Indian gamers simply loved 2022. There were plenty of ups, downs and twists to call 2022 an M. Night Shyamalan classic. The year saw top-notch games like the Elden Ring and God of War Ragnarök get released, it saw India winning a bronze medal in the Commonwealth Esports Championship, it saw BGMI getting banned by the Indian government, there was that GTA VI leak out of nowhere, don’t forget Google shutting down operations for its cloud gaming service Stadia, we witnessed the official launch of 5G at the India Mobile Congress 2022 and last but definitely not least, it saw the Indian esports sector escape the umbrella term ‘gaming’. Other notable mentions are the Microsoft and Activision fiasco and the hype around Web3 in gaming.
Might I add that 2022 was also the year where India became the country with the highest number of mobile gamers leaving the United States of America and China behind. The year also saw the Indian gaming industry pay approximately 2,200 crore in GST and reach a valuation of USD 2.6 billion. With these developments in mind, BW Businessworld had conversations with Ashish Gupta, Marketing lead, India & South Asia, Riot Games about the future of gaming in India, their new Valorant character ‘Harbor’, Riot Game’s expansion plans in the country and much more.
If you could shed some light on this idea of capitalizing on Indian values and creating a character of Indian origin?
India has one of our biggest player bases and our community here is incredibly passionate. So it was more about when we would create an Indian agent versus if we would! Having an Indian agent was always on the books for us.
Why did you name the character ‘Harbor’ and not go for an actual Indian name?
Harbor’s real name is actually Varun Batra. We wanted to lean into elements of Indian cinema to portray Harbor as a true action hero. You can see this in the way the trailer includes a high-speed motorcycle chase across Delhi. Our creative team also implemented dramatic camera angles, crash zooms and action-hero one-liners. We wanted our players in India and globally to instantly recognise the qualities of classic Bollywood movies.
How does Riot Games plan on including the Indian Culture in their games through this?
In creating Harbor, our development team approached it from as many angles as possible to ensure authentic representation. Our development team worked with consultants from India to gather information about Indian traditions, values, pastimes, food and drink etc. They watched a lot of Indian cinema and read books as well. They also worked very closely with Indian Rioters, including myself, to understand traditions, values and music. We were deeply involved in shaping Harbor’s voice and demeanour and we also used Hindi as a language. You see, Indian culture is beautiful and complex and we hope that we successfully captured some of that in Harbor and that our Indian players can see some of themselves reflected in him – someone who is tough, confident and passionate.
I would also like to mention that the Indian culture is much more diverse and elaborate than just Bollywood. Does Riot Games plan on expanding its approach when it comes to being more inclusive of ‘Indian culture’?
Inclusivity is a top priority for us when designing and launching our games. As mentioned above, we drew inspiration from many different sources, not just from cinema. I am especially proud of the inclusion of Hindi lines. I and other Indian Rioters wanted to make sure our players could hear everyday phrases they would use in their own lives.
Apart from finding ways to represent different cultures in our games, such as through Harbor in Valorant, we also want to connect with our players directly. This is why we established an office in India. We want to reach our players where they are and bring experiences directly to their doors.
What is the road map for Riot Games in India from here onwards?
We look forward to bringing more events to India in future. The reception to our Harbor community launch event was amazing. We can’t wait to hold more events in future. We are also excited to build a stronger esports presence in the country. As mentioned, we have an Indian esports team involved in our International League. However, we also want to foster a healthy and vibrant local esports ecosystem in the country.