There is a special focus on the animation and gaming industry at FICCI Frames this year, given the upward growth curve and increasing investments in Indian animation. The Animation and Gaming track at FICCI Frames 2008 gave industry experts an opportunity to take stock of this growth and understand the workings of the developed markets through its three panel discussions scheduled for the day.
In the session on ‘Developing Animation Content: Lessons learnt from around the world’, Ram Mohan, fondly referred to as the ‘Father of Indian animation’, who is also the Chairman of Graphiti, posed the question why mythological stories could not be used for animation. According to him, animation films did not do well because they were not made properly. “The animation films were flops because they were badly made by incoherent and incompetent producers with impossibly low budgets. They have caused incalculable harm to Indian animation, which is just taking off in the country,” he added.
During the same session, Jean Thoren, President and CEO, Animation Magazine, USA, noted that “Connecting with your character and understanding it completely is very important before pitching it as a project.” Agreeing with her and taking it forward, Joanna Ferrone, creator of Fido, USA, stressed that “content needs conviction and kids need content.” Sharad Devarajan, Co-founder, CEO and Publisher, Virgin Comics LLC and Virgin Animation Pvt Ltd, talked about their experiences in adapting Indian mythological content like ‘Ramayana’ and others for western audiences, who are waking up to content from the Indian Sub-continent.
The second session on ‘New Age Technology & Emerging Production Pipelines in Animation’ saw speakers discuss one of the major problems hampering growth of this medium at present. Renowned international speakers like Jon Labrie, Founder, Blister Wireless, USA; Joan Vogelsang, President and CEO, Toon Boom, Canada; Sebastian Sylwan, Senior Film and Television Industry Manager, Autodesk Media & Entertainment, USA; and, animation producer Marge Dean, shared their experiences in their respective markets. During the presentation, Sylwan pointed out that the top 18 of the all time top 20 films in the world used heavy VFX in their production. “There is a shift happening in the industry, where technical processes are becoming more creative led processes,” he added.
The final session of the day presented a status report on one of the fastest growing sectors – ‘Gaming’. Moderated by Mohit Anand, Country Manager, Microsoft India, the session gave an overview of the present state of Indian gaming, with emphasis on the different verticals, including online, console and mobile. Noting the four roadblocks facing the segment, Anand said, “The 4Ps that are affecting the growth of this medium are Price, Piracy, Parental perception and Paisa vasool (value proposition).”
Harminder Sahni, Managing Director, Technopak Advisors, stressed that there was very little penetration through gaming in the country. Sharing some pointers from a research report, he said, “The perception issue has to be tackled, where gamers perceive they are spending more time playing games than actually what they spend. Another noteworthy thing is that the substitute activity for gamers is watching television.”
Giving a wake-up call to the whole segment, Vishal Gondal, CEO, Indiagames.com, gave an analogy of the story of an elephant and four blind men believing that each person holding different parts of the animal’s body was the way an elephant looked. Equating the gaming industry to an elephant, Gondal said, “We, across all segments – console, mobile, online, etc. – talk about the growth in our respective mediums. It is now time to come together and look at the medium as a whole rather than in single verticals. At the end of the day, whoever can get the whole elephant will rule the market.”
Ajay Khanna, General Manager, Electronic Arts, India, presented their prospects for the packaged games market in India, owing to the growth of gaming as a medium. In his presentation, Salil Bhargava, CEO, Jump Games, India noted that household penetration of gaming consoles was almost insignificant, but the rapid growth of the mobile handsets segment presented a large opportunity in this space. Christopher Erhardt, Division President, Gameshashtra, India, talked about his company’s plans to create an institute where they had identified courses to specifically concentrate on developing gaming content.
With such enthusiasm and optimism in the industry, penetration ought to be round the corner. Will the Indian animation and gaming industry develop as quickly as experts feel, given the roadblocks, is a question the industry wants answered.