Techtree met up with Zapak Chief Technology Officer and geek, Sudipto Majumdar, to get a sneak peek into the games Zapak is playing...
Interview with the CTO of Zapak.com For a gaming portal launched less than two months ago, Zapak.com has been making quite a few waves. Techtree met up with Zapak Chief Technology Officer and geek, Sudipto Majumdar, to get a sneak peek into the games Zapak is playing:
What is the technology used by Zapak.com? The technology used by Zapak.com is open source, rather the spirit of open source. It could be Linux machines, or open source software that is modified by us, or proprietary software built over and above this. Surprisingly, though Windows is a proprietary software, a lot of programs written on Windows are actually open source.
What led to the birth of Zapak.com? Zapak is born out of a vision. Rajesh Sawhney, President of Reliance Entertainment, and ironically not a gamer, thought that the strategy for entertainment on PC screens has to be essentially games. He felt games on PC screens are a sort of lean forward - not lean back entertainment, and are sure to appeal to the youth of today. Besides, he knows almost everything there is to know about Internet economy; this helped.
What kind of investment has gone into the venture? In 2005, the gaming market was worth around Rs 150 crores, and there was just one company, Level Up, on the scene. As such, our first-cut proposal to Reliance was very understated, approximately $22 million. However, we were encouraged to think big so to say, and the investment rose to a figure of nearly $100 million.
Gaming in India is said to be in the nascent stage. What are Zapak's chances in such a scenario? First of all, we don't feel the market here is in a nascent stage. For us, it's the mix of the right content offered at the right price that would work. And, we plan to offer our downloadable games at prices that suit the Indian pocket.
With the current low level of Broadband penetration in India, how do you see online gaming succeeding? Currently, there are approximately only between 3- and 4-million Broadband users in the country. But three years down the line, we expect the market to grow. Besides, 95 percent of new Internet connections are all Broadband connections. There are very few people opting for dial-up connections nowadays.
Tell us something about the upcoming GameBox National Championship The GameBox National Championship is scheduled to take place at Reliance World outlets across 104 cities in India, between Jan 13 and Jan 28. Zapak is the Casual Gaming Partner for the event.
There are two components of this championship: hard core gaming, and casual gaming. A large part of casual gaming typically takes place in cyber cafes, and that is where we come into the picture.
What are Zapak's future offerings going to be like? Currently, we have casual games in categories including arcade, shooter, racing, etc, all for free. Games based on Salman Khan and Bipasha Basu also come under the casual category. So do the Cricket and Chess games. Besides games, we presently have Zapak email in Beta version, Zapak.tv, and forums on the site.
Next, we plan to offer downloadable games. Roughly speaking, about 50 percent of these will cost Rs 99 each; 25 percent will cost Rs 49 each; and the remaining 25 percent will come for Rs 149 to Rs 249 per game. In the downloadable category, we are looking at titles like Bejewelled, Zuma, and Diner Dash that are popular in the US. We plan to launch these games sometime next month, or latest in March this year.
We will be offering a completely new category sometime in April. This category is already available in USA, Israel, and two or three European countries.
Also in the pipeline is Zapak Girls, a sub property within casual games that is more of a packaging and branding exercise. Zapak Girls will consist of games that are targeted mainly at girls. It will be launched sometime next month.
Yet another offering is our first MMOG (Massively Multiplayer Online Game), for which we are eyeing a huge international title.
Over and above games, we will be launching Zapak email on Feb 1. Unlike other portals, we believe we have an inherent advantage in both aspects of email cost; namely storage space, and bandwidth. We own a lot of bandwidth ourselves, and as regards storage space, we've achieved a breakthrough of sorts in the form of completely distributed architecture.
We intend to feature blogs as well. We feel that a lot of people visit our site with gaming as only an excuse. The real purpose is to chat, have social interaction, and make friends. As such, the gaming community is extremely critical to us.
Even Zapak.tv, the way it exists today, is not the way we envisage it. Presently, most of the content is generated by us. However, we want Zapak.tv to morph into thriving user generated community content.
What is the source of revenue for Zapak? Currently, we have only casual games, for which advertisements are the only source of revenue. This will remain unchanged even in future. Downloadable games will work differently, and the MMOG will typically have a monthly subscription. The exception would be games with an in-game economy.
How are the celebrity-based games on Zapak faring? In fact, if we were to categorise our games as A, B, and C, the Puppy Razi game that is based on actor Salman Khan could be placed in category B, with the A listers definitely our Cricket and Chess games.
Everything about Zapak is celebrity oriented. Is Zapak going to be a celebrity portal? Well, we rope in celebrities because they give us visibility, and create real interest in some parts of the game. There are actually people out there who live out their fantasies through these celebrity based games. Having said that, the most important thing at the end of the day is the gaming concept.