Friday, February 23, 2007

Gaming on the go

We talked with Salil Bhargava, CEO, Jump Games, to understand the future of mobile gaming and the role Jump Games is playing to popularise it

Despite everything, Sony’s Playstation and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 is doing a great favour to us, as they are responsible for spreading and popularising video games in India and we thank them for that. Salil Bhargava does not mince his words when he says this, even if it amounts to praising his rival companies, Bhargava himself being the CEO of a gaming company called Jump Games.
Not quite, Bhargava explains. “There is no competition between Jump Games and Microsoft or Sony. The focus of Jump Games is mobile platform whereas Playstation or Xbox are consoles.” Both, however, are the part of the world of video games.
A video game typically involves user/player interaction with a controller interface to generate visual feedback on a video screen. The various types of electronic devices that video games are played on are known as platforms and examples of these are personal computers and video game consoles. As Bhargava explains, there are three major platforms for video games, personal computers or consoles, online and mobile. And for each of these, the designs of the games are different.
And Jump Games specialises in games for cell phones. “Cell phones are no longer the communication device. Instead, it has developed into a multi-functional entertainment device, with music, video and games becoming important aspects of a mobile handset.” Bhargava illustrates. “Therefore, there is a constant demand for new and exciting games on the mobile platform and our company provides them.”
To begin with Jump Games is a leading publisher spearheading the evolution of game design and development across Web and Mobile platforms. Besides being affiliated with global associations like Sun’s iForce initiative and Forum Nokia PRO, Jump Games has partnered with leading content owners, publishers, mobile operators, handset manufacturers and technology providers like Intel, Coca-Cola, Sony Ericsson, ICTV (HeadendWare), Sun, Walt Disney India, Virgin Comics, Pixiem, Miniclip Games, Kato Studios, Big Fish Games, Qualcomm, LG, and Conitec for its gaming initiatives.
The company has already proved its mettle is providing quality products, which reflects in its award-winning games, such as Final Front, a 10-player strategy war game that won the M1 Nokia IMS Challenge.
Fuelling concepts for these ground-breaking games is the domain expertise of Jump’s 140+-strong multi-disciplinary, cross-skilled team housed at state-of-the-art production house at Mumbai. The team comprises game designers, concept artists, 2D and 3D graphic artists, modelers, programmers, project managers, game testers, and creative writers. Expanding operations internationally, the company has opened an office at Stockholm recently.
After Stockholm, the company has set up an office in Pune as well. But why Pune? “It’s the part of our expansion plans,” informs Bhargava. The city’s proximity to Mumbai is another factor why Jump Games decided to open shop here. “Again, there are tremendous amount of skilled manpower available in Pune. We wanted to tap those talents.”
But the company is not selling their products on the shelves, like other console and PC based games, where customers can just visit a shop and pick up a games off the shelves.
No. The company is not on the forefront when it comes to selling the products. The company deals with the mobile service providers on a revenue sharing basis. The service providers offer the games for download on a mobile handset and for every download, Jump Games earns a share.
“That is because mobile gaming isn’t yet very popular in India." But for Bhargava, the future holds tremendous potential. Unlike places like United States and Japan, video games are not yet very popular in India. But slowly, people are taking interest in video games (thanks to the aggressive marketing strategy of Microsoft, among other things!). Yet, it’s very unlikely that in our fast-paced life, we will find enough time to spend in from of a console. This is where the mobile platform comes to play a big role. The ‘anywhere’ factor of the cell phone gives mobile gaming the extra edge. Unlike PC or console games, mobiles games are shorter and crispier and more user-friendly. You can play them anyhow, anywhere. “Therefore, the future of mobile gaming has unlimited potential.”
And surely, the industry can rise despite the competition from the other kinds of video games. “Actually, there’s no competition,” Bhargava states. “As opposed to 1 million users of mobile games, there are 100 million users of gaming consoles. Again, the experience of gaming in both the platforms is very different. So, one cannot replace the other.”
Gaming, however, is a serious business and enticing people to stick to their mobile platform is another tricky task.
For this, Jump Games has hit upon the idea of celebrity games. At the time of football World Cup, they launched a game on Baichung Bhutia. They have also launched games on other celebrities, such as Sameera Reddy, Madhavan, Bappi Lahiri and so on. Recently, the company joined hands with Malaika Arora-Khan for yet another celebrity game.
On the personal front, Bhargava has led the company into being a cutting-edge, sophisticated brand in the gaming space. Before joining Jump Games, Bhargava has had an extensive experience working with leading organisations like in India and NBC Internet and internationally. He holds a MBA degree from Eli Broad Graduate School of Management, Michigan.
Last, not certainly the least important question, as a CEO of a gaming company, does Salil Bhargava plays games. “Yes, why not. Currently everyone in our office is hooked to the game called Call of Duty.”
Talking about duty, Salil Bhargava is performing his, in making India play it cool, in their mobile handsets.


History of Video Games

The history of video games traces to 1948, where the idea of a video game was conceived and patented by Thomas T. Goldsmith Jr. and Estle Ray Mann. In 1958, the first video game was introduced to the public, William Higinbotham's Tennis for Two. Later in 1972, the Magnavox Odyssey was released, the first consumer-available video game console.

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