By Xav de Matos, Director of Editorial + Community | Follow @GamingInsiders on Twitter
The mobile market in India is booming, with a smartphone user base of 234 million expected by the end of 2017, according to a report from Vserv Smart Data. As developers and publishers sail toward the new blue ocean, developers within India continue to emerge to help grow the market and the region’s standing as a quality location for AAA game development.
SuperMonkeyFun is one such developer, with over a dozen Android games already at market; however, co-founders Kunal Joshi and Jayati Khulbe say their team’s real focus is the much lauded future of video game entertainment. SuperMonkeyFun wants to be a pioneer for VR game development from India.
Xav de Matos: SuperMonkeyFun recently launched its first virtual reality title, the mobile horror game Silent Home. How is it performing? What have you learned since launch?
SuperMonkeyFun: Silent Home launched in November 2015. Since then, the response has been overwhelming. Taking VR into account, we are getting almost 1,500-2,000 downloads everyday and we have been successful in maintaining the retention rate at around 65%.
We are continuously updating the app to give the best user experience. With number of Android devices increasing day by day, it sometimes becomes tedious to satisfy every customer. A small example would be – many Android devices doesn’tt come with gyro-censors, so to rectify this issue, we integrated the support for Bluetooth gamepad. We are learning something new every day.
What is the return on investment (ROI) in VR content creation as it stands today?
Right now Silent Home is a free app with in-app features integrated. Yes for now the ROI is low, but seeing the user’s response we are coming up with an update next week and we are pretty sure to be profitable soon. We are planning to release the game on Gear VR as a premium product very soon.
Where is VR technology today as you see it in terms of quality, user experience, entry costs, ect.?
VR is still a nascent technology. Lot of experiments are going on in the genre. Google has to work on Cardboard, especially the lenses. Also there need to be a work around on minimizing the dizziness factor.
Entry cost is quite high especially the fully immersive sets. Facebook has recently [announced] Rift at a price of $599, which is quite high.
Are you concerned about VR market growth considering the Oculus Rift’s announced price?
Regarding price, yes it is too high [especially] when there is not much content available in the Oculus store. I still see there will be many early adopters using this new headset to play games and will create their own VR Games groups and stir up the interest. The $599 price tag has been in debate too so I also think the Oculus price will drop further to create mass interest. A good comparison will be Unity which is a mass market gaming engine used by millions of developers compared to Unreal, which is a very niche high end product. Nvidia and AMD are working hard with their new chip set to support VR in the PC area.
What is the greatest challenge the medium of VR must overcome in the next five years?
Talking about games, one of greatest challenge VR is facing right now is a user feeling dizziness and nauseated during the gameplay. That’s why not many games have been released so far. Publishers prefer to release simple walkthroughs/videos instead of a game involving proper gameplay.
Also, the fully immersive set is too costly right now. There is great future to Virtual Reality if the prices will come down.
What is your vision for the future of virtual reality?
Keeping the past in mind, each market where Virtual Reality has been put to us, it has been a great hit. With named companies like Google, Facebook and Samsung working extensively in the area of VR, we think it will be a huge market in the next 5 years.
Needless to say, with the rate at which the genre has been able to strike an interest in the market and the amount of effort that is being put into it, VR could be the next big thing after the Smartphone.
Is mobile VR a continued focus in terms of your teams current development plans?
For Silent Home, we got 50,000 downloads with 4 star rating and 65% retention rate [during the first month]. We are proud to say that the downloads are completely organic and not even a penny was spent on marketing. Seeing this kind of response, we now have a dedicated team working on VR products. Our focus for now is mobile games only and we will be launching couple of VR IPs soon.
We are among the first few companies who are working on releasing mobile games on VR platform with proper gameplay integrated.
India has become the new blue ocean for publishers and developers of mobile games, in your estimation what is the potential for the market over the next few years?
According to a survey, India has almost 160 million smartphone users [which will] double by 2017. Low cost smartphone and rise in purchasing power are the main factors supporting the above stats. With 3G coming into picture and expanding even to rural areas as well, India is definitely going to be a huge market in next five years.
[Ed.Note: While SuperMonkeyFun did not specify the survey they were referring to, the numbers cited match that of Vserv’s Smartphone User Persona Report 2015.]
In China, it appears genres like card battle games and RPGs are king when examining sales data for the region. Have you identified specific genres that work best in the market of India? Has the market matured enough to have preferences like these?
On one side, strategy games like Clash of Clans are a hit among kids and youngsters; we have even seen casual games like Candy Crush and Chotta Bheem getting maximum traffic from India.
Also, the card games like Teen Patti are an extremely [big] hit among the Indian audience.
So the Indian audience has different preferences and taste when it comes to mobile games and right now it is very difficult to say which genre works best for the mobile game player of India.
Why set your sights on VR, a worldwide phenomenon with penetration that’s expected to be better outside emerging markets like India, versus focusing your attention on a potential 160 million and growing consumer base where you’re located?
[We] see India has a potential in this space. Virtual Reality is still a nascent technology and we are among the first few companies focused on building AAA VR games from India. Our game Silent Home is in top 40 globally with 4.1 star ratings and have generated 95,000 downloads to date, along with a 60% retention rate—all organic. Our studio is based in India but we are focused on building AAA global VR games and want to be the pioneer in VR space from India, being in India it helps as there is lot of hungry talent willing to do quality development.
This interview was edited for content. Visit SuperMonkeyFun’s official website for more.