Web3 Gaming📱, Cricket 🏏 & Community 🤝 with HitWicket Co-Founders Kashyap Reddy & Keerti Singh

Keerti Singh & Kashyap Reddy, Co-Founders HitWicket chat with Shripati Acharya, Managing Partner Prime Venture Partners.

Listen to the podcast to learn about

02:00 - Cricket is a Game of Strategy

11:00 - Games are Where Gamers Hang Out

18:00 - India Gamers & Bharat Gamers

20:05 - Web3 Gaming: Technology, Game Play & Tokens

Read the complete transcript below

Shripati Acharya 00:50

Hello, and welcome to Prime Venture Podcast. Today, we will talk about the exciting and fast evolving field of gaming and web3 gaming. Our guests today are Kashyap Reddy and Keerti Singh, Co-Founders of Hitwicket, which is globally the largest cricket strategy game. So, I’m really excited to have Keerti and Kashyap with us today. Welcome to the show.

Keerti Singh 01:15

Thanks, Shripati. Very happy to be part of the podcast. And yes, gaming is one of the most exciting things happening around so, would love to chat about it.

Kashyap Reddy 01:30

Thanks, Shripati. Thanks for having us over.

Shripati Acharya 01: 35

Wonderful. So without any further ado, just to give a little bit of background to our listeners, what is Hitwicket?

Kashyap Reddy 01:40

So, Hitwicket is a cricket strategy game. Now when you think about cricket, there’s so many billions of people who watch cricket and every time you look at the conversations, what they talk about, who is going to bowl next? Is this kind of bowler, who should be the captain? Cricket is a game of strategy and we wanted to build a game that will capture the imagination of the spectator. People are watching cricket, how can they experience this emotion inside a game? And that’s why we built Hitwicket as a game where you are the owner, coach and captain of a virtual cricket team. Where in this virtual world, you are a cricket team owner and you’re competing with other users from across the globe in this game of strategy, that’s how we had envisioned our product.

Shripati Acharya 02:35

So it’s a mobile game, it’s played on your mobile and I go ahead and I create my own team and compete. But when you say it’s a strategy game, what exactly do you mean and how is it different and what is a non-strategy game, I guess, in the same genre?

Kashyap Reddy 02:55

Okay. In defining what’s a non-strategic game, would be something where you are reliant on your hand-eye coordination and your reflexes where you swipe and hit, it tends to be much more appealing towards a younger audience. A game of strategy would be where you are thinking, you’re making decisions on the go. It’s like a game of poker, at every step of the way you are computing what all is happening in the field and then making decisions in real time. For example, in our game, we have various characters inside the game and depending on various match situations, they perform in different ways. The great thing is since we are not tied to real world cricket, it’s a completely virtual world. You are the main commander where you have all the power in the world to make a difference.

Shripati Acharya 03:40

So would the player also then, well, in real cricket players kind of become better over time or they might actually start taking strike and then after some time and they get used to the conditions and start playing better, etc. Do any of those things also… Are they part of Hitwicket?

Kashyap Reddy 04:00

Yes. So as you keep playing, you have an opportunity to evolve your players so that they get better at certain positions, they get better at their core skill or you can even turn them into all rounders. So great thing is it gives you the power to do everything because it’s a virtual world, you control every aspect of the gameplay.

Shripati Acharya 04:25

Okay. So I think that clarifies the strategy part of things. But tell us how you got into gaming in the first place and a little bit of a backstory here to set the context.

Kashyap Reddy 04:40

All right, so ever since I was 10 years old, I had a quirky hobby of designing board games. So my school notebooks used to be full of board games that I used to draw and that has always been understanding the motivation of the user, what makes something fun to play, has always been something that’s very intriguing to me. Even when people would pay, I would try to devise ways as to how to make it more fun. And after I grew up, I started playing a lot of online games. There was one football strategy game, which was the biggest one in the world at that point of time, where I got really hooked onto and I became the number one player from India in that game.

And then that’s where that kind of was ingrained in me that, okay, cricket is even more of a game of strategy. Why don’t we build a game of strategy for cricket? And particularly with the prevelance of IPL, people from across the socioeconomic strata are now familiar with the concept of owning a cricket team and competing in the league, player options. What if we could capture all this inside the game, how amazing it can be? And that’s kind of really got us motivated to build Hitwicket.

Keerti Singh 05:55

One of the other core pillars of building Hitwicket was that if you look at cricket in the real world, the kind of TG that it attracts, right? From a young kid to somebody who’s an old person, from women to men, it’s got that mass appeal, which resonates across everybody. And that is something that we wanted to capture in Hitwicket, that even the users of the mobile game of Hitwicket should be that widespread. And that’s a very conscious decision in the design making where we try to make the game very accessible. Anybody can play, it doesn’t require any hand-eye coordination, which makes it very targeted to a male audience. Even the characters in the game have different characters. If you see IPL, you have Nita Ambani, Priety Zinta, a lot of females who are actually very actively associated with the sport. So that was one missing part in the cricket gaming ecosystem where the games were still about male cricket teams and we wanted that it is inclusive of everybody.

Shripati Acharya 07:10

And I think it’s going to further improve with the Indian women’s Cricket team performing so well in the Asia cup and so forth. We’ll just have more heroes or heroines, I guess, from the cricket of Women’s side as well. So I completely agree with you, it’s a game with universal appeal. So taking a step back? Why is this an exciting time for gaming in general, or is it?

Kashyap Reddy 07:45

So I think it’s a phenomenal time in space to be in, because you see the porcelains of the entertainment industry altogether. I look at gaming as part of the wider media and entertainment industry, and if you look at the most successful startup in the world right now, TikTok is about entertainment. We’re reaching a space in the economy of the world where more people are investing in experiences. There are a lot of places where people are saving their time and money or making more money. And now, it’s like, “What do I do with all these resources?” They want ways to experience a better way, either they’re traveling or they’re spending it on other forms of entertainment. So that’s why mobile gaming has become such a massive industry and 15 years back it didn’t even exist. And I think I would look at the PC and console gaming as a completely different market to mobile gaming, simply because the target audience is so different.

And that’s why even the content and all is design with mid size three minute sessions so that anybody, people of all ages, like 60 year olds playing the game and 10 year olds playing the game. And coming closer to India, yes, we are an entertainment hungry market. If you look at our movie industry, it’s like we’ve always been right up there. India has been a developing market in so many sectors when it comes to entertainment, expectations are always world class. And if you’re able to crack this market, I think it’s going to be something very magical and phenomenal.

Keerti Singh 09:15

And the kind of smartphone penetration that has happened in the last few years coupled with the internet and the micro transaction facility, I think that has really fueled the gaming ecosystem where now it is accessible to a person in a tier three town as well. So it’s no longer a niche industry catering to tier one audiences. It has penetrated to the grassroot levels and with UPI, it is helping you enhance your experience even by paying a small amount. So I think all these three combinations, smartphone, internet, UPL, they are creating that fantastic ecosystem where users have complete choice. What kind of games he wants to play, when he wants to play, how deeper he wants to immerse in the game.

Shripati Acharya 10:10

And I feel that there are maybe a couple of more aspects of gaming, which makes it such a unique form of entertainment in the sense that one, it is very active, the user is involved in the game. It’s not like watching a movie, watching Netflix for that matter, where you are sitting back. It’s a lean in experience for the gaming parts, much more engaging. And the second piece, increasingly, and I would like your opinion on this, is the social element of it. I think gamers are not just in the game to get entertained, but it’s also a forum and a community where they’re really connecting with other users, isn’t that?

Kashyap Reddy 10:50

Yeah, Keerti would testify that the social aspect of it, how she got hooked onto gaming in the first place.

Shripati Acharya 11:00

Let’s hear from you, Keerti.

Keerti Singh 11:05

Yeah, so it’s like a lot of times, you see people around you playing a certain game and they’re talking about it and it’s kind of a FOMO now. So if everybody is talking about PUBG, I remember that when I first started playing PUBG, it was actually a bit difficult to learn the game. But I ended up giving it six to seven tries just because I knew I had to play the game to be able to talk to friends about it. So that way, I think that is one part. And the second part is that, yes, in gaming you end up interacting with people whom you otherwise wouldn’t. So it kind of nurtures online communication where there is a common topic. So if somebody is playing a certain game, they have something to talk about that game, there’s a bit of like-mindedness and it’s very easy to connect as well. So it is definitely there. And gaming is, I would say it’s so much interactive where you control your journey basically.

Kashyap Reddy 12:05

So if you ask some of the kids today, they would say their social network is actually Fortnite and that’s how people get together and they plan their stuff. Sometimes they’re not even playing the game, they’re just interacting with each other inside a game and they’re attending music concerts inside a game. And this is something that is completely mind boggling as to how people are using games as a platform.

Shripati Acharya 12:35

That’s fascinating. So I think that it’s much more, so gaming is much more than just entertainment and gaming really is, as you correctly said, the place where gamers hang out. I mean, it’s a place where you have your own identity and so forth. So it just goes much beyond what just a passive entertainment might be. But yet, I think that it is not, but making it a successful game is not that easy. So what goes into creating a successful game is a probably important question to ask at this point of time and perhaps, you can tell us what is the reach and spread of Hitwicket, itself.

Kashyap Reddy 13:20

Got it. So today, we have 3 million downloads across 70 plus countries. And the beauty of the product is we have people who are 10 years old and 60 year olds who are playing our game. And there are very few products in the world which have such a diverse spread of age groups. And the biggest challenge with game is that it requires both your left brain and your right brain where your creativity and technology are working together seamlessly to craft a mind blowing experience to a user. In a game, you’re not actually solving a problem, you’re trying to give a user an experience, and there’s never a clear answer as to what you need to build. We do a lot of data science to understand what is working, what is resonating with the user. But a lot of it ends up being intuition and doing emotional design to figure out what is the right direction to build the product.

And that’s why if you see, even in the last 10, 15 years, although so much money has gone into building games, they’ve been those 20-30 products which have really nailed it. And those guys have been literally at the top of the market for more than 10 years. Some of the top grossing games have been at the top of the chart for more than 10 years. So although more games are getting built, it’s the people who managed to crack the market, they’ve literally stayed on top for a really long time. And that tells you both about the lasting effect and the difficulty of building gaming products.

Shripati Acharya 14:50

It is, I love the way you said it, that it is not a problem you’re solving but building an experience. And that’s why it makes it a fuzzy problem space because gamers and human beings in general are complex and actually going into something deeper such as an experience is a much harder thing to crack. So what leads to this longevity of games because then by that, and a point that you make Kashyap, gaming becomes a hit driven business. I mean, you make one game and it becomes a hit. And then these gaming franchises which we see over the last decades, what is the secret of those things when you think about Call of Duty or Doom or World of Warcraft, any of those things. We just had number 17 of Grand Theft Auto coming out and so forth.

Kashyap Reddy 15:55

I think there are two major components. One is the brand and once people get hooked onto it, gamers tend to stay loyal to a brand. Once they get hooked on, they see, so they’re open to trying out newer versions of what the brand is releasing. And the second important thing is the market. Great example here is FIFA, been running for more than 20 years as a franchise. And year on year, you only see it increasing. And what they have done is the football market, the football fan is what they’re betting on. So technology has involved PC games became mobile games and console games, etc. But the market for FIFA has only gotten bigger and bigger and the way the brand has been able to capture the user is because they’re betting on the market. So the longevity is as long as football is popular, there will be a market for FIFA and their goal is to be the number one player for football.

And that’s how even we are visualizing how it needs to be done because yes, building a game from scratch now it’s only going to get harder, because a user has already played a game as good as a Clash of Clans or a PUBG. So any new game they try, they expect the quality standard to be this much. It’s not like, “Okay, it’s a new game, I’ll give it more leeway.” No. Okay, everybody values their time. They’re like, “I’m going to spend my time on a product that gives me the best possible experience.” 10 years back, anybody could make a game and people would give it a shot. Now the standards are so high, now it’s like 2D to 3D animations and the performance on the mobile, how realistic it looks, how exciting it feels and all. It’s just way too hard to build that product and that’s why it takes a while to polish it to the experience that a user wants.

Shripati Acharya 17:45

So how do you think about the Indian game and just moving the lens to India, both from the Indian gamer, if the Indian gamer behavior is different than any global gamer? That’s one question and a related question is that how should the Indian game developers who want to get in and start creating games think about their opportunity?

Kashyap Reddy 18:15

So a lot of ways in which we visualize business, when we look at the Indian market, I think everyone’s talking about that there’s an India market and there’s a Bharat market. And that’s something even we have seen from our own data that there is a certain segment of users who have much more in common with the UK or an Australian or a US user that would be your Indian urban audience. And then you have the Bharat users who behave completely differently. And if you look at our data in terms of how quickly they convert into paying users or how much time they spend, it’s very easy to segment these users because the behavior is so clear cut silo. Some set of users, what they spend on inside the game also tells you the urban audience wants to spend money in order to progress faster and the rural audience wants to spend money to play more. And that’s a very clear cut difference where the business model should be able to accommodate both sets of users and engage them at the same time.

Keerti Singh 19:20

This is also an aspirational element in the Indian gamers where people don’t mind spending for entertainment. I’m just shifting away a bit from gaming, I’ll give you an interesting story. So when I was working in Indian Oil, I was in Jodhpur and a lot of these truck drivers used to change their Hello Tunes every 20 days. Now, they are paying for that entertainment and even paying 100 rupees for a person whose monthly income itself is 15,000. It’s a good portion and it’s not even something that he is listening to, but he wants others to know that he’s not your regular guy. He’s put something which defines him. And that I think is very interesting where even if not for a bigger purchase, people in India, also have the propensity to make small purchases.

Shripati Acharya 20:20

That’s a fascinating example because I think it comes back to the identity piece, isn’t it? It’s part of your identity and the gamer identity where you might be the top national or local PUBG player or a Hitwicket player or a Hitwicket team owner is a matter of pride. It’s a matter of identity. So let’s shift gears a little bit here and go towards talking about web3. There is so much talk about web3 and gaming and it’s kind of hard to discern a signal from noise. So maybe I’ll ask you, Kashyap, first, what is web3 gaming in your world view?

Kashyap Reddy 21:00

Got it. I think we’ll have to bifurcate. There’s a technology piece and the second part, which is a use case piece. The technology on the web3 with the blockchains and decentralization and all those things. Yes, there are revolutionary technologies. I mean, it’s going to have a long lasting impact going forward, how technology itself evolves. But the use case part is particularly interesting because it’s an evolutionary change, which is what makes it inevitable. The way games used to be paid to download and play, they moved to free to play. I see a similar sort of a shift when it comes to web3 gaming in the sense that earlier on, people think of it like a PVP game where user is playing against the computer. Previously, the business model where user used to pay the game developer. Now the market world to PVP where users are playing against each other.

Similarly, I believe business models will turn to a PVP model where there are marketplaces, where users are able to trade with each other. So across the game, across the world, if we see, when talk about web3, it’s essentially the marketplace that is the main use case that has led to user engagement, user getting immersed into the product. Which was previously not possible without the advent of blockchain technology. That’s where web3 has opened up another avenue for gaming itself and one that I think will actually enhance both engagement and monetization. And that’s a great interesting future to look forward to.

Shripati Acharya 22:45

So Axie Infinity of course, is a pioneer in web3 games, but when I think of Axie Infinity, you have assets which develop and can become… In the case of Axie Infinity, in your case it would be I guess, the players which become better, have more powers, have more capabilities, and then you can trade them. But there’s also this aspect of tokens where in the case of Axie, the equivalent example would be in game tokens, which are SLPs and how should a developer think about it? Do you think all web2 games will become web3 and what would an evolution or transition from web2 to web3 look like?

Kashyap Reddy 23:30

Got it. So when we say web3, it’s essentially going to be the layers of a marketplace, a token account and token or using tokens. Right now, not all web2 games will migrate to web3. I’m sure they’re going to be massive games built only on web2. And most games are actually not suited for this migration because the games themselves don’t need the marketplace or the tokens in order to be a complete loop. They probably remain just as fun being on web2. But going forward, if there may be certain games where web3 actually enhances the experience, I think that’s a key part that developers need to think about first. Are we adding a web3 layer only for monetization or does it enhance the game?

Whenever we add web3 only for monetization, there’s a tendency of them losing their fun part as a trade off for monetization. And that usually does not lead to good results in the long term. So the web3 layer, we should take a strong look at it, how does it enhance the game, make it more fun for the user? And that as a side effect leads to greater monetization opening up different business models.

Shripati Acharya 24:45

One of the challenges, at least I see, is the fluctuating price of tokens in that case, when you actually exchange the tokens. It’s a free market once they introduce tokens, on chain tokens and the prices can fluctuate. So when and how do you think it makes sense for the game to introduce tokens in your opinion?

Kashyap Reddy 25:10

I think one very important aspect is stability. The game needs to have a significant user base before tokens can be in a place where they’re stable. The lesser number of users you have holding the token and the more concentration of tokens in single entities tend to be a higher fluctuation. So having that scale, the very large number of users holding that token automatically gives a sense of stability to that token itself. So, that’s one aspect. And second thing is that the moment you have so many users at the base, that means without a token, that means the game is already certainly fun to play. These are users who are playing even without the token. So that automatically brings a level of confidence of users that, okay, this game can be played even though there are no tokens. And that makes it easier to design a token system, which is not used as an incentive. I think the problem becomes when a token is used, an incentive to get a user to play rather than reward the user for already playing the game.

Shripati Acharya 26:20

Yeah, I think that the thing which I believe game developers need to be just really cognizant of is that it’s somewhat irreversible the process of introducing a token and then once the users have it and it starts trading and so on so forth. A lot of thought has to go in from whether it makes sense in the first place to have a free token for a game. And the second point which you are making, Kashyap, here, which if I were to paraphrase, is that you have to focus on actually creating a very sticky, compelling game experience in the game loop for the user. Where you’re attracting the user, where the users have that right balance of making progress, yet finding it challenging. And which really gets them to be engaged and provide a high quality entertainment experience for them.

And then the play to earn, which is what we hear web3 being synonymous with, can be an added layer on top of it or something which is a catalyst to make more users have a better experience and attract more users. But starting out with just making play to earn where the motivation is to come and earn sort of misses the main point of a game, which is the game play.

So I think that we are sort of running up on time here, so let me ask you that. What would be your advice to a new entrepreneur right now who’s starting out in gaming and from all your years of experience in Hitwicket. To both of you, what would your advise be, the dos and don’ts to create a successful game?

Kashyap Reddy 28:15

I think the most important aspect is make the game fun. And we should not think about anything in terms of monetization or web3 or anything of that sort until the core game play is fun. And that is the part that requires a lot of iterations when I say iteration, I’m talking about 40 to 50 iterations. How game prototypes in order to continuously play, until the moment you see the people in your team getting hooked onto it, keep iterating. It’s too expensive to build a full game and launch it and then hear the bad news from users. It’s a game, people in your team will try it out. So it needs to be good enough for them to get hooked and that’s how we should take before you even go to the next step of monetization and retention.

Keerti Singh 29:05

And I think it’s very important to understand the game from a user perspective because a lot of time it’s like, “Okay, I’m playing games, I like games, so I will make games.” But that is very different from what people will engage with and that’s where we need to be very mindful, that we create something that is very user centric because at the end of the day, they are the masses who are going to play the game. So you shouldn’t be chained by your own thought process or your own liking and make sure that it is open and it’s appealing to a wider TG. That way, even the kind of data that you get is big enough for you to make decisions, to understand and get meaningful insights out of it.

Shripati Acharya 30:30

Wonderful. Well, how is your own rating in Hitwicket?

Keerti Singh 30:05

Yeah, so we are actually one of the highest rated games in India on both Play Store and App Store. And it was a bit of a special moment when we were even higher rated than Clash of Clans and Clash Royale. That was a testimony that we are making a world class product from India, which is resonating both with Indian audience and international audience.

Shripati Acharya 30:30

Oh, congratulations on that, Keerti and Kashyap. It’s terrific having you on the podcast and all the best with Hitwicket. I mean, Cricket is in the air. We have another T20 World Cup starting imminently and I’m sure that we have good days ahead for Hitwicket. Thank you.

Kashyap Reddy 30:50

Thank you.

Keerti Singh 30:50

Thank you Shripati, lovely chatting with you.

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