Launch coverage, first trailer: Hanuman: Boy Warrior

icon_news1The first ever Indian-developed console game – Hanuman: Boy Warrior – was launched today in Mumbai, with a surprisingly large mainstream media contingent in presence. Clearly, the idea of an Indian PS2 game based on Hanuman has people interested and taking notice. Regardless of how this game fares quality-wise, it at least gets the ball rolling and marks an important milestone for console gaming in India.

In the next few months, there will be more Indian-developed PS2 and even PSP games announced and released, and they can only get better from here on out. Forget for a minute about how Hanuman: Boy Warrior will play and think of how far-fetched the idea of a console game wholly developed in India seemed just five years ago. We’ve come a long way.

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We did get the opportunity to play the game briefly at the launch event, but we’ll reserve judgement on it till we’ve played more. Look out for our review soon. We don’t have any screenshots to show you either, but we can do you one better. Here’s the Hanuman: Boy Warrior game trailer.

Sony Computer Entertainment India boss Atindriya Bose was present at the launch and he couldn’t be happier with the way things are going for the PS2, particularly in terms of software support from Indian developers. We caught up with Atin (Round 4, is it?) and got his views on pretty much everything we could think of. Indian games, sales figures, price cuts, Ico, competition, PSN; we got it all covered. Read on:

Now that Hanuman: Boy Warrior is out, regardless of how gamers receive it, what do you think it will do for the market?

Firstly, this is a huge and strong step for the Indian game development industry. They have developed this game in 10 months flat. So from the development point of view, this, as well as other games slated to come out in the next 4-5 months, send out a very strong message. This game is solely targeted at entry-level gamers; it’s not something most IndianVideoGamer members would even touch. It’s targeted at kids and families, and from that perspective, it’s a fantastic game. And while Hanuman is not a well-recognised international gaming brand, because of the Hanuman character, it becomes the parents’ and kids’ choice. This is a PS2 game that no parent will say no to. We’re expecting numbers of 7,000-10,000 on day one, which is huge for us and something we didn’t expect. From a retail point of view as well, they are more comfortable putting this up, because people will pick it up. By the end of the year, we’re looking at around 40,000-50,000 units sold. Later on, we are also looking to bundle this game with the PS2 console.

We had also spoken before about other Indian games in development for the PS2, including a game based on Indian rural sports. Any progress on those games?

Definitely. In terms of releasing these games, we’re currently just looking to space them out. The next two Indian PS2 games will be quiz-based games, and I’m talking serious quiz. One is geared towards IAS and IPS aspirants, while the other is more to do with medical and engineering fields.

So these are educational games?

Yes, educational; not even edutainment.

These are developed in India?

Yes, wholly developed in India by Candella in Bangalore.

The other game we’ve been talking about, is to do with rural India and the games played there. It’s being developed by Game Shastra. That game is being developed for the PS2 as well as the PSP. So you will start to see Indian developers starting to work across platforms.

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Is the Game Shastra game close to completion?

Yes, we’re talking about a June-July release for that one.

Do you have a name for that yet?

No, actually we don’t yet. Internally, we were calling it Khel Khel Mein, but the problem with that is we can’t take that internationally. So we’re looking for an Indian name with universal appeal.

But having an Indian name may not necessarily be a bad idea. Many Japanese titles are renamed for Western release. Couldn’t the same be done here?

We’re evaluating that option as well. This game will have four language options; two Indian languages in addition to English and Hindi. We should have a name for it in the next few days. Again, this is truly Indian, with a nostalgic rural setting, bringing forth Indian games without compromising on any of the gameplay techniques. And in true Indian style, if you win all the games, you will perhaps win the heart of the most beautiful girl in the village and have a dance with her. (cue: collective facepalm)

Any other Indian game besides these?

There is another that we have just signed off on, so it is strictly under NDA at the moment. But it is a story based on gang wars in Mumbai.

So, this will be a game for a more mature audience.

Yes, definitely more mature. And it will bring with it the acquaintance and environments of Indian cities.

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Is there an international release planned for Hanuman?

Yes, for now, the game will release in the UK and South Africa. We’re looking at the Middle East as well, but there may be a little apprehension towards a game based on Indian mythology there. This is within the SCEE region. Maybe at some point, the game might see a release in Australia, but we’re still not sure about shipping cross-region in America or south-east Asia.

Any plans to further drop PS2 prices, especially with a game like this out? What do you think is the ideal price for the PS2?

Ideal price will be sub-Rs 5,000, but at the current exchange rates, it will be impossible. Perhaps, we will go sub-Rs 6,000 soon.

There’s a lot of demand for some classic, back-catalogue PS2 titles, particularly Ico, which has been in much demand, particularly on IVG.

Yes, we can bring those in, but from their (Milestone Interactive) side, they have to be confident about the numbers. And from SCEE’s side, if the game is not feasible at Indian price points of Rs 499, Rs 699, and Rs 999, we can’t release it. Further complications come in if the game is an SCEA (America) or SCEJ (Japan) title. If they have kept a particular game pegged at a high royalty price, then SCEE can do nothing about it and they would rather not bother. I had taken a list of games from you a while back, and I’ve also seen the Ico petition, but Milestone weren’t too confident about the numbers for these games. When I took that list to SCEE in the UK, a few of them were dismissed right away because the assets themselves for those games are unavailable now. The others are possible, but we need to assure SCEE a certain sales volume, which may be hard because many of the games on your list were very niche titles, that may not appeal to anyone but the hardcore audience. There are no issues in bringing a game to India which is still in production, but if there are costs involved to revive an out of print title, then it may be a little more difficult.

Check back soon for part two of our chat with Atin Bose, where he gets uncharacteristically nasty on the topic of the Xbox 360 Arcade, and talks about rumours of a new PSP, when India will get PSN, and more.

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