In the new age of F2P gaming, a power shift has been occurring, changing game development dynamics.
- Rise of Emerging Countries: Former game development geographies better known for low-cost production and content pipelines such as China, Turkey, and Poland have now become centers of excellence and clusters for world-class talent
- Cost Structure: Lower costs create “structural advantage” for teams in emerging countries relative to highly paid but not necessarily more capable teams in the West
- Technology Leveling: The emergence of third-party development, back-end, and operating frameworks has leveled the playing field for smaller development teams. Examples include Unity or Unreal for client development, Photon for netcode, and Gameye for server orchestration, not to mention cloud-based storage, data warehouse, and database services from Amazon/Google/Snowflake, etc. These services have enabled smaller teams to focus on game-oriented differentiation without having to acquire specific expertise and specialization across a gamut of other development disciplines.
- Dissemination of Information: More and more information around technical and product-related best practices is more widely available. Information creators such as GameMakers and world-class experts such as Glenn Fiedler with Network Next continue to publish formerly highly secretive information. Further, when one company in a specific geography “figures out” how to make a hit game, the talent from that company can then disperse to other companies nearby, creating a center of excellence in specific game areas.
- Access to Capital: There’s an increasing understanding that opportunities for F2P game development abound globally. Therefore, capital from successful founders in emerging geographies or venture capital that specifically seeks to invest in high potential geographies has become increasingly available.
Here’s a slide from a presentation that’s a few years old now but represents fairly crisply the cost structure advantage that’s possible:
These trends are leading to insurgent game studios suddenly with the capability of being globally competitive from geographic regions formerly less competitive. FunPlus and Lilith emerged on the scene from China dominating 4X, and MiHoYo has single-handedly turned China into a significant innovator for cross-platform games and a world-class, global competitor in console games. Even further, companies like Dream Games in Turkey show how new companies from emerging countries can become world-class leaders in their markets almost overnight.
Speaking of MiHoYo: How can any Western game studio compete with a leading company from China anymore?
- Dramatically lower cost structure
- Super hard work ethic
- Locally available best-in-class talent
- No ideological hang-ups about F2P monetization
- Can now spend $100M in budget for new game development and $200M a year in live ops
Meanwhile in Canada…
Incumbents always seem to forget about Clayton Christensen’s concept of The Innovator’s Dilemma in which disruptive technologies from insurgents overtake older, established incumbents.
What are large Western AAA game studios today if not old incumbents? How can we not consider companies like Mihoyo a disruptive insurgent force in the gaming industry?
The Case for India & The IndiaF2P Games Conference
Against this backdrop, a small group of adventurers has bet their lives and careers that the next emerging country will be India!
That’s me in the center above.
In August, we hosted the first IndiaF2P virtual games conference to help foster community and share best practices in this specific community. While much of the market today is still early and developing capability, we believe longer-term that India can and will become a global leader in F2P games.
Below you will find links to the talks from that conference, including speakers who are some of the biggest movers & shakers in the Indian F2P games community.
1. How India Becomes A World Leader in Games
I enjoyed moderating this panel. All around fantastic speakers, but I do have to give a special shoutout to Manish Agarwal, the CEO of Nazara (recently went public), who left me with a specific insight that I quoted and shared with my company during the pre-conference meetup:
For us, my simple learning was that investors trust companies that deliver on what they’ve been promising. From Nazara’s perspective, we have been engaging with those investors for the last 2 years… What narrative we said, what we would deliver, when they saw the delivery happening consistently, so that made my life much easier. Because you are known… there is a comfort and trust you have built. There is a consistent delivery and cadence you have set up. You are not an unknown entity.
- Joseph Kim, CEO, LILA Games
- Manish Agarwal, CEO, Nazara
- Amit Hardi, CEO, Nukebox
- Salone Sehgal, General Partner, Lumikai Fund
- Anuj Tandon, Head of Corp Dev, Krafton
2. Doing the Work To Make A Top Grossing Game
This video somehow got shared quite a bit in various LinkedIn posts and other newsletters. Thanks to everyone who shared, and yes, we also think Paul is hardcore! Lol.
- Paul Leydon, CCO LILA Games
3. Key Technical Challenges in Scaling F2P Games
We think Arvind is the man! Always great to talk to our friend who was a tech evangelist both at Unity and now at Epic. Given his background, he knows a thing or two about tech! In this talk, LILA Games’ CTO Avinash interviews Arvind and also gives a few lessons from his own experience:
4. How to Build A Successful Career in F2P Games
Anyone interested in joining the games industry should listen to the perspectives of these great folks who generously share their experience and wisdom! Believe it or not, this is Vik’s first panel as a moderator. Great job, Vik!
- Vik Agarwal, Lead PM, Zynga
- Poornima Seetharaman, Director of Design, Zynga
- Karan Gaikwad, Lead PM, Nukebox
- Shilpa Gaur, Lead Marketing & Strategy, Cympl
5. What Global Strategics Are Looking for From Indian Game Companies
Lumikai is one of the funds that is betting big on India. You should listen to the insights from Salone in the first talk, but we also anchored the conference with Justin Keeling as moderator for this last panel.
Justin Keeling is almost as charismatic and good-looking as I am, so I highly recommend you check out his moderation of this great panel. 😜
While we have great speakers all around, special thanks to Alexis, who has always been very generous with his time participating in content with us! Also, many thanks to Justin Scarpone for staying long and answering questions late! And, as a former SEGA alumnus, I have to give a shoutout to Saito Go. Go SEGA!
- Justin Shriram Keeling, General Partner, Lumikai Fund
- Alexis Bonte, Group COO, Stillfront Group
- Saito Go, Executive Officer & Head of Japan Asia Publishing, SEGA Corporation
- Justin Scarpone, SVP & GM Asia, Scopely
At LILA Games, we believe in the emergence of India as an insurgent and upcoming world-class global power in the F2P gaming industry. It will come, if for no other reason than the fact that we are going to help create it, just like Bugsy Siegel helped start Las Vegas.
Here’s a video from when Paul Leydon and I first traveled to India to explore development partnerships there:
I’ve been asked this same question quite a lot: “Why India?”
I give a lot of answers to this question but in reality, the truth is something deeper.
Rise of The White Tiger
The White Tiger is a movie both tragic and beautiful, evil and hopeful. It speaks to wealth inequality and more importantly opportunity inequality. It is, to some degree, India’s version of The Squid Game and asks a fundamental question:
- How does one rise beyond the rooster cages of their circumstances?
Some of the quotes from this movie I’ll take with me for the rest of my life:
- “Rich men are born with opportunities they can waste.”
- “You were looking for the key for years, but the door was always open.”
- “This is the century of the brown man and the yellow man.”
- “I am just one who has woken up while the rest of you are still sleeping.”
- “The moment you realize what is beautiful in this world, you stop being a slave.”
- “It was all worthwhile to know, just for a day, just for an hour, just for a minute what it means, not to be a servant.”
I’m an old bastard who, aside from my family, hasn’t done anything truly meaningful in my life yet. The answer my friends to the former question: do something actually meaningful.
As the late great Clayton Christensen wrote: “How will you measure your life?”
We are building an opportunity platform. We chose India to build The White Tiger of the games industry.
If you believe in this mission, check out our opportunities below and help us blow the fucking doors off these god damn rooster cages.