There are scores of Indian gaming companies, but there are two things they seldom do: one, make money from a gaming app and two, create a gameplay that is completely based on Indian content. That is why ACY Entertainment is different. Their game LoA – Legend of Abhimanyu, is arguably the only game with an Indian theme and gameplay offering console quality gaming on mobile.
ACY Entertainment, named after the founders Ashok Kumar, Chuck Web and Yogesh Sharma, was launched a few years ago with a clear aim to create “beautifully crafted” games to visually impress the players. LoA, which took a couple of years for the 15-person Noida-based team to develop, does not leave much doubt about the creative capabilities of the teams involved.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference in San Jose, Sharma says there was a clear lack of content from an Indian perspective. “Mahabharata is a topic which no one has touched till now. And this is such a topic, which has so much depth and can be gamified for many years,” he adds.
The iOS-only action adventure game focuses on the death of Abhimanyu, what was clearly the most important incident of the 18-day-long war in the Mahabharata. “So we put together fights in the popular hack and slash format along with puzzles based on the chakravyuh,” add Sharma. Since there was a lot of work going into the art and animation, a decision was taken to make this a premium game. “We have tried to offer console type quality with 3D models.”
The game went live in March, and is priced at Rs 400 on the App Store. While the game has been able to rake in some critical acclaim, but it has not been a big commercial success. This is not surprising given the pricing, and the fact that Indian users don’t really pay for games. This has prompted the company to work on a sequel, which will be ad-funded and with a freemium model.
“That is the challenge, especially with the payment mechanism. People have the capability to pay, but don’t have credit cards or don’t trust the payment mechanism.” Giving an idea of how bad the situation is, Sharma says they would top the charts on days they hit 100 downloads, suggesting not a lot of Indians were buying paid apps.
There are lots of games with Indian characters, but most of them just copy their gameplay from successful global models. But LoA, with its own gameplay based on the story and the Indian context, had its job cut out.
“Bringing in contemporary art styles and recreating the war scenes with thousands of characters was challenging,” says Sharma, adding his team was able to do justice because of the amount to research and time spent on the same. Sharma accepts while some moves and fighting styles might seem similar to other games, it has been Indianised to make it sync with the context. He says this is the first game to showcase archery on a chariot as well as a freeze frame mode for players.
Interestingly, LoA has been able to capture the attention of non-Indian users too. “The response from India and outside has been equal and this has been beyond the diaspora,” adds Sharma. He thinks the haptic feedback which was added in September has added a different experience for users.
ACY Entertainment, which does web developments for other companies, is confident of bringing in new technology like augmented reality in the near future. Now, for the sequel Sharma is now hopeful that the ad-funded freemium model might actually drive people to the ad-free paid version.