Here is a question: In India, what is it that drives internet portals, gaming devices, and mobile phones? Intel? Wrong. Google? Wrong again. Microsoft? You are not even close.
It is Bollywood. The killer application is not the hardware of Sony or software of Google or Microsoft but the mindware of Shahrukh Khan and Rajnikant. Having realized this, a host of companies have moved quickly to secure a beachhead in this race to ensure that no matter where the audience is, filmed entertainment is never too far away.
Since the race has just begun it has start-ups like Mauj or TinselVision, heavyweights like Reliance Entertainment, incumbents like Rajshri and even entertainment product leaders like Sony.
The large companies, predictably, are trying to build scale and do it quickly. The incumbents think they know a thing or two about the audience and are using focus to be viable quickly; later, they will go for scale. Startups are using a mix of approaches.
But let us start with the game device makers who have used film characters or music to a telling effect. Consider Singstar Bollywood, Sony’s most successful game in India for its Playstation product. Singstar Bollywood is an Indian rendition of the popular international title has been the largest launch for any PS game in India with 3,500 pieces sold on day one.
This has been twice as much as any other title sold in India. “Singstar Bollywood is about competitive music where two players sing with microphones against each other. In India a lot of the TV programs are around competitive singing. It is only natural to marry the gaming element with it for the Indian market.
We license the music using a combination of royalty and access fee,” says Atindriya Bose, country manager, Sony Computer Entertainment. The console game has a catalogue of tracks that the players can choose and sing along to. When they have been through all the songs, more can be downloaded for a fee.
Singstar CDs which have Hindi film songs, retail for Rs 500, three times the price of any film music CD, and even if the film companies gets 50% of the revenues from the sale, the money should be substantial.
Kreeda Games is using a similar approach to hook people to what they call, ‘massively multiplayer online games’ with their initial title, Dance Mela. This game allows the players to dance, on an electronic mat which acts as a giant controller, against players across the world.
Install the program on an internet PC and find opponents online to dance against. CEO Quentin Staes Polet says that he licenses the Bollywood music at an enormous fee. “I pay for about 10 songs at a time. Each song can cost Rs 5-10 lakh each,” he says, adding, “I do the same thing an ad producer would do (to get songs for the game). I go to them (content owners) and ask them to synchronise their music with my game. Being a new medium it is treated as licensing is to an ad-producer and you need to negotiate each deal. There are no preset rates right now. This may happen further down the road.”