only target Casual Mobile Games:

  • Lower entry barrier: Casual games are easier to make. An ideal casual game developer team consists of only three people ( One Unity/cocos2d/Unreal Programmer, One blender artist and a game designer cum app marketer). The hardware requirement is also manageable. Two decent Desktop (Core i5,16GB Ram, GTX 970 and 256 SSD) and a testing device are all you need to start.
  • Availability of Technical Resources: We have great talent in the market that is ready for casual games. Casual games do not require extensive optimisations, unlike core games.
  • Short Production Cycle: Casual games have a production time of 3 to 6 Months. So we can test the market quickly, learn from our mistakes and improve.
  • Marketing and Analysis: A lot of a game’s success depend on its marketing strategy. For a successful campaign of a core game, it at least takes few hundred thousand dollars and much careful planning. The analytics used on a core game like lifetime value calculation is very complicated. A casual game’s initial marketing can be done in less than $5,000.

Number’s at times can be deceiving. Seeing this chart, you may safely assume going for China, United States, Japan and South Korea and Taiwan market is an excellent idea. However, what this graph is not capturing is how localised China, Japan and South Korea and Taiwan markets are. It is virtually impossible for an international company to penetrate into these markets. The last international game that did well in the Japanese market is Clash of Clans using TV adverts. Also, the United States and United Kingdom’s market is chased by every big developer, making it tough to penetrate for a new company.

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I suggest our businesses go for the soft belly of Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico and Western Europe (Germany, France, Italy and Spain). We should try to dig deep into our particular user niches. For each game we create, we should have a user segment like this.

segment

We should also localise our games. For example, if we are releasing a game in December targeting France, we should think about adding some X-Mas elements and also the app description and other marketing content should have a French version.

Now coming back to Investment and Policy level issues, let’s first talk about Funding issues. In general, we have a shortage of funding in IT sector of Bangladesh. However, we game studios suffer the most. As you can see from the chart, game studios require substantial investment on Human Resource, Hardware and Marketing.

Due to significant efforts from ICT Division, BASIS and Government- We now have a good availability of Mobile and Web Application developers. Making it comparatively easy to build a Product and Service-based IT company. However, we have to invest heavily on first train our programmers, artists and developers. We also have to equip them with state of the art hardware. Moreover, once our games are build, we need to market them heavily requiring a right amount of upfront investment.

Company Type Human Resource Cost Hardware Cost Marketing Cost
Software as Service Company Low Low Low
Product Base Company High Low High
Game Studios High High High

 

So for the growth of the industry, I would urge our ICT Division to take few necessary steps:

Short Term:

Remove tax on Game Equipment needed for game development: Most of Computer accessories are now tax-free. However, still, we have to pay a premium for our game development hardware. For example, we use a dual 28inch monitor for our development. However, any monitor above 21.5 inches is taxed. We also have to pay import tax on Smartphones and Tablets. Moreover, the hardware importers charge extra for items like Graphics card and Power Supply. Making our total equipment cost around 35% more than our international competitors.

Allow us to import Robots and Drones: Drone and Robots are the next frontiers in gaming. If we can not get necessary hardware soon enough. Again we shall miss the first mover’s advantage in this segment. I would request ICT division to provide permits for game companies allowing them to import Drones and Robots in small limited quantity.

Short-term Funding Opportunities: ICT division should fund sound game studios through Innovation Fund.

Long Term:

Creating Assessment framework for Game Studios: Our studios need financial and regulatory support. However, it is crucial that the support go to the right studios. So first step should be creating an assessment framework that can capture the right matrixes and help the best studios. For example rather than looking at fixed assets, bank transactions and years of establishment, the new framework should search for matrices like the number of games, the number of downloads, quality of download (Country, platform), retention rate, average earning, team strength and industry relationship.

Industry placement training: Once a framework is created, ICT division can co-finance right studios to train new developers, designers and artists.

Make transfer of funds easier: Allow us to transfer fund to an ad network or other paid marketing tool.

In summary ,there are no doubts that we have great potential in gaming. Few of our studios are now getting noticed worldwide. ‘The Mascoteers’ an Australian-Bangladeshi game studio is now working directly with Google. ‘Gameover Studio’ (where I work) got a global feature from Apple. So I can tell, our programmers, designers and artists are world class. However, we need support from investors and policy makers. Every dollar spends on a proper game studio can bring at least twenty for the country. However, yes the key here is ‘proper’.
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This article was also published in ‘The Financial Express’- Anniversary Issue 2016, 2nd Installment.

About the Author:

photo_zamil

Zamilur Rashid, Apple Featured Game Designer.

Founder and CEO, Gameover Studio.

Can be reached at zamil@gameover.studio