Pune-based entertainment startup JetSynthesys uses Machine Learning and AI for Sachin Saga Cricket Champions, a mobile game that lets the cricket icon's fans play his straight drive, on-side flick and sweep shot virtually.
For generations that watched and admired the game of Sachin Tendulkar, the cricket maestro is himself presenting a virtual reality experience on a mobile device. Collaborating with JetSynthesys, a Pune-based digital entertainment and gaming company, Sachin launched the “Sachin Saga Cricket Champions” app in Bengaluru.
Kris Gopalakrishnan, Non-Executive Chairman, JetSynthesys, and Rajan Navani, Vice Chairman and Managing Director, JetSynthesys, were also present at the event.
The app, which aims to bring to life Sachin’s cricketing style and iconic matches, includes his innings from 108 of his most memorable matches. For the first time, the players can experience real-time shadows and motion captures in a mobile game without hampering the game’s performance. The app has received about a million pre-registrations already.
Commenting on the launch of his game, Sachin Tendulkar said the game aims to bring cricket fans together and enable each one of them to experience his journey through this game. He recollected that although his youth was not surrounded by smartphones, he, along with his team, would go to digital gaming centres while touring in South Africa, England, and New Zealand in his earlier years. He added that the team had worked hard to bring this game to every mobile device to ensure that everyone got a chance to play this game.
“I really hope the game helps cricket enthusiasts to become champions in the digital games arena with their talent and my experience,” Sachin said.
There is no particular target audience for the app. In India, 15 million people have access to smartphones. This game is compatible with low-end smartphones too.
Rajan said millions of consumers will be added every quarter, as those low-end smartphone users have no prior experience with a game like this.
When the JetSynethesys team initially proposed the game to Sachin, they had to show that they had the capability to do justice to the icon that he is. After getting to know each other and understanding capabilities, they worked as one team.
A lot of facts about Sachin in specific matches have come out – insights about how he plays, lot of learnings about different shots, different stadiums, how he scored runs fast in one game and slower in another, etc.
“There is even emotion capture like in a physical game,” Rajan said, adding that the game is all about simulating Sachin Tendulkar in the digital world; there are even instances of the “Sachin…Sachin!” chant in the game.
Sachin elaborated: “I had to shoot my batting for this game with motion capture sensors plugged to my face. For choosing the 108 matches too, we had to look at all aspects. For instance, my first Ranji Trophy game – when I was 15 years old – was very important at that stage of my life, as it could decide my fate in the sport. But in this game, it works differently. Not all matches demand 100 runs. Sometimes 65 runs are more important.”
JetSynthesys claimed that the game brings in real time shadow movements and authentic stadium environments. In addition, motion-captured batting shots of Sachin allow you to play all his legendary shots the way he does.
Kris said this game is proof of what is possible in gaming with VR, AR, AI etc.
“It provides a chance to not just enjoy the game but also learn it from the world’s greatest cricketer,” he added.
Expanding and making profit
With innovation in patented platforms, AI & Machine Learning, JestSynthesys is focused on the mobile gaming space in India. The Sachin Saga is just the beginning.
“We want to take this game to a certain level before we take it to other players and sports,” Kris said.
He believes that in terms of revenue, India is just scratching the surface.
For revenue in Sachin Saga (which is free download), there are in-app purchases which give the user access to different speeds, power, collectibles, etc. (not in physical world, only in-game). There will be brand associations and advertising revenue.
Kris adds: “As we move to experiencing the small screen, we look at enhancing that experience and bringing a lot more options for brands to be present in subtle ways unlike in TV where it is interruptive. We can bring brands to the consumers and allow the brands to bring their message through the association as well as consumers to get back to the brand.”
Cricket has made more than enough noise in India – to the point of other sports getting no attention at all. But such an effort can begin a change.
Kris said, “We don’t have icons in other sports yet (like Sachin in cricket). But we can look at other games where this is possible. Gamified versions have the ability to train, showcase, excite, give trivia to the user – you don’t get that experience on TV. The growth in this segment will hence be huge.”
“The market is about $1 billion; the potential is huge. But technology is available only to a limited number of people. Number of smartphone users is still small; 4G is still patchy. But all this will change with the release of low-cost smartphones. In fact, smartphone usage is expected to triple, or even quadruple, in the next 12 months. The cost of 4G is coming down, and bandwidth is available at zero cost. So, the usage will surely shoot up,” he told YourStory.
Of course, a physical game can never be replaced with a virtual game. But Rajan believes that such mediums create heroes.
“Because of IPL, cricket reached a different level. Because of Kabbadi League, the interest in the sport is growing. TV made heroes in badminton. The interlinking between the digital world and the real world is only getting closer.”
So there is a possibility that the reverse can happen too – that is people might go from VR to playground.
“For instance, unlike in India, England, New Zealand and Australia where cricket is popular and Sachin has millions of fans, in the US, cricket is just becoming visible. VR leading to real life will be true if Americans start playing the game after e-gaming. We are trying to engage and create the best experience of cricket in VR. In two months we will see how many more people are going out to play,” Rajan said.
Growing significance of AI
AI drives digital entertainment.
As Kris said, “Every game is different, every player’s game is different because of the AI in the background. AI will also allow us to keep on learning.”
Rajan added that AI will also play a prominent role in the future monetisation of the game. “We see what our consumer is willing to pay for. The intelligence that we build is used not only to enhance the game but also for the business aspect.”
This 100 MB app, after all, is Sachin’s way to reach out to his fans and vice versa. Sachin will share his thoughts, messages, ideas – like a social media platform which is his own. JetSynthesys is working on the entire digital journey of Sachin, Rajan said.
“There is convergence of capability metrics, different modes of entertainment. We got Sachin to sing a song with Sonu Nigam, which is unique from an entertainment angle. Combining entertainment with tech, gaming, and app development - all working with Sachin - has had a holistic impact.”
He claimed that Sachin’s social media outreach grew 20 percent in the last three months. “So the convergence has already begun.”
This could be the beginning of a new revolution in digital entertainment and sports in India.
Kris said more entrepreneurs need to see the opportunities in animation and gaming.
“Our startups need access to market. With great technology and capabilities, one can provide great experience,” he said