For six years from 1999, Lingamaneni Maruti Sankar, with a B.E. and an MBA from Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, was working at VisualSoft (sold to Megasoft later) in the product delivery and development team.
While working there, he was visualising an enterprise of his own in the area of digital games, a fledgling area that was just catching the imagination of IT professionals. He quit the firm in 2006 and worked on the blueprint of his start-up for about six to eight months.
Selling the idea to angel investors was, as expected, a tough task.
“I believe in developing a pool of games and building a repository of intellectual property. I do not believe in developing a game to sell it once for all. I am here to a play a long-term game,” Maruti Sanker, now the Managing Director of 7Seas Entertainment, says.
While betting his personal savings from his VisualSoft job, he went on to sell the idea. He raised Rs 1 crore from an angel investor, with which he started his firm with 10 people, including five programmers.
His first game was 3D Sudoku for personal computers in 2007. A year later, the number rose to 100 and the firm started game portals called Onlinerealgames.com, Mobizill.com and Neodelight.com.The last one is a Germany gaming development firm with a library of 33 games the Hyderabad-based company acquired in 2008. The business model of the firm is giving non-exclusive permissions to Web sites and aggregators globally.
“We have three business segments — creating gaming IP, game publishing and game distribution. And our revenue model is game licensing, selling ad space in our portals and games, and selling mobile games. We are also developing film-based games. Whatever we do, we own the IP. There is no going back on this,” he says.
After six years of its inception, the firm owns over 500 games. Of these, at least 100 are popular.
They are being played on several platforms — from the company-owned game portals such as Onlinerealgames.com and Neodelight.com, they are open for gamers from several third-party sites, particularly social networking sites.
The company has developed gaming engines that help it develop games more quickly, reducing expenditure.
“A social networking site that wants to be in the reckoning needs to have a stable of games in order to hold attention of visitors. For that, they should be able to have games on their site from day one. If they don’t have games, they will not be able to attract and sustain traffic to the sites. And game development not being their core activity, they need people like us,” he points out.
The other consumers of games include e-learning sites, localised portals and entertainment portals. “There are not many game developers who have a wide variety of games. The demand for our content only grow in years to come as more and more social networking, e-learning and entertainment portals sprout,” he said.
His game plan is to have as many games as possible. He thinks that he would need a critical mass of 1,000 games. “We are going to achieve this in the next two-three years,” he says.
With games having universal appeal, the company has got some translated into Turkish, Danish and German, besides making them available in some Indian languages. He thinks that India is uniquely positioned to tap opportunity both in online and mobile gaming areas, thanks to its vast creative and IT talent pool.
After the computer-based games, the company began to work on converting them for use on mobile platforms. As java-based phones started to swarm initially, the company turned about 20 of them on to this platform.
The company is now gearing up to deliver products for smartphones. Last week, it released Dark Man, a physics-based aim-the-arrow game for Android devices priced at 0.99 cents.
“We see a huge demand for Android content as the smartphone population and consumption of 3G services is increasing very fast. We are focusing more on this segment and have lined up 12 games in the next few weeks. We are planning to have 100 games on Android, iOS (Apple), BlackBerry and Symbian platforms in two years,” he said.
When it is ready with such a ‘critical number’, it would open a game store on its own portals and also on third-party platforms such as Google Play.
Quoting IT research firm Gartner, he said 70-90 per cent of all mobile consumer applications downloaded are games
And over 60 per cent of the games downloaded are offered free. This trend is likely to continue for the next two to three years.
“The mobile gaming end-user revenue will cross the $11-billion mark from $5.6 billion in 2010,” he points out.
From Rs 7.72 crore in 2007-08, the company’s turnover went up to Rs 23 crore in 2011-12.
Its profits rose from Rs 1.9 crore to Rs 3.16 crore during the period. The company’s shares are traded on the Bombay Stock Exchange.