Dice it up

Updated: May 29, 2020, 08:40 IST | Shunashir Sen | Mumbai

We take a look at the reasons behind the surge in popularity of Ludo King, a mobile version of the favourite game, during the lockdown.

The Gametion team that developed the app
The Gametion team that developed the app

Sometimes, the numbers speak for themselves. Even till the beginning of this year, before the lockdown began, the statistic of daily active users who would log on to the mobile gaming app called Ludo King was around 13 to 15 million people, according to Gametion, the firm that created it. That figure shot up to approximately 51 million after March 24. Nearly 75 per cent of these users are from India. It's as if the country's citizens are suddenly as excited about this game as children are when they are unwrapping their birthday presents. People are competing against random strangers. They are challenging friends in remote locations. Some are taking on the in-built bot in the app. And there are also families opting for the pass-and-play mode, handing the phone or tablet to each other after every turn, coming closer together as a unit in the process even as they while the lockdown hours away.

It isn't surprising really, when you think about it. The board game originated in India after all, from a pastime called pachisi that was prevalent in the 6th century. And subsequent generations here have memories of afternoons during summer holidays when they would roll the dice with their fingers crossed, hoping it lands on their desired number. It is right up there with carrom when we think of games that also function as family-bonding exercises. So, is it any wonder that people are rediscovering its joys with renewed vigour during the lockdown, when our options for entertainment are largely limited?

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Vikash Jaiswal doesn't think so. The Mumbai-based entrepreneur founded Gametion in 2009, and he is now making hay while the sun shines as his company sees unprecedented success. Jaiswal attributes the surge in numbers to the country's societal structure wherein children, their parents and grandparents often live under the same roof. He says, "Before the lockdown, you would typically have the youngsters playing action-packed games alone on their phones, while their mothers played Candy Crush for instance. But now, Ludo King has become an option to spend time together. The way it is built is another reason for its popularity. There is a lot of mental effort that goes into strategy-based games. But Ludo is more about luck really, so you can have fun without thinking too much about it. Dimaag mein zyada bhaari nahi padta hain. And if you think that you are a champion because you play a lot of it, you are wrong because even a kid can beat you in the next game."

Jaiswal adds that this is one of the reasons why he modified the rules to include a six-player version, so that bachche, maa-baap and nana-nani can all join in. And he says that friends are also using the game as a tool to connect with each other during the lockdown, which reflects in the internal data they have gathered over the past two months. "Earlier, if there were 10 lakh players in the open lobby — i.e. strangers competing with each other — the 'play with friends' mode would have 1 lakh users. That trend has been reversed. If there are 6 lakh people in the open lobby now between the peak hours of 8 pm and 9 pm, there are 12 lakh others who are playing with friends," he reveals, saying that these figures are meant to only share a sense of which way the wind is blowing.

Vikash Jaiswal
Vikash Jaiswal

And his hypotheses are right, if we go by the reasons why avid gamer Dhruv Gupta took to Ludo King during the lockdown. The Andheri resident says that he initially started playing it because he associates Ludo with his childhood, as is the case generally in India, like we mentioned before. "I found it better than a high-graphics game like PubG because it's simple, but still gets your heartbeat up," the 27-year-old says, adding that he's played it often with his friends during the lockdown. Gupta admits, however, that he eventually stopped because he felt that the algorithm was rigged to make the game more competitive and favour paying customers.

That is an allegation that Jaiswal will have to look into, though he tells us that his team is working on introducing new features like tournaments and audio chats in the 'play with friends' mode. But meanwhile, fact remains that the game he built with a company that started with a handful of employees from a small office in Khargarh has taken the entire country by storm. The numbers are on Jaiswal's side. Fifty-one million — that's 5 crore — daily active users is a figure you just can't trifle with.

Also play these

  • UNO is a card game that most people are familiar with, and its mobile version has become a rage during the lockdown.
  • Love playing carrom but don't have a board at home? Try Carrom Pool on your gadget.
  • Words with Friends 2 is a digital version of Scrabble that tests your vocabulary.

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