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IPL on consoles

When I say I.P.L. should be a video game, I mean a proper game title like I.P.L ’13 or something like that, and not the mod (of EA Cricket 2007 I believe) that has been doing the rounds since the first edition. What I am aiming for here is for EA to pick up I.P.L. and run with it. To make a game like no other, because I think “The force is Strong with this one”.Master Yoda and Chris Gayle

In the coming few weeks I will try to explore, why Cricket has not achieved the goal of becoming a simulation phenomenon, and also, how the I.P.L. can actually help. So take this ride with me and tell me, if you agree, disagree, or just simply don’t give a damn.

For this argument to really begin, we need some background.

The first per-requisite is obviously knowing what the I.P.L is all about. So everyone welcome to I.P.L.-101. The I.P.L. or the Indian Premier League, is a cricket league currently played by 9 teams, during the March-April window in India. The matches are played under the T-20 format and is controlled by B.C.C.I (Board Of Cricket Control In India). While club cricket is not new to the cricket world in general, the I.P.L teams are not state/district/club oriented, instead these are franchises based in cities and financed/owned/managed by various Business organizations (for eg.United Breweries own the Royal Challenger Bangalore). What this does is allow the franchises to assemble teams, irrespective of state (or even national) boundaries. Thus you have all-stars team, star-studded with both national and international talent competing against each other. The tournament has enjoyed huge success in the Indian sub-continent and has already served as a launch-pad for various athletes in its 5 year run. In a time when T-20 cricket is changing the appeal and penetration of cricket, I.P.L. is bringing local loyalties to a game which has been country oriented for a long time.Check out the Pepsi I.P.L.(Previously D.L.F I.P.L.) 2013 advertisement that aired on TV this year below:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chKWNxt8Am4]

The second per-requisite for this argument is in understanding how the Sport-simulation (roughly speaking video games about sports) market stands today. EA (electronic arts), pretty much rule the roost here. Annually, titles like NHL (Ice-Hockey), NFL (American Football), FIFA (Soccer), UFC (Mixed Martial Arts) receive yearly iterations bringing the best of what the sport and technology has to offer. Cricket used to be part of that annual EA cycle, but somewhere it just got lost. Codemasters gave it a go bringing out International Cricket 2010 (which is the latest you can get to playing cricket on X-Box360) and there is a Move-Street Cricket for PS-3, which is currently the cover title in India for the PS-3. None of those past games however have been able to do justice to the gentleman’s game, and I think I know why.

For starters:

Currently there are only 8 good international teams (compare that to the 32 teams that play the Fifa World Cup and you get the picture) who can perform and compete in all forms of the game. This just goes to show that not many people like playing cricket. For the record cricket has 3 official formats: Tests, One-Day, and T-20.Teams In ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 and in FIFA World Cup 2010

But that holds true for American Football (I don’t think even USA has a national team for that), UFC (half the world don’t even know what that means) and Golf (I mean come on). Europe and North-America, the two big spots for video games consumption contribute only 2 teams to the cricket world (West-Indies and England). Every single game-development company focuses their marketing strategies on these two areas, so while Europe will have major focus on Fifa and Tennis, USA will see games like NFL and NBA having their time in the sun.Different consoles

Add to this the prevalent grey market and piracy in the Indian Sub-continent, it means that the market which is the most likely to play Cricket, does not like to buy original Cricket games. The piracy situation is also compounded by the fact that console penetration in India is very low, with most people preferring to stick to PCs, where the games are easier to pirate (hell even the originals are dirt cheap).

These are issues, however which will resolve themselves in the coming years. Now that console makers such as Microsoft and Sony take India seriously, its only a matter of time before the game developers do too. The sales of consoles are on all time high, which is resulting in an over-growing market which is currently being fed games made for the west or for the east.

Initially the Indian gaming scene had more of a single player emphasis, especially in consoles, with multi-player being shunned completely in the favor of exciting local game-play. With the advent of faster broadband speed however, online-multiplayer is fast becoming a viable option, and for that more and more people are choosing original games over pirated ones. So games like Battlefield-3, and Modern Warfare 3, are all finding buyers in India, which is telling the people over at EA and others, that there is indeed a market for their games away from the established USA, Europe and Japan.

With games like Hanuman, Street Cricket and others, we are already witnessing games tailor-made for India. Even if these games are humorous attempts at game-making (Ra-One was as bad as the movie), it does show that someone out there, wants to know what makes Indians tick, and is willing to make a game about it. It’s only a matter of time, before we get our very own tailor-made marketing drive by EA, centered around what else but Cricket (or Sharukh…or Sunny Leone…who knows…but I hope its cricket).

With that ray of optimism in my heart, and on my blog, I try to answer the first hurdle in creating a successful Cricket based franchise. This also ends my first entry in this ongoing discussion. Please feel free to comment and tell me what you think, and what other sports can make the cut.

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