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BW Businessworld

Looking To Invest In Promising Startups – Ludo King Founders

Ludo King is India’s first and among the world’s top three most downloaded games. The game’s publisher Gametion’s Founder and CEO Vikash Jaiswal, and Managing Director and Co-Founder, Soni Kumari, speak on challenges, future investment plans, and more in this conversation with BW Businessworld’s Ojasvi Nath.

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Propelled by the lockdown in 2020, Ludo King emerged among the gaming apps that were faster on consumer uptake. The game has already become India’s first and among the world's top three downloaded games on the internet today. The digital version of the antiquated board game ludo, which was published by Gametion Tech in the year 2016, became a crowd-puller in the first month of its launch itself. When gaming shifted from personal computers to mobile phones, Gametion shifted its focus from flash games to developing mobile games.

The company’s breakthrough arrived with Ludo King, which crossed 500 million downloads in November last year. Apart from the mega-hit Ludo King, the company has produced games like Carrom King and Sudoku King and is in process of bringing more games into production. Carrom King is gaining popularity worldwide and currently has 10 million-plus active installs. Gametion's top markets include India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Egypt, Pakistan, Tunisia, and the USA.

To Start Over

Gametion Technologies was started in 2010 with in-browser flash games until Ludo King actually started ruling the mobile gaming platforms. During this time, online flash gaming was at an all-time high, thus the gaming company worked extremely hard during that phase to create their own website that was hosting a lot of flash games. “By 2013 mid, we started observing that online flash gaming was slowly declining and smartphones were on a rise. This was the time, I decided to pivot myself to smartphone development to capitalize the market soon,” recalls Vikash Jaiswal, the founder and CEO of Gametion.

The company created over 20 odd games before launching Ludo King in 2016. Jaiswal, while explaining the conceptualisation of his IP Ludo King, shares, “When we were building this product, I envisioned that it would be in the top 10 in the board category but I was shocked when the game crossed a million installs in less than a month. Within five months of its release, the game was topping the charts, ranking on top in Google Play.”

“From inception till execution, I somehow knew this would be a breakthrough for me but never imagined Ludo King would become super big,” he adds.

Old Glory In New Bottle

The increase in the number of downloads of the gaming app was skyrocketing even before the pandemic. However, the attention or recognition to the growth story was absolute during the pandemic. Before the lockdown, the company achieved some big records too and has been consistent in holding the titles so far. It attained the spot of first Indian developer crossing 100 million installs on Google Play Store. Also, the app has continuously maintained the top position on Google Play store since May 2017. “The pandemic boosted our growth by over 3X. Our daily active users (DAU) before the pandemic were about 15 million and during the pandemic, it reached 51 million,” the entrepreneur speaks.

“It is an unfortunate situation for the whole world where mostly all countries decided to shut operation to battle the deadly virus. However, to battle the lockdown anxiety, people found out ways through digital means because of what else they could have possibly done. I feel happy about the fact that during the most difficult times, our game Ludo King brought the family and friends closer. The players started spending more and more time on the app to have a fun time,” Jaiswal comments on how lockdown and the fan base of Ludo King stimulated the growth of the game matrix by 3X.

Challenges Of Merging Nostalgia & Tech

While amalgamating nostalgia with technology, some interim issues occurred in the first place. The gaming giant nevertheless delivered as thought, hence bagging the fruit of labour. “For any entrepreneur without investors, there is always pressure on the budget you can spend. But I will not emphasise this topic too much as I have always prioritized my passion for building games first. From a technological front, of course, getting the real board experience in the digital form was definitely a challenge,” Jaiswal expresses.

Further, he explains the major challenge areas the company faced. Choosing a simple rule of ludo was an uphill task considering a variation in the rules as different cities or states for that matter follow different rules. Another challenge that was on high priority to resolve was to provide ease in controls and easy onboarding for players. To give attractive and cool animations keeping in mind the audience of the country too became difficult initially. “We had a lean team, where I was the designer, artist, and QA myself. Surprisingly, the developer working with me on this game had no experience of playing ludo in his lifetime. Imagine that,” chuckles the gaming app’s founder while speaking on his share of challenges.

“Battling through some of my grave difficulties, it took me almost a year to get the first launch. So, when I look back, it seems to be looking at hell of a ride,” Jaiswal reminisces.

Soaring Revenue & Sustaining Growth

Gametion clocked USD 20 million revenue in 2020. To sustain the success narrative, the company is working by innovating and experimenting, and expanding teams swiftly for the past two years. “We are still hiring to expand further. Currently, we have about 80+ employees. Internally we are experimenting with new innovative ideas on prototype level and further expanding the prototypes to production,” remarks Soni Kumari, the managing director and co-founder of Gametion.

The company is now working on multiple new products on production level while managing live operations for their current live games including Ludo King, Carrom King, and Sudoku King. “A couple of new product launches are slated to be done by the end of this year and one in the first half of next year,” she adds.

Kumari also put some light on expanding the portfolio of games, which would further enable the company to experiment with the innovative products in different markets. Besides, Gametion also tried a lot of marketing platforms that have had a positive impact for the company viz. having a brand ambassador to promote the products, social media engagements, and advertisements on television channels.

Acquainting The Competitors

With the quick rise in the growth of online gaming, the sector has seen a lot of entrants. The competition and challenges in the industry have so far changed from Jaiswal’s perspective, who was one of the early entrants in the gaming industry. However, he believes the pie on new users and revenue share is equally growing. “This definitely means there is a lot of room for the new entrants,” the much optimistic Jaiswal opines.

“One major aspect for the new entrants would be to focus on creating products with various innovative ideas. This way building a strong product would only mean more organic growth,” he suggests.

Casual Gaming & Plans Ahead

As casual gaming started to make it to the mainstream, Kumari thinks it to be the most easily adopted format of games. Most players or users worldwide who have just been introduced to gaming, generally start with a casual game as the learning curve is low. “With the widespread audience presence in the casual gaming space would only enable better branding to non-endemic brands,” she avers a brand’s perspective for casual gaming.

The company currently have three games on board and plans to add more games to the existing portfolio in different genres. Besides, the gaming firm is also trying out something different like the ‘Ludo King Show’, which has an online presence on video sharing platform YouTube as well as on Facebook. “Apart from this we are looking for opportunities to invest in promising startups and also exploring opportunities outside of building free2play games.” Kumari concludes.