We started off with a similar thought in mind and it was the App Store that enabled us to sit out of anywhere in the world, create games we knew people would love, and distribute it on their democratized platform. By now, we had already created global IPs which was a morale boost when we decided on enabling our gaming expertise closer to home.
The smartphone penetration in India was rising and we realized this was our opportunity to build games catered to our national audience.
This movie set the precedent for action-packed bike racing and we had the opportunity to replicate the same in an adrenaline pumping, 3D bike racer game: Dhoom: 3 The Game. We partnered with Yash Raj Films, India's pioneering integrated movie, media and entertainment conglomerate which owned the IP of this franchise.
The game was first launched on Microsoft Windows platform and performed exceptionally well. Soon after, we launched the game on Android and iOS and hosted an event where we first unveiled a game trailer, and then invited the stars of the movie, Aamir Khan and Katrina Kaif to play this game at the launch event in Mumbai on October 23, 2013. The game was a massive success and crossed 10 million downloads within few months of its release. Within a span of six months (an industry first), we launched a sequel of this game – Dhoom: 3 Jet Ski which crossed 5 million downloads. The lifetime downloads of the two games have cross 25 million, cementing its position as one of India's most successful games.
After successfully making our mark in the Indian Gaming arena, we collaborated with Yash Raj Films again to build their next movie-based game around the Shah Rukh Khan starrer - Fan.
Shah Rukh is known for his wit and charm, and is certainly a heart-throb - which made us decide on structuring the game mechanic that would appeal more to his female fan-base. Keeping this idea in mind, we built Fan: The Game, where players could charm, bluff, sneak and strike their way to meet Aryan (Shah Rukh) in a fascinating game of connections. We invited Shah Rukh to unveil the game trailer in a stadium (coincidentally at the college Shah Rukh studied) holding 10,000 of his screaming fans! What followed next was the game launch in a glittering ceremony at Yash Raj Films studio where thousands of his most ardent fans were invited from all over the world. The game showed strong monetization trends which was a surprising observation for us, despite not receiving great download numbers. We also tried several game contents and promos within the game that saw strong reception.
By now, we had a strategic understanding with Yash Raj Films to build innovative games around their future blockbuster movies - which is the reason behind our third collaboration for the Salman Khan starrer, Sultan. This game was created very different from the previous two. We got the team of YRF involved right from conceptualization to ensure the game appealed better to Salman's fans.
This game was modeled around Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), where players could kick, punch and defend across 60 levels of in-ring action filled combat. Since such a genre was a first for us, we decided to have a pre-release version which had over 100,000 registrations. We later managed to reach 10 million downloads in just a few months, credits to our marketing team and YRF.
You may be wondering, '3 Games. 3 Khans. 3 Bollywood genres' - this was an orchestrated entry to figure out what would work and what wouldn't in the Indian context. We were successful creating games for a global audience, but the real challenge was creating games for the Indian audience. Their interests vary every region. Research suggested that the media content and a vast majority of people's interests are dominated by ABCD (Astrology, Bollywood, Cricket & Devotion), and we were fortunate to have landed an opportunity, or three, in the Bollywood genre. In fact, all three games performed so well, it featured in App Annie's report of 2016 mentioning its breakthrough into the Top 10 Game Rankings by Downloads in India. And Sultan: The Game got a special mention since it maintained its download rankings even after the movie was released. There is no fixed template to user acquisition or monetization. While word-of-mouth was very strong with such games, consumers are wary of downloading large games. Monetization via IAP was extremely challenging, so working with brand partners was crucial.
That being said, our journey in the Indian gaming arena is just beginning. Our prior endeavors were a learning curve - as we immersed ourselves into each project, we unearthed excellent growth hacks, and gleaned long-term strategic outcomes through all these experiments. Our experience in running Star Chef has also given us an incremental understanding of building and running a successful live-ops game.
In India, the key to building something mega successful lies with an Indian Artisan who carefully blends global quality standards and strong storytelling around Indian cultures and sentiments. And that's how 99Games's India story will pan out. We have the expertise in building games that have succeeded globally, and Bollywood IPs that gave us an acclaimed breakthrough in the Indian gaming market - the path ahead will have us building our own original games for the Indian masses.