Akmal shares opportunities, urges Indian cos to focus on specialisation, core teams

NASSCOM Animation & Gaming India 2007: Session Wise Coverage
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THQ VP for Interactive Operations Shiraz Akmal
The keynote by THQ VP for Interactive Operations Shiraz Akmal, was eagerly anticipated and Akmal delivered bang on target. Akmal oversees the central divisions of THQâ€?s product development organization including External Development Group (XDG), Motion Capture, Quality Assurance, Localization, Music, Audio and Customer Service. “THQ is a top of the league publisher and is a publicly listed company. We had 950 Million US$ revenue in 06. 50% of our revenues are from the US, rest are from international. We are keenly observing and involving with emerging territories like India, China and Eastern Europe” began Akmal. “Every single business in the world will admit to the fact that 40% of the world is waking up and embracing capitalism and driving consumer spending as well as joining the global workforce. The consuming class in India is growing from 35 Million to 80 Million, which is the same as the US consuming class. There is no reference framework for the games business in India and thatâ€?s a plus since you have no boundaries that bind” he added. “THQ is interested where the talent is” he said, “And where the talent is, thatâ€?s where we want to set up the studio. We are not very interested in relocating the talent. As of now we donâ€?t have a studio in India but it is on my radar. I have already budgeted for next year for my team to come to NASSCOM” remarked Akmal. Commenting on the dominant gaming platforms in India/Asia, Akmal shared “The marketing and TV Commercials of Zapak.com that I see are very encouraging. In terms of India, I think that the mobile (gaming) business is going to be huge. We are also big believers in Online Most of the western culture gaming companies are not doing very well in markets like Korea, since we are selling packaged goods. Now we are focusing a lot on online for Asia He was also very clear about the fact that the passion of talented individuals and core teams was the fuel that drove this business. Addressing the emerging breed of Gaming IP aspirants amongst the audience, he said “No matter which geography you are from and no matter what your team size is, at the end of the day what matters is how good you are at doing what you do. Focus on specialization and try and become the worldâ€?s best on something! Please keep in mind, that in essence, a studio is always built around core key talent and I am not talking about huge headcounts of 50/500 people. I am talking about just maybe five key people with experience, exposure, expertise and passion to drive the whole thing” On the outsourcing side of things, Akmal pointed out, “The global market is growing and the development costs are rising. As per the NASSCOM report released yesterday, Game Development is going to be a $43 billion Industry worldwide by 2010. Nearly 60% of games development work is outsourced today. India is embracing the convergence” “Games studios are notorious for having not so great process. Outsourcing to us is not just about saving money, but also about us figuring our process on how we build our games, since when we outsource, the planning and process definition element goes up” “However I must point out” shared Akmal, “That often we get pitches that plank on scalability and process, but you have to first understand the game development process. You cannot really apply a process to something you donâ€?t know yourself. It is necessary to be realistic about your capabilities and to be very honest. While to make the outsourcing business, a feasible model, many of the companies in India are going for scale and large headcounts, Iâ€?d recommend that we need to begin with baby steps in building outsourcing relationships. The focus has to be on doing something really really well” OPPORTUNITIES FOR INDIA Akmal next highlighted the various opportunities that were waiting to be tapped in India. “Amongst the common things outsourced include Localization, Cinematics, Sound and Music Testing, Engineering and Middleware and Game Art and Assets” he said. “Game engineering is a very important component of game development, every game uses some sort of a middleware which enables and enhances the game play. Surprisingly in spite of the high level of engineering expertise in India, very little game engineering work is done here. There is a tremendous opportunity for India in Middleware development and Game engineering” “Remember that Games are not just about Graphics. 50% of our development work has everything to do with windows tools and applications that we build and customize to help create our games. For example, level editors and optimizers. There is a big opportunity there for windows applications programmers. Companies could take that route to build relationships with gaming companies” he further added. Akmal urged the Indian Game developers and publishers that were creating their own IP and products to not follow the west but to think different. “Micro transactions are yet another marvelous thing to look out for. I would urge Indian developers to think of different, innovative ideas to get games into the market here. Donâ€?t follow what we have been doing. Can you incorporate user generated content, crowd sourcing which means getting thousands of micro freelancers to build bits and pieces of your game. Think of you can use P2P networks to make things bigger There is a growing segment of the population that has the time and money to spend” “An encouraging thing i see is web 2.0 being used by Indian companies and Kreeda and Games2Win are great examples” he exclaimed. EMERGING TRENDS IN GAMING GLOBALLY Akmal also shared a few trends that were emerging in gaming globally. Talking about how conferences and gaming industry events were being held all over the globe and gaining in prominence, Akmal shared “Another global trend is the growth of the market as well as development hubs across the globe. We have so many game related events and conferences across the world now. Tokyo Games Show, China Joy, German Game Show, GSTAR in Korea, NASSCOM Summit in India and so on” “I was happy to hear that the government out here is interested in setting up an academy. The setting up of Gaming and Animation schools and academies by various governments is again a trend that I see around the world. Sharing a slide which showed a Korean Gaming school, Akmal pointed out that this school had a play station on every desk! “Adver-gaming is yet another emerging trend. We have some games which are not even complete which will boast of a lot of innovative in game advertising. THQ has done about a Million $ worth of adver-gaming. As a publisher we see adver-gaming as an additional margin to our revenues” he pointed out. “Today we see technology companies like NVIDIA work hand in hand. Game development involves advanced 3D Graphics, mega sized teams, high capacity data storage, online integration and increasingly we we are seeing gaming on every single platform and device” said Akmal. “The budgets for games range from thousands of tens of millions of US$” he added. “Asia and Europe are the emerging new markets for games. The demographics and consumer base for games is keeping on expanding. As gamers get older, they continue playing games even as new ones are added. The demo is getting younger too with kids learning how to use the PC even as they begin to learn the alphabet” Chances are that you show this article to a 3 year old kid and he may not be able to read or understand it. Show him a game and probably heâ€?s already a champ. And thatâ€?s the scope of the Gaming Industry which will well be the universal language of the morrow. connect@animationxpress.com
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