In early 2013, a certain Indian card game arrived on the app market. Since then, it has been giving gaming giants like Clash of Clans and Candy Crush Saga a run for their money. Teen Patti, published by Octro Inc., has been on the Top 5 Grossing games list on Google Play Store since its launch and has garnered over 32 million users.
The reason can’t be any simpler.
“Indians have been playing Teen Patti for generations now. We simply presented the game on a mobile platform,” says Saurabh Aggarwal, CEO, Octro Inc. “Our approach is simple. We have been releasing games that people play often. We have never tried to bring out anything which was a new concept for the users. Therefore, our games click so well in the Indian market.”
Octro Inc – The early years
Saurabh Aggarwal, a Stanford graduate and self-proclaimed ‘non gamer’, launched Octro Inc. back in 2006. “We were essentially dealing with communication,” says Aggarwal. Octro brought out text based messengers incorporated with VoIP. By 2008, they introduced video calling as well.
“By 2012, we realised that the market has matured and there were enough developers tinkering with VoIP. We needed to stand out. Later that year, we went into gaming,” says Aggarwal.
“We didn’t have much knowledge about gaming. We decided to look at it as a technological problem and planned to play to our strength,” says Aggarwal. Initially, Octro looked at developing a gaming platform for other game designers to build upon. “We were trying to solve the problem of multiple users playing the game at same time. We also facilitated all other goodies like sending push notifications, allowing in-app purchases, etc.”
A few months down the line, Aggarwal decided to bring out Octro’s own game. “We wanted to understand the complications better and we started developing our own games. Eventually, we fell in love with the process of making games and so we brought out SWEEP, our first game, which was based on another north Indian card game.”
Teen Patti – Staying on top
Teen Patti was an instant hit. Each day, more than 100,000 people played the game online. “We peaked at around 10 pm every night. It was a tense situation for us,” says Aggarwal. “We were afraid that we might lose the traffic any moment now. So, we used to add hardware, continuously upscaling the technology so as to ensure a continuous traffic. We wanted to ensure a smooth experience for our players.”
The reason why most games fail to stay popular for a large period of time is because after a point of time, it stops offering anything new to the player. According to Aggarwal, Teen Patti and other Octro games (like Carrom Live) has the advantage of offering new challenges and a new experience every time the game is played. “Every single hand you are dealt in Teen Patti is new. You get to play with new players every single time you play Carrom Live. No two matches will ever be the same.”
Octro also ensures that it reaches out to the various sects of the Indian market. Teen Patti has recently been updated with a language pack that supports English, Hindi, Marathi and Gujarati.
“When you play an Octro game, you can see how well we manage the social aspect of the game,” says Aggarwal. “Not only do you get to play against your friends and other live users, you get push notifications whenever your friend comes online. We also have a well managed leaderboard. The social aspect of the game has been one of our most valuable assets and we ensure our users get the best experience.”
Gaming in India – The days to come
India has seen a digital boost in the recent years. The number of smartphone users have gone up drastically and the users are slowly warming up to paying online (thanks to the e-commerce boom). But, are Indian developers really earning well from their games?
Says Aggarwal: “The conversion rate of users have been much lower than the global standards. It probably stands at 1/50th of global numbers. Even though this is incredibly low, we make up with the number of users we have.”
“Right now, the users only have the option of paying through credit cards, whenever they make an in-game purchase (both in Google Store and iOS market). However, if there are 120 million connected smartphone users in India, there are only 19 million credit card holders in the country. Therefore, we are missing out on 100 million potential sources.”
Aggarwal is hopeful that as the problems of payment and connectivity is solved, India has the chance of becoming a booming gaming market.
“Our main competitors are top western developers like King and Supercell. However, we have proved with Teen Patti and now with Carrom Live, which has gathered over a million registered users in two months, that there is always a good market for properly developed Indian content,” says Aggarwal. “We need to ensure that all the Indian developers contribute in the growth by bringing out original and fresh content.”