Ganesha, Hanuman on an island - only in Facebook’s Karma Kingdom

August 3rd, 2011 - 1:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Facebook New Delhi, Aug 3 (IANS) Lord Ganesha directs you to Lord Hanuman who tells you about the need to have good relationships with friends and neighbours. No, this is not an excerpt from a book nor is it a movie script. It’s the new Facebook game Karma Kingdom that combines contemporary lessons with Indian mythological characters.

“We looked at the market and, as a start up, we had to cut through the noise and the only way to cut through the noise was to be technologically superior, business- wise savvy and cost-wise most cost effective,” Ashok Desai, founder and CEO of Asvathaa Pvt Ltd, told IANS.

The game, already available to users of the social networking site (http://apps.facebook.com/karmakingdom/?ref=bookmarks&count;=1) in India and the first Facebook one on Indian mythological characters, is set on an island. The idea, as in other Facebook games like Farmville, is to give users an opportunity to create their own virtual world.

So, the player lands on an island where there are plenty of raw resources that can be used to build shelter and gather food. The first rule of order, Lord Ganesha tells the user, is to see to his/her people’s physical needs. Soon the user builds a village, where food and shelter are available to anyone who asks.

Then Lord Ganesha directs the user to Lord Hanuman who guides him/her to take care of people’s social and spiritual needs and build good relationships with friends and neighbours.

“We chose to use familiar Indian mythological kind of storyline, iconography and design elements, but with an appeal for a global audience. Specifically, we have a day-night cycle in the game; no other game has that. The game is all about building your virtual world which gives you opportunities to do good in real world and that is the most important difference between us and any other game,” he said.

After a slowdown due to recession, the gaming industry is booming the world over. In India, the animation and gaming industry is valued at $739 million with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 32 per cent between calendar years 2005 and 2009, according to a study by Assocham and global consulting major Deloitte.

Facebook already has several games, some of the most popular being Farmville, Cityville and Zynga Poker.

Ask Desai why he chose Facebook and pat comes the reply: “Facebook is one of the fastest growing social network. It has brought 750 million people under same umbrella. The base was so large it became a natural platform for social gaming. For a start up like us, it was a very natural decision to make Facebook as our first step.”

The humongous user base for Facebook was not the only reason.

“There was another reason - Facebook has already established a lot of business mechanisms and payment systems in different parts of the world. The practical reasons to use Facebook were the quantitative, qualitative and monetisation.

“Though we are launching in India, Karma Kingdom is going to be a global game with a global appeal. Any part of the world where Facebook is present, automatically allows us to monetise from day one without having to worry about any of the payment systems,” said Desai.

After making a foothold in the Facebook fraternity, Desai said that the “next step will be on the mobile platform.”

Karma Kingdom was developed over a period of 12 months approximately.

Why mythology?

“We wanted to tell stories. We wanted to tell Asian culture stories… there is a certain mythology that we have heard over and over again, but there is a lot of great fresh content out there that the Western world hasn’t seen,” said Aaron Mathew, director of Asvathaa’s games business unit, adding that the USP of Karma Kingdom was to tell a fresh mythological story to the world.

Google has launched Google+ and Aaron said: “As soon as Google+ announces anything about gaming, we are basically preparing to use it as their next platform.”

(Arpana can be contacted at arpana.s@ians.in)

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