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Microsoft puts India on gaming overdrive route

Calcutta, Dec. 25: Microsoft is aggressively eyeing India as a destination for its gaming products.

“Gaming is the most popular usage category for the PC after e-mail and word processing. Many countries are already witnessing exponential growth patterns in the gaming space. It’s time India, which is in the initial stages of evolution, gets exposure to world class gaming products and devices,” Microsoft India manager, home and entertainment division Mohit Anand said.

The Indian gaming market is predicted to be around $50 million by 2005. Console and computer gaming will account for $35 million and $15 million, respectively.

Increased computer penetration in smaller towns and cities, an easy access to gaming centres and a changed mindset towards entertainment products result in the growth in the industry.

“India’s gaming industry is improving, although it is in a nascent stage. The market is fragmented and disorganised,” said Anand, “Marketing for gaming products is also in its infancy mainly due to the absence of a strong retail infrastructure. Piracy has also eaten into the market.”

The gaming industry also provides a huge opportunity for the country to develop software and products to cater to the demands of the market. Last year, the Chinese gaming industry made a profit of $110 million and mobile gaming contributed to $870 million to the telecommunications industry.

Microsoft is now turning its computer games into online games and has signed up with GameSpy. The gaming technology company will provide software technology to allow Microsoft to manage and create online communities for PC-based games.

Microsoft had recently tied up with Reliance Infocomm to conduct a Halo Championship at the latter’s WebWorld outlets. Halo is a science fiction epic adventure game, which was initially launched with the XBox console. It has now been launched in a PC version and has been optimised for the Windows platform, which enables up to 16 players to play online at the same time.

“More than 12,000 people registered for the championships,” said Anand. “This is a reflection of the popularity of online games in the country. The number is more than those in developed countries like the UK, the US and Australia.”

The national finals will be held in Mumbai on December 28 among the seven winners. The winner will receive a cash award of Rs 1 lakh and a chance to represent India at the World Halo Championships to be held at Los Angeles in the second week of February.

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