Gameberry Labs, an Indian gaming startup, is making massive headway globally with two of its popular mobile games – Ludo Star and Parchisi Star. The latter is extremely popular in countries like Spain, Mexico, Ecuador, Columbia, and Dominican Republic. Both the games together enjoy six million DAUs (daily average users) according to Gameberry Labs, a number that it says spiked to 15 million DAUs in the pandemic. Founded in 2017, the year of the pandemic was extremely beneficial for the gaming startup. It witnessed a 400 percent net revenue growth in 2020 and also surpassed a milestone of over 125 million downloads worldwide.
Since 2018, Gameberry Labs says it has witnessed a 150 percent increase in downloads. It has been recognised as the top 10 gaming studio from India by App Annie. Its projected revenue for the FY 2022-23 is $45 million (roughly Rs. 338 crores). The gaming startup is busy developing a merge game and a social multiplayer action survival game called Traitor. Both the games are in the testing phase as of now and the company looks to release them by the end of the year.
Afsar Ahmad, co-founder, Gameberry Labs
Gadgets 360 spoke to Afsar Ahmad, co-founder, Gameberry Labs to know a bit more about the company’s journey so far and its future plans.
1. What were you doing before you began Gameberry Labs?
My entrepreneurial journey started from the very first year of college at IIT Kharagpur. Over the course of seven years before founding Gameberry Labs, I worked with my co-founder, Govind Agarwal on building multiple web-based products like Helpbook, Lolcentre, Gawds Advocate, Migzing.com, Annote & Halfteaspoon (on-demand DIY Cooking). However, these products didn’t work for some reason or the other. But I have no regrets as I believe building all these products did provide me a plethora of opportunities to gather experiences and unparalleled insight into what should not be done and what should be taken care of while transforming your concept into a business.
Before co-founding Gameberry Labs, I have also worked with various firms such as Moonfrog and Capillary Technologies. Since entrepreneurship was my destination I headed towards the same later on and built Gameberry Labs.
2. What motivated you to begin Gameberry Labs? How did you and the other founders meet?
I studied with my co-founder and friend, Govind at the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur. This is where we bonded over our common passion to build great games. We always had the vision to create games with a global appeal and the ones that would be able to withstand the test of time. Thus, we co-founded Gameberry Labs with the strong belief to build games that people would love to grow old with.
Ludo, everyone’s childhood favourite game, inspired us to build our flagship games- Ludo star and Parchisi Star (Spanish version of Ludo). With the growing craze of online Ludo – we found the right opportunity to bring this classic board game to mobile with a rich social experience built around it that helped friends and family connect via fun gaming experiences. In 2017, we quit our jobs and started developing both the games. And, this is how Gameberry Labs came into inception!
3. Explain in brief what Gameberry Labs does?
Gameberry Labs is India’s leading mobile gaming company having two globally iconic social multiplayer games- Ludo Star and Parchisi Star in their portfolio with over 125 million downloads, and 25 million monthly active users (MAUs). Founded in 2017 and headquartered in Bangalore, Gameberry Labs is a bootstrapped gaming studio.
We develop next-generation social games focused on bringing people together. Our core design philosophy is to build games that players love to grow old with. Our games are designed to be socially engaging thereby allowing the players to meet new people, challenge them, compete for the top spots and foster new connections along the way.
Standing true to our belief of building world-class games from India, we have successfully built a global user base for our top grosser games: Ludo STAR and Parchisi Star which are played every day by six million people (DAUs).
4. What was it like in the first year of being in business? What are your key learnings from the early days?
For us, the first year was very eventful. Both our games gained organic traction almost immediately after their launch. Gameberry Labs hitting 50 million downloads by the end of its first year is indeed a testimony of the same.
Our player-centric approach, social-first game design and relentless focus on early player feedback worked in our favour and helped our games achieve high ratings. This not only resulted in organic downloads but has also played a major role in making these games popular worldwide.
Ludo Star became a viral sensation and hit the popularity charts in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The category started getting recognized as Ludo STAR in these countries. Just like Ludo Star, Parchisi Star also had a similar organic growth curve. Parchisi reached 1 million daily active user in December 2017 and out of this 70 percent of the share was from Spain.
The biggest learning was that if you focus deeply on what the players want and work with a player-centric approach, the product will grow by default. Our growth has been 100 percent organic. All we did was focus on what players wanted and prioritize their requirements and demands. It is indeed heartwarming to witness that there are players who have been playing the game ever since its inception and have helped us improve the game over time. This truly resonates with our mission of making games that people would love to grow old with. Our in-game social features and referral levers helped us in gaining loyal players. We leveraged Facebook’s network effect to grow users. It served as a flywheel for the game and built momentum without a marketing budget. For us, monetising a niche category like this was extremely challenging. Smarter mechanics that allow players to reroll dice for gaming currency and without informing the other player about it, not only helped us to monetise the game successfully but also added an additional element of excitement to the gameplay
5. How was it like sailing through the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis?
The pandemic outbreak was indeed an unfortunate event but it also emerged to be a blessing in disguise for the gaming sector. During this time, there was a record-breaking surge in demand for social multiplayer games. People were constantly glued to their phones and laptops for work and entertainment. Hence, they turned to social games to have fun and bond with friends and family virtually. The gaming industry boomed during this time.
For Gameberry Labs, the pandemic led to massive growth as well. In a month’s time, the DAUs of Parchisi STAR grew from 1.5 million to 10 million. Due to the new wave of players who enjoyed the game, the market expanded, and the game took off to new heights.
Our DAUs spiked as Europe went into a lockdown. Our games grew from 2.2 million daily active players (DAUs) to 15 million DAUs which is presently stabilised at 6 million daily active players (DAUs). We also surpassed 125 million-plus downloads worldwide. The company witnessed a 400 percent net revenue growth in 2020. During the pandemic, Parchisi Star jumped to number 1 position (games category) in both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store in Spain and achieved an overall number three ranking in Spain. It also reached the number one spot in Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic. In May 2020, we served approximately 1.3 million concurrent players without any disruption. Having achieved this feat was an engineering milestone for the company, and it has also been featured by Google as a case study. During unprecedented times like the pandemic, what was noteworthy was that a mobile game like Parchisi Star, helped people in Spain remain connected with their friends and family. These are moments when we realize that technology has a humane side as well, which can bring us together.
6. Which are the most popular games from your portfolio? How many downloads and DAUs do these games have?
From our portfolio, Ludo Star and Parchisi Star are two globally iconic multiplayer social games. These games have had over 125 million downloads so far and currently have 6 million people playing them from across the globe (DAUs). Parchisi Star is also the best multiplayer Parchisi game in the world with 1 million daily active users from Spain.
7. Could you help give a sense of how far Gameberry Labs has come in these few years? From when it began to where it is now.
We have come a long way since our inception in 2017. We have completed 3 years in the industry and we already have 25 million monthly active users, 125 million downloads, and 400 percent net revenue growth in 2020. Our journey has been amazing not only in terms of revenue and user growth but also in terms of the impact our games have had on people’s lives.
Our social gaming experience has made a meaningful impact on our players’ lives and given Gameberry Labs stories with relationships at the core. When we began building our games, we had no idea that our games would also end up as a ‘match-making’ platform. But it’s true! It is a social game that is also being extensively used to connect with new people and develop connections. Playing our games, people have found life partners, reconnected with lost friends, and bonded with family members. We have changed the way people look at Ludo. It is more than a game now. Rather it is considered as a platform to connect and bond where every board has a story. And we love the fact that what we envisioned is now a reality.
The key metrics that have seen an uptick are:
Since 2018, we have witnessed a 150 percent increase in downloads. Our games have been downloaded 125 million times, vis-a-vis 50 million in 2018. There has been a 400 percent net revenue growth in 2020. Our projected revenue for the FY 2022-23 is $45 million. As per App Magic, we are the 2nd Highest revenue generating multiplayer ludo game During the pandemic, our DAUs grew from 2.2 million to 15 million DAUs (which is now stabilised at 6 million). Gameberry Labs has been recognized as the top 10 gaming studio from India by App Annie. Parchisi Star has become the top game leading in the LATAM market (monthly active users) as per App Annie.
8. What is your revenue model? Do you have in-app purchases in your games?
Gameberry Labs is an in-app purchase (IAP) driven studio. We are a bootstrapped, cash-positive organisation. Our revenue model is split between in-app purchase (70 percent) and in-app ads (30 percent).
As there is better monetisation potential in mature markets overseas, India has never been our target market in terms of revenue. For us, the revenue growth is primarily driven by Saudi Arabia, the US, and Spain markets.
9. What does the recent IPO of Zomato mean for tech startups in India?
The recent IPO of Zomato has certainly been an iconic moment for all the tech startups in India. It is a testament to the fact that India’s asset-light tech companies are finally coming of age.
As an entrepreneur, I feel that the most important ingredient for strong entrepreneurs to have is a true story of triumph. I think stories like these spawn more energy and drive the aspiring entrepreneurs to kickstart their journey.
10. Could you offer data on the kind of users on your platform? What is the average age of users that play games and the amount of time spent daily?
Some of the noteworthy data points are –
The top DAU markets for our games are Saudi Arabia, Spain, Columbia and Morocco. Ludo Star players play on average 8 games a day, whereas Parchisi Star players play on an average of 5 games a day The majority of our players are between the age group of 18-34 years The player gender split for Parchisi Star is 50:50 whereas for Ludo Star it’s 70 (Male):30 (Female) 40 percent of our Daily Active Users open the game at least thrice a day
11. With new gaming startups flourishing in India recently, what do you think of the scope of the sector in India in the long run?
The gaming sector in India, which was slowly warming up in the last decade, received a major boost when Covid-19 forced everyone indoors. With few avenues available for entertainment, online gaming took off in right earnest. Many studies have shown that the sector is growing at a brisk pace. According to a KPMG report, the Indian gaming market is expected to grow at 113 percent from Rs 136 billion in 2021 to Rs 290 billion in 2025. As per industry estimates, the number of players is expected to grow 52 percent from 443 million to 657 million over the same period. The belief that gaming is just another fad has also been put to rest by the 1.7X rise in unique user count seen during July 2020 to April 2021 period. That should bode well for the sector which has attracted significant funding interest from global private equity and venture capital funds.
12. What are the other plans in the future? Are there any new games in the pipeline?
We are looking forward to expanding our gaming portfolio while strengthening our presence in the board games category in the times ahead. Currently, we are developing a merge game and a social multiplayer action survival game (Traitor) as we see great potential in both these categories. Both the games are in the testing phase as of now and we are gearing up for an end of the year release.
Since our gaming portfolio now spans across different genres, we’ve also built two new teams to expand the portfolio and create the next big success story for Gameberry Labs.
13. Do you have any management mantra/ advice that you’d like to share with future entrepreneurs?
During my entrepreneurial stint so far, one valuable lesson that I learnt and would like to share with future entrepreneurs is that they should try to spend more time with their users, and listen carefully as to what their requirements and preferences are. Learn from the users, and always be open to change.
Most probably, whatever you will build first will be wrong but it will be closer to what is right! As an entrepreneur, you should always care about your users and focus on their experience. Understanding the users in ‘user experience’ is the magic mantra to successful businesses that often takes a backseat. And most importantly, listen to your gut and intuition. It will always guide you on the right path!
14. What is the employee strength? Is Gameberry Labs hiring currently?
Currently, our team consists of 93 members who are ambitious, humble, and creative. We have built a cohesive environment wherein everybody truly respects all their colleagues and believes in learning from each other. We are hiring for multiple roles at Gameberry Labs as we need more people on our team who are equally motivated and share the same zest to build great games as we do.
We strive hard to keep the work culture creative and allow game developers, artists, game designers, product managers, testers & marketers to have the autonomy they need to innovate and build the future of Indian mobile gaming studios together.