Thursday, January 28, 2010

IIMLucknow’s Gaming & Animation Conclave: 3D, Machinima, Farmville, Alpha & Omega & More

At a panel discussion organised on recent gaming and animation conclave ‘Chakravyuh’ held during IIM Lucknow’s Manfest 2010, CEOs of four companies launched into a whirlwind discussion on Machinima, Farmville, moms and games, Avatar and 3D animation movies, Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and the current scenario of the Indian gaming and animation sectors as they sought to entice budding managers at the B-school to join the industry.
Both the animation and gaming industries in India are not new – they have been around for over 5 years and as the panelists agreed, are not still by definition a “market” but remain a “space” with just 7 animation movies released per year in India now. So what has prevented the two sectors from success?
50% Success Rate For Animated Movies, The Multiplex Matter, Merchandising Opportunities
There are many challenges, issues and lessons learnt by entrepreneurs, and the panelists did well to bring them out in the open and discuss them. In ourprevious report of NASSCOM’s forum, we heard India was not ready yet for animation, about the high costs involved in developing an animation film compared to a camera based one and the low returns. At Chakravyuh, Jai Maroo, Director, Shemaroo Entertainment, however said, “The success rate of Hollywood movies is 30-35% whereas the success rate of animations is 50%.”
He informed the audience that Avatar had been scripted 12 years ago but was shelved for lack of sufficient funding and also because the technology to make a 3D animation movie had not come around yet. Technologies to deliver some ideas are just coming up now.
In India, Maroo added, the media involved are different – while theatre and TV contribute only 30% of revenue for a producer in other countries, this is at a whopping 90% in India. Yes, we still love going to the multiplexes rather than downloading a movie or buying a DVD. Merchandising has still not taken off in India too, and there are opportunities for entrepreneurs in this segment. “Spin off possibilities across the value chain make the future look good,” stated Maroo.
Poor Storytelling
Another factor halting the progress of the industry was the lack of animations targeted at the international market – Indians producers are not attempting to create them. Smita MarooVice President of Shemaroo Entertainment, said the problem was, “we are poor in our storytelling.” The creativity of Indians and our ability to produce content that can be understood by other cultures has not matured. We have just started to develop content for the domestic market – the likes of Bal Hanuman and Little Krishna, for example. These work well within our country but are not meant for the global audience. We have beautiful stories – the Mahabharata and the Ramayana – but can we mould/remix them to suit a larger audience?
Machinima & Crest’s 3D Movie
In answer to a student’s query if producers were looking at new concepts such as Machinima (Wikipedia entry), an animation technique that uses video game-like 3D graphics rendering engines to create animations, Maroo said that Machinima requires higher budgets and hence might not be viable for many low-budget Indian producers.

The Mumbai-based Crest Animation Studios is readying a 3D animation movie called Alpha and Omega(Wikipedia entry). This will be the first Indian 3D animation movie and is set for a global release in October this year, announced A K Madhavan, CEO India, Crest Animation Studios. Some of the studio’s projects so far can be viewed here.
Farmville, Moms, Paying For Games & The Next Generation
Though the Indian mobile gaming sector has gained momentum, online, PC and console gaming are still at a nascent stage. Games like Farmville have helped change the perception of games in India, said Rajesh Rao, CEO,Dhruva Interactive. From being regarded as primarily blood, gore and violence filled hobbies that were deemed unsuitable for children, the wide variety of casual games and online social networking related games are slowly being accepted as family and, more importantly, mom-friendly pass-times, said Quentin Staes-Polet, Co-Founder and CEO of Kreeda Games India. The discussion was that if mothers are convinced about games being a good hobby, the market will be able to open up as families begin to buy them for their children. But Smita Maroo warned that “moms are difficult to market to” and it will not be easy to win them over.
Rao proferred a fun tidbit – the popular soap opera Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi by Balaji Telefilms is already a game! If you know more, do inform us and we will be sure to add it.
But gaming companies are yet to find the right price tag and payment option that will boost gaming amongst children and teenagers who can not afford costly consoles and branded games. This might take a few generations to seep down to becoming part of our culture, with adults purchasing and playing games and then buying them for their children, nephews and nieces etc. When asked if global gaming firms are taking India seriously as a market yet, Rao answered with a negative.
The domestic gaming and animation industries continue to face challenges; lessons have been learnt and entrepreneurs are adapting: will they ameliorate themselves?

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