Photo Credit: Google Play/ nCore Games
FAU-G, aka Fearless and United Guards, has finally launched and is now available to download on Google Play. Developed by nCore Games, the action mobile game comes as a home-grown alternative to PUBG Mobile, that was banned along with other Chinese apps by the government in September last year. FAU-G was initially planned to launch in November, but following several delays, the title finally saw a release on January 26, marking the Republic Day. In the meantime, FAU-G saw an astonishing number of registrations in the days lining up to the launch.
Earlier this month, FAU-G crossed the four million pre-registration mark on Google Play, according to nCore Games co-founder and chairman Vishal Gondal. The game was also under the spotlight thanks to Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar and his hands-on involvement with FAU-G's development – from the title to the theme song.
FAU-G has now launched on Google Play, and in an interview with NDTV, Gondal talks about further details of the game, its target audience, its monetisation strategies, and future plans to enter the world of esports. You can watch the full interview below, or read excerpts edited for clarity.
NDTV: Congratulations on the launch of the game! FAU-G crossed four million registrations on the first day of its launch on the Google Play store. This is the highest-ever number of pre-registrations in India. Can you tell us more about what players should expect from FAU-G when they first download the game?
Vishal Gondal: FAU-G is the first time when developers are attempting to create what I call original Indian stories – Indian IP. Which is why I do believe that the kind of response we have got is phenomenal. It is just the way it works. For example, if you look at Netflix or Amazon Prime Video where it had all these foreign shows like Narcos. But, when it came to Indian movies and Indian shows, they dominate. If you look at any platform, there's finally Indian content and Indian IPs. Gaming is the only place where Indians were not given access to top quality Indian content.
Most of the games were either Chinese or Korean or from other parts of the world, which is why I wanted to make sure that we give people what they like, what they relate to, and what they connect with. And I think with any Indian, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, [one point of interest] we can connect with full dedication is our soldiers, our faujis, and the sacrifices they have made for the country.
I believe that younger people, especially, are not really aware of it because they're all immersed in their world of computer or mobile games. So, the idea is to give people not only an experience of the game with FAU-G, but actually let them live a life of a soldier and experience what it is to be on the frontlines.
FAU-G is being compared to PUBG. Can you shed some light on the gameplay similarities between the two, if at all? How is different, or better, than PUBG? Also, PUBG is making a re-entry in India. Are you ready to take the competition head-on?
When it comes to entertainment, there is foreign content and then there is content which is home-grown and Indian. For example, we have Spider-Man and we have Krrish. Everybody likes Spider-Man, but you know it is not a story you know. He's in New York it's not a story we all relate to as much. Similarly, while PUBG is a great product but you know the timeline, the storylines, the characters are not really somebody an average Indian can relate to. In fact, they're more eastern characters, if you see PUBG and the kind of stuff they have done.
Secondly, I doubt if PUBG would ever pick Indian soldiers and specifically Indian soldiers fighting with our enemies in the borders, given PUBG's own allegiance to some of these people. So, I think as far as FAU-G is concerned, we are trying to give Indians what we believe they want as Indians, which is a gaming experience where they can fight the enemies – just like Call of Duty. Call of Duty, for example, talks about World War, America's war in Afghanistan, which is why the Western audience associate with Call of Duty because it's a war they have lived, or where their parents or their grandparents have fought in. But an Indian would not associate as much with World War II or Afghanistan, so I believe that with FAU-G, the clear differentiation is our theme, our storyline. Look at the dialogues we have created [for the game]. We have used Hindi and Tamil, so it's going as local as we can.
And finally, with FAU-G we also wanted to give them a meaning to their gameplay. This basically means that when they make any purchase in the game, 20 percent of our net proceeds will be donated to Bharat Ke Veer trust which is created for the jawaans and here is again a way of how gamers can contribute positively to the country.
You've previously announced that 20 percent of the revenue from the game would go to the Bharat Ke Veer trust. But what exactly is the monetisation strategy here? Will the game have ads or in-app purchases?
For games like FAU-G, which are essentially action games, our bigger revenue stream comes from in-app purchases and not advertising. So, there is a whole host of in-app purchase modules. You can buy skins and weapons and so on, and we will be keeping on adding more things. Remember PUBG was in development for five years and we're just less than one year into development. So, the way games work is we keep coming up with versions that helps the game get better.
We also have another very interesting way of monetisation, which is merchandising. Right now, there is a very interesting concept, which we call Easter Eggs, in the game where people can discover and purchase Fau-G t-shirts and other merchandise which also adds to our monetisation.
We have thought beyond just gaming, and we're thinking of creating an entire world of FAU-G where we have merchandising and a whole host of things coming together.
Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar has promoted the game through his Twitter and Instagram accounts. How else is he involved in the game and its ideation process? Can players expect to see character skins based on Akshay Kumar in the game?
Akshay sir's company is very passionate when it comes to our soldiers. In my other company GOQii, we're closely associated with him. So, when I was thinking about nCore Games, our idea was to do a game based on the soldiers of India. The game conceptualisations started sometime in 2019 but when the whole Galvan Valley incident happened, we started working on that level and that's when he actually gave us the title. So, the title FAU-G is completely credited and attributed to Akshay Kumar.
He's the one who thought about it, he's deeply involved in our creative process he's looked at every game build. He's commented on every character, every weapon. In fact, the theme song, the anthem which was produced was also something which is produced by Akshay [Kumar] himself. Once again, he is really committed and passionate about our soldiers and his point was that our youngsters at one end are playing all these action games and on the other end do not know what our soldiers are actually doing at the border. So, it was about telling the stories, which is why we launched with the story mode, where we are telling you the stories of our soldiers. As things progress, we will be looking at other modes, including a Battle Royale mode and a PvP mode. All I can tell you is that Akshay Kumar has really been a big support and his creative superpower helped us take FAU-G to where it is so far.
FAU-G takes inspiration from the Galwan Valley incident but seems to have its own storyline focussed on India-China skirmishes. Do you feel in the current situation this might further stoke anti-China sentiments?
Our game cannot add or remove anything about anti-China sentiments. I think it's really about what is happening in the reality on the ground. We are just telling a story and we're just having our youngsters, who are largely playing the games, know this story. As far as the ground reality is concerned, we all know what the geopolitical situation is currently. And all I can say is that the only hope is that the situation improves, and all these fights become limited to mobile games and not in the real world.
We have a question from Gagandeep Singh, a big streamer in India. His question is that will this game be targeting esports or will it just be a casual game?
Absolutely, we will get into esports. But the way the games evolve is you don't directly launch a game and get into esports. You first launch a game, create a community, introduce PvP, introduce Battle Royale and once you have a good-enough community, you branch out into esports. So, esports is something which comes later and cannot come earlier. It is just like any other game. For cricket tournaments to happen you first need many people to play gully cricket matches and state matches before the game blows up. Similarly, we believe that FAU-G will eventually get to esports but I would say we're at least eight to 12 months away from there.
We have another question from Shagufta Iqbal, who's a gamer and her question is will you need a high-end device to run FAU-G or low-end devices would also be able to run it?
We are now supporting any platform, from Android 8 onwards. Android 8 is pretty low-end today, launched nearly four years ago. I would say that we've gone to a very good limit to support low-end devices. However, if there is a need to support even lower [platforms], we will look into it. I do believe that Android 8 is a good cutoff but at the same time if you have a phone which has higher performance from within our settings you can actually boost the performance mode by taking it to the ultra-performance mode where the game will have higher-rendered resolution and graphics. We have even given the control of quality back to the gamers within the game itself.
— with inputs from Shayak Majumder.