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Hyderabad startup behind Hitwicket isn’t taking the route to gaming success | Technology News

When Kashyap Reddy was just 10 years old, he used to draw board games in his notebook. “I would try to get the other kids to come and play the games that I had created, and I would teach them,” Reddy recalls, reflecting on his initial draw to games. As Reddy grew older, he started playing online games such as Football Manager and competed with players globally. Years later, he went on to pursue his ambition of building his own game, the hugely popular mobile cricket game Hitwicket.

“There was a huge opportunity to build something on similar lines as football for cricket, particularly because cricket is even more of a strategic and thinking game,” Reddy told in an interview. “Cricket is inherently very sticky and engaging,” he said, adding that although the sport is hugely popular in India, no one had earlier attempted to build a game around the concept.

hitwicket Apple CEO Tim Cook with Hitwicket co-founders Kashyap Reddy and Keerti Singh. (Image credit: Tim Cook/Twitter)

In its initial incarnation, Hitwicket was a browser-based game where the concept involved managing a virtual cricket team with virtual players. Although the game performed well, Reddy realised they needed to transition to a mobile platform, considering the growth potential of smartphones in a market like India. Reddy, who co-founded the Hyderabad-based startup with Keerti Singh in 2015, then began working on a mobile version of the game that was vastly different from the browser-based version. Not only was the concept different, but the game also featured a lot more graphics and supported multiplayer gaming.

In Hitwicket, you are the owner, coach, and captain of a virtual cricket team. As you play more matches, you can upgrade your players and also compete in the league with other users. Since its launch in 2020, Hitwicket has seen over 5 million downloads across iOS and Android platforms, with players spending an average of 42 minutes on the game.

hitwicket Since its launch in 2020, Hitwicket has seen over 5 million downloads across iOS and Android platforms. (Image credit: Hitwicket)

Reddy says he doesn’t follow the traditional studio model like most gaming companies. “We see ourselves as a tech company that’s building a game,” he said, adding that they capture a lot of data and, based on those insights, understand user behaviour and then optimise features. “We are essentially betting on the market, and it’s the cricket fan that we want to capture… We don’t want to release an arsenal of games.”

Festive offer

However, Reddy also mentioned that cracking a game, especially one based on a popular sport, isn’t easy. “There is no middle ground. Either nobody plays the game, or everybody’s playing the game. We are in that market where there is a realistic chance of getting hundreds of millions of users.” Everything, from tech, product to art, has been done in-house.

A big aspect of Hitwicket is how the game gets updated with fresh content, providing users with a different version whenever they play the game. It could involve slightly changed mechanics or different variables to play with. For example, every month there’s a tournament being held, and each iteration of the tournament has a different pitch. Even the addition of a new type of player can change the experience of playing the game.

hitwicket From childhood, Reddy has been fascinated with video games. (Image credit: Hitwicket)

Hitwicket gets updated every month, he clarified. It could involve releasing new characters, improving certain characters, or changing features and the user interface based on user engagement and feedback.

“If you look at the gaming market, games like Clash of Clans and Coin Master, which are more than 10 years old, still continue to run and be among the top-grossing games globally,” he reasoned. “We are seeing even more concentration. Brawl Stars was released four years ago, and Supercell has not released any game after that. People are actually realising it is far better to build one game and keep building the content pipeline inside rather than build something completely new.”

This model is akin to how Epic Games’ Fortnite created a fandom, where the popular battle royale game has added an unprecedented amount of content, ranging from in-game skins to map overhauls to new weapons and items, thus attracting new players. A game like Fortnite is always changing, and Epic keeps on adding new updates. For a game that has been available for more than six years and should by now start feeling old, it is still the most popular played game on the market.

It could be a new reality in the gaming industry, Reddy agreed, stating, “everyone’s following a franchise model” with these proven concepts. He cited the example of Farmville, an agriculture-simulation game created by the San Francisco developer Zynga, where with each iteration, you keep adding layers on top so that users also know what they’re getting into and get some things from a new experience. Not only do such games feel fresh each time you play, but you also don’t have to learn everything from scratch.

Reddy and his team dig deeper to understand how to freshen up the content, reaching out to users through interviews or interacting with the Discord community. This gives them some sense of how users are engaging with the game, where people are spending more time inside the game. They also look at general market trends by carefully analysing the new mechanics coming up and how to integrate them into the game. “You are on top, you have a lot more data. And that fuels what you should build. That’s when the engagement actually keeps going up,” he said.

For Reddy, India’s gaming market has evolved, and although it’s predominantly mobile gaming, unlike the US and Europe, there is still a lot of potential for growth. Perhaps the biggest observation Reddy has made, which continues to be an unpopular opinion, is that Indians’ spending behaviour on in-app purchases is changing. “It’s becoming more and more acceptable for people to spend time and money inside games.” There are people who are actually making in-app purchases, and with the ease of UPI, they are getting more comfortable making those microtransactions. “It’s a very natural cycle.” Hitwicket is an ad-free game but mirrors the freemium mobile gaming model.

There is no particular genre of games that do well in India, but first-person shooters and strategy games always do well from a business point of view, while games like Ludo tend to perform a lot better purely in terms of downloads and engagement. “There will be a lot of genre opportunities, but it requires focus on the market to understand the Indian consumer more deeply.”

“Our belief has always been that in India, among the top three games, one cricket game has to be inevitable, and we want to be the number one cricket game,” he added.

Reddy is clear that while India may not be at par with the US or China in terms of a matured gaming ecosystem, but is slowly developing. “I remember people were confusing fantasy sports and real money gaming to be gaming. I think we’ve kind of only now started bifurcating them into different things because they’re fundamentally very different things,” he said.

“A majority of our developers, I would say, were probably working on real money-based gaming rather than gaming. But now slowly the awareness is increasing, and people are seeing the market in India is also growing with how PUBG has succeeded,” he added.

hitwicket Hitwicket, the young startup, is based in Hyderabad. (Image credit: Hitwicket)

Reddy is currently focused on Hitwicket and has no plans to launch a new game anytime soon. The company, he said, has already demonstrated that it is possible to create a world-class cricket game designed and developed in India, and the next step is to supercharge the growth. Reddy is looking at different ways to keep the IP strong, and one option is to tie up with either a player or a team or both.

Even though Hitwicket is primarily a smartphone game, Reddy does have plans to make the game available on other platforms but is waiting for the game to reach 100 million users. “We had some preliminary talks with all the major console guys to understand the technology requirements, but we knew that was a little bit more in the future.”

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