Do you remember the days when Internet was limited to the rich and cyber cafes used to charge anywhere between INR 15 - 20/hour? Most cyber cafe operators made money riding on the teenage obsession with games. Players like Sify had cafe management solutions which could time your usage and lock the screen as soon as the stipulated paid-for time was up..
And then internet became so cheap that everyone could afford it. This marked the slow death of cyber cafes. In most Tier-1 cities it is quite difficult to find a cyber cafe, but the trend still continues in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities. Chris Lee is a Korean national who saw the opportunity to revive these cafes and started to tap into it with his company Funizen.
Chris started his career in South Korea where he was a Project Manager for a US-based company. But he soon moved to the gaming industry as that was where his heart lay and joined Nako Interactive as Marketing Director. He was responsible for game localization in different countries such as China, Thailand, Indonesia and Taiwan among others. Given its large youth population, Chris realized India, too, had an untapped market potential in gaming.
Chris says,"India’s population is almost the same as China’s (In May 2012, the Indian Government said the population was 1.25 billion and in 2020, it will be 1.4 billion while China will have 1.3 billion). We just need to see the popularity of gaming in China to appreciate what can possibly be done in India.Coupled with the fact that graduates are smart and very sensitive to trends globally, the work environment is thus geared to success. Of course, an IT-driven industry means easy access to Internet as well!"
However, gaming has not yet picked up in India. Funizen works on two different models – one is a cafe management software which helps cyber-cafe managers protect their machines, by preventing unauthorized software downloads and installs; and, the other, helps them manage the way online games are played from their PCs. The company installs the Cafe management software free in Tier-2 cities and then educates the cyber-cafe owners on better management of the cafes. They then teach cafe owners about e-pins,a type of online currency for playing specific multiplayer games,which are used to buy playing time in these MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) and for in-game purchases.
To promote gaming, the company has launched a game called Elsword,and conducts gaming tournaments across the country. This is also expected to bring in better revenues for the company.. At present they claim to have around 100,000 users on the platform and have raised USD 2 Million in a Series A round from US based VCs (could not be verified as names of VC's are not revealed due to confidentiality clauses as claimed by Chris).
As mentioned earlier, despite the internet penetration in India, gaming hasn’t really caught on in the country. So only time will tell whether gaming cafes will really fly, when the youngsters can have all the luxuries of home while indulging in a good game with friends!