There are a lot of cricket games on the Google Play Store. With almost every Indian developer releasing a game in the genre, it’s getting tougher to standout in a crowded market place. Some, such as Real Cricket from Nautilus Mobile, take an approach inspired by Clash of Clans and Facebook, while Nazara Games - one of India’s more well known gaming companies - has decided to go a more traditional route by sticking a license to its effort. Nazara's new game, titled Virat Super Cricket, bears the likeness of cricketer Virat Kohli, building on the company's portfolio of cricket games with Virat Kohli. It joins the ranks of Virat Cricket and Stick Cricket, which features Kohli alongside Rohit Sharma.
Interestingly, unlike other cricket games from Nazara, which have usually been developed in-house, Virat Super Cricket is the work of Delhi-based Moong Labs. We spoke to Samit Babbar Head of Mobile Gaming, Moong Labs, to find out what else makes it different.
Babbar tells us that the engine for the game has been in development for a year and half, and Moong Labs has been in talks with Nazara since then, incorporating necessary feedback. Talking about how Virat Super Cricket is different from other licensed games such as Brian Lara Cricket, Babbar says the new game will make you experience the cricketer’s rise to fame.
“One thing that's going to make it stand out is that we're going to be elevating Virat Kohli’s journey,” he says. “This game is more of a biopic, this is his rise from what he was. to why he has become the demigod that he is today and you get to experience it, and go through the journey and play and become Virat in the game. That kind of experience differentiates because you won't get that experience in any other game.”
In addition to this, the focus is squarely on a single-player mode to start with. That's a big deviation from other cricket games, which thrive on competitive play. According to Babbar, the only element of multi-player will be things like leaderboards - you won't be directly playing with other gamers.
“It will be singe-player to start with. Multiplayer elements will be there like leaderboards, players can compete with others,” he says. “Here we are basically being Virat, as opposed to playing Virat versus somebody.” Babbar adds that the company could look at adding real time multiplayer in the future, but adds that this would depend on the reception the game gets. “After we see the impact, we can decide what the next evolution of the game is and build accordingly,” he says.
He’s quick to turn the conversation back to how players would be Virat Kohli, waxing eloquent on production values.
“The 3D models that we have built in the game are going to be of very high quality and we used some special techniques to morph players' physical appearance within the game. Virat Kohli is going to look just like the real Virat Kohli,” he claims. “When you make with 3D models you usually get that plasticky feeling but this is going to feel like the real avatar of Virat.”
However, with high quality art and graphics usually comes a large download size. It’s been a challenge for many a publisher in India, Nazara included - the studio has in the past been critical of download sizes for games in India. Babbar however states Virat Super Cricket will be a small game, of around 50MB.
“The content size is within the range that you'll find with any sports based game, the overall packet size is not going to be beyond anyone with 3G or 4G connection,” he says. “We anticipate it to be 50MB in size and we are fine-tuning it and optimising it to get it as low as possible. We understand that data is a deterrent for audiences in India unless they’re on Wi-Fi or high speed networks.”
At the same time he claims the game is optimised for low-end handsets, though he could not specify smartphone models that would support the game. What’s more is, the game features what he described as "4D". Now if you were assuming that implies traveling through time, or perhaps it means a sense of smell, think again. It’s just a gimmicky term for force feedback - rumble or vibration from the handset that certain games employ, which was popularised by consoles such as the original PlayStation. It seems like a minor feature but Babbar believes it makes Virat Super Cricket stand out.
“The additional dimension that we are bringing along with 3D gameplay is the ability of the players to feel the force of the shots as they're played. You'll get a sense of feedback coming from the device through haptic controls and sensors and that will give you a sense if you've played a good shot as opposed of just playing something in the air,” he explains. “We've been testing this and the experience is completely transformed when you get that kind of sense, you do feel that you've really connected the ball as opposed to some games which make you do some gesture and something has happened. Here you really feel that connection.”
With a single-player game mode, purported support across multiple devices, and a low file size, Virat Super Cricket seems to be the kind of cricket game that wants to appeal to the lowest common denominator. We asked Babbar if this applies to the controls as well. Unsurprisingly, accessibility is at the forefront for Moong Labs.
“We're trying to ensure that from somebody who is a casual gamer or hardcore gamer will be to derive pleasure from the game. There will be make advanced and simple shotmaking as well,” he says.
The quest for a larger audience combined with the Virat Kohli license gives Moong Labs added responsibility. Most free-to-play games in India generate revenue through ads, and Virat Super Cricket follows the norm, but Babbar says there’s an attempt to balance that with in-app purchases (IAP) and a decent user experience.
“That's not going to be the primary way of monetising the game because we realise that there has to be a balance, you can't just bombard people with ads and take away the experience of enjoying the game. There will be monetisation through ads but to a limited extent,” he says, though he suspects its license power will be a big plus.
“We believe that people will be inclined to engage with a game that has Virat and that will drive IAP traffic as well,” he says. Virat Super Cricket’s IAPs include collectibles and items to enhance abilities. Considering the game is primarily a single-player affair it would be interesting to see how they’re implemented.
On the surface it seems like Virat Kohli Super Cricket is the kind of game that tries to be all things to all people. From purportedly accessible controls with an apparent sense of depth, and support for low end handsets as well as having high quality 3D graphics, how it actually turns out remains to be seen. We won’t have to wait too long though, with a release slated for a September release on the Google Play Store.