This article tries to track the shifting paradigm of consumer consumption of skill based games and derived entertainment and engagement. Why is it happening and how? It will also try to answer the question: “What’s the next step in social skill based games, entertainment and engagement?”

Skill Games, Entertainment and Engagement model in India?

India has showered love and affection for massively popular Game shows on Indian Television and recently audiences have also been hooked to the twisted humour, sensationalism and sometimes vulgarity in Reality TV in India.

Around the year 2000 games shows on TV started to pick up steam in India with the launch of Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) the Indian version of Who wants to be a Millionaire?. And then it kept the momentum going with more game shows like 10 ka dum, Sawaal Dus Crore Ka, Jeeto Chapad Paad Ke etc. followed suit by exploiting one or the other human behavioral instinct. The undying hope of humans to succeed with their skills was well leveraged. From a legal perspective these games shows leveraged the fact that any game of skill played for money is deemed legal and if you can involve masses to participate across India with TV as the popular medium, you can make huge profits not just with advertisements but also with user engagement through SMS or online voting systems.

India saw a shift in Entertainment from such pre-recorded games shows to the reality TV. Reality television frequently portrays a modified and highly influenced form of reality, utilizing sensationalism to attract viewers to generate advertising profits. For the Reality TV game shows it is about social connection eg: Leveraging Dating in young men and women in MTV Splits Villa or Channel V’s Dare to Date, or it can be about vengeance and physicality like MTV Roadies or channel V’s V the Player etc. which taps in to human psychology and delivers a value which not fulfilled well earlier.

What has changed now?

While these reality TV shows continue to exist and flourish along with soaps and other genres there has been a substantial paradigm shift in consumer mindset. The shift is more apparent in US and UK and other countries where internet penetration is high, however, it’s catching up in India pretty fast.

Let’s take a look at how communication technology changed consumer behavior and media interaction over years. In early years of television, TV shows used to interact with audiences through posts. I remember an interesting TV show “Surabhi” aired on Doordarshan used to ask people to send Postcards to a Mumbai address. Obviously that was an era when Email didn’t exist. We saw the emergence and rapid expansion of email technology in 1990s and how TV media started getting feedback or interaction from viewers through emails. The communication paradigm shifted a lot with the emergence and popularity of Internet and Mobiles. India became on of the fastest growing mobile consumer worldwide. TV content producers started to interact with audiences through mobile SMS voting etc and started to engage audiences in online voting systems.

However, the instantaneous response still lacks in the reality TV and the content is well edited to ensure certifications and abiding by censorship rules. This is the limitation in the TV as a medium.

A paradigm shift!

The paradigm shift is REAL TIME information access, participation and sharing for enhancement of one’s social status, social contact and instantaneous gratification.

Since early 2000, India saw growth in Internet penetration and a lot of dot com companies emerged. Majority of the companies had a revenue model based on advertisements. Some of the companies later in the decade started to offer e-commerce and allied services. Slowly with the increase of internet penetration the sources of finding entertainment also started to move online. In 2008 India’s internet population was almost similar to internet population in US and China few years back. So India was on a brink of rapid internet growth and penetration across country. This is being leveraged by some skill game sites in India and some recent Online TV Shows like Jay Hind. May be real time SMS voting and Online voting to decide results may soon become the norm…or the REALTIME TV.

To answer the questions: “What’s the next step in social skill based entertainment and engagement?”

An apt answer would be: Emergence of Real Time Social Entertainment – RTSE.

Rapid expansion of Facebook and Twitter are clear indicators of this paradigm shift and the emergence of Real Time Social Entertainment. Even online games industry leveraged this paradigm shift eg: companies like Zynga and Playfish etc. tapped well into the growing online population. However, when it comes to monetization and producing sticky content especially for Indians which stays for years and people continue to pay for it, we need to go back to basics.

Changyou.com and Shanda Games are extremely successful chinese online games companies and they have successfully demonstrated that, with local games like: Mahjong, Blade Online, MMOGs etc., content is the king and it stays with the people and clicks super fast with them.

Local content providers in India like Games24x7.com offering Online Rummy in India and more such real time turn by turn played games like: nomination, pool, carrom, chess etc. are all set to tap into this real time social entertainment paradigm shift.

The love affair between Indians and card games spans all demographics right from working men playing in subways and buses, housewives playing at social parties, middle aged and retired men playing in social clubs, to friends and families playing on weekends. With over 1 Lakh players registering on Games24x7.com in just 9 months primarily with word of mouth marketing, playing Rummy online is becoming the new face of entertainment in form of Real Time Social Indian Games.

New tools and technology helps people to answer simple questions like: Where are you now? What are you doing now? Where are your friends Now and What are they doing now? This gives that instantaneous gratification of social contact and if you can interact and enjoy with them while being miles away from them either through a mobile device or accessing internet on a laptop or PC, you get the social entertainment in Real Time. Eg: Foursquare.com engages friend circles in real time updates and engagement to explore cities etc through any mobile device like: iPhone, Google Android based phones, Blackberry etc. Similarly Gowalla.com also allows you to share real time experiences to discover new places anywhere and everywhere.

Most of the innovations in today’s time are being built on these psychological paradigm shifts in consumer mindset. Skill games and real time social entertainment derived out of them thus is a huge opportunity out there.

Engage, Participate & Enjoy in Real Time, seems to be the new mantra for 2010.

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