By: Paresh Khetan
10 years ago, Apple developed the first iPhone. In a keynote address at the Macworld Conference & Expo in San Francisco, Steve Jobs, glowing with excitement, said, “Today, Apple is going to reinvent the phone,” revealing that the iPhone would be a combination of a “widescreen iPod with touch controls, a revolutionary mobile phone and a breakthrough Internet communicator.” At this stage, the iPhone gained wide-spread popularity as it was the first commercially successful, recognised touch screen phone to hit the market.
Though companies such as Nokia and LG already had working prototypes and even made small releases of touch screen models, the iPhone caught the public eye due to Jobs’ persuasive presentation of the product. Though tech gurus still contest the history of succession and achievement, Jobs was right in saying that, “this is just the beginning.”
A year later, most companies had caught up to the iPhone, making full releases of touch screen phones. But the true revolution in the smartphone industry began in September 2008, when Google developed and launched its first mobile operating system, Android 1.0, which boasted a new feature, the Android Market. Until this point, the touch screen feature had merely altered the aesthetic of a phone, challenging the boundaries of functionality and size. However, with the introduction of the android market, the smartphone became a flexible interface that developers around the world could alter and enhance as per their own preferences and needs. Therefore, a smartphone was no longer simply a phone with internet, calculator and a camera; rather it could expand into any direction a developer could foresee. When the android market opened, it consisted of 2300 apps; today it has more than 3.1 million, with 500-1000 new apps being submitted daily.
Surprisingly, amongst the plethora of apps, gaming apps are the most popular in terms of development and purchase. Games, lifestyle and entertainment apps are dominating the market which implies that the smartphone has become a universal good, not only does it cater to people’s needs but also to their desires and fancies. Everything within the touch of a button!
As smartphones and apps continue to develop and proliferate at an astonishing rate, we talked to two developing companies in Nepal to better understand the phenomenon that is consuming our world.
Firstly, we spoke to Sudarshan Pant, Founder of Technoguff, a company that develops native android applications. Pant is from Mahendranagar, Kanchanpur, where he studied up to the higher secondary level. Pant studied Multimedia Engineering from Mokpo University, South Korea. After finishing a Masters degree in Korea, he returned to Nepal and started working on android development. During his time in Korea, Pant developed Baghchal for android, a classic board game that now has a place in the digitised world.
He says, “I wanted to build something that represents Nepal in some way. Although the game was very simple it was able to draw attention of many of my friends in my university. I think it is still serving the purpose. Baghchal is a traditional Nepali game and bringing it to the smartphone has certainly helped in keeping the culture alive.” He adds, “I felt like game development could have been good career path for me. But software development as a whole has been a part of my career and there have been many ups and downs during the career. The expectations have changed quite a lot since the beginning; I think that is the way of moving forward. Now I am almost in a different career path after working for five years in software development.”
While he is primarily focused on software development, Pant feels that “public response for the games is getting better; I find significant number of active users playing the game. People have given good feedback and many players give suggestions to improve the game in some aspects. I think this kind of feedback really drives the developers forward and we are inspired to update the game making them better. “
Gaming market in Nepal is now developing and hopefully it will evolve in coming days. Nepal in the game development is still in its infancy stage as compared to the global trend. Although there are many professional game developers in Nepal, we have only a few Nepali games in the market. This is an irony in every skill market in Nepal.
“As software developers, we need to update ourselves with the latest trends and adopt new technologies every day. The games I have developed are also affected by the rapid development rate and there are plenty of possibilities for enhancements with developments in the technologies. I am trying to update with new features as early as possible,” comments Pant.
Another developer we spoke to was Uttam Adhikari, who is the Co-founder of Sroth Code; an online system, mobile game development company which was started in April 2016. Sroth Code was started by Uttam Adhikari and Uday Gurung as a Winter Coding Camp. As people got interested in what they were offering, they registered the camp as Sroth Code Academy and after few months, when there was ample demand of system design and development services,they moved forward as Sroth Code Pvt. Ltd.
Adhikari is a native of Kavre District and he is an IT graduate and professional working in Web Design and Development, App and Game Design/Development, Social Media Marketing for the last eight years. He has been interested in game development since an early age when he used to play Mario, Adventure Island and other games from game-cartridges, which were the only means of gaming then. He says, “I had a preconceived notion that one had to be a mathematics genius of sorts to become a game developer. But as I gained software development and programming skills working as a web and app developer, the game development dream seemed a viable career to choose from and we started game development project from April 2016.”
Talking about the Nepali market and industry, Adhikari says, “Usually working in a game development company for a few years would be a great start to become a game developer. But lack of game development companies in Nepal was the firstchallenge when it came to learning game development. The only choice we had was to keep trying and failing until we learned how to make it work.”
The other challenge is funding.”Since game developers require people of various skill sets, it would require funds to gather the team. At the very beginning of the game development journey, we started with a 10×10 feet room as a work base and gathered the funds required for the game projects by doing other web, app and social media campaign projects for our other clients and paid ourselves minimally for the sustenance of the company. Convincing families and close people that we could create a profitable game development company with global customer base, based in Nepal in a few years, was a challenge.”
Despite the challenges, Adhikari says, “The public has been pretty good to us during our first year of the game development journey. Our first game -Haku Run – was well received with 10,000 downloads in three days and 40k downloads in total. The review and feedback were overwhelming. The game made it to the top 50 apps in Nepal in google play market in Nepal. We were collaborating with brands like Sasto Deal and Online Khabar for the promotion of the game and to attract local advertisers. Evaluating possibilities of gaming market and future of game developers in Nepal would be somehow unfair since Nepali gaming market is quite small and people have not yet developed a taste for checking out and testing new digital products in the market. Plus, the ad revenue value of Nepal is very low. However, as a gamedeveloper in Nepal, it’s not necessary to confine yourself to the local market. With a quality product and proper marketing, Nepali game developers have the potential to stand out in global markets as well.”
That being said, “the game development market is mostly occupied by the big boys of the industries. Most of the audience and market share belongs to these companies and any new company will have to face an uphill battle to get noticed or establish itself as a game development company. The game development community is not as friendly as the web developer community.”
“With hundreds of thousands of apps being published in Google play store and Apple app store every year the study material and solutions to the problems are not easy to find. And most of the products are not free. However, group of indie developers formed many communities around the globe for the discussion of ideas and solutions to various problems that comes along with the game development process. But the game development market is fiercely competitive.”