Today we’re excited to announce Lumikai’s investment into India’s leading mid-core sports gaming studio, All Star-Games (formerly Deftouch). Our co-investor in the round is Play Ventures, founded by Harri & Henric, two of the most experienced early stage gaming investors in the world.
We first met the founders, Ninad and Keshav over a year ago at India GDC. What instantly stood out was their conviction to build something new, both in terms of their approach to sports games, and their innate understanding of the future of mid-core gaming. Unlike Western markets and Japan, the vast majority of Indians didn’t have the opportunity to grow up within the deep-rooted gaming cultures of Nintendo, Sega and PlayStation. Both Ninad and Keshav are what we internally call “India 2.0” gaming founders. Young, ambitious Gen-Z dreamers that have instead grown up cutting their teeth on the best mobile games in the world. These founders have a native, intuitive understanding of industry’s best game mechanics, and have bold personal aspirations for the future of India gaming.
Lumikai believes that domestic mid-core social gaming is a massive white space in India. Global incumbents like Supercell and PUBG have demonstrated the local demand, defying conventional wisdom that more complex, long tail games wouldn't be popular with Indians. So far the domestic market at large has broadly underestimated the sophistication of Indian gamers — but this is changing. Indians want and expect higher quality gameplay, better graphics, deeper mechanics, sophisticated communities, fair game economies, and more relatable live events.
Sports, and especially cricket, are ripe for mid-core disruption. Cricket is the world’s second most popular sport, with 2.5B fans worldwide. 1B of them are in India. Yet current cricket games are realistic simulations built primarily for the hardcore player. We play and appreciate these titles. But with 650M smartphones and 1B avid fans, the opportunity goes far beyond this niche. All-Star’s mission is to build the “Supercell for Sports”, and they have been laser focused on this objective since inception.
The team’s first game, Cricket Star, a hyper casual cricket format experiment built entirely by the two co-founders drew over 60% D1 retention, almost unheard of for the genre. Their next game RCB Cricket, was built with a skeleton crew and hit #1 on the Play Store within a week with over 1M downloads. The team has since grown, along with their aspirations. Last year the studio was featured in TechSparks 2019, YouStory’s Tech30, and Google’s Indie Accelerator. This is when our paths crossed, and over the last few months we’ve already been working closely with the team (and the world’s best cricket game designers) on their next moonshot, All Star Cricket.
All Star Cricket pushes the envelope further by introducing real-time multiplayer and a mid-core, long tail approach which is truly unique to this massive sport. The team spends months prototyping to “find the fun”, a process they honed on their first hyper casual title Cricket Star. Every physical interaction with the touch screen should feel fun. That forms the essential, approachable foundation for everything that comes after-long term player progression metas, social features, live events, and a more democratised vision of esports.
This ground up process of finding fun approachability and layering that core with sports-native mid-core & social metas will in parallel also form the foundation of the team’s engine for other mid-core sports titles. Baseball and Tennis are already in prototype phase.
The approach is working. All Star Cricket already has over 40% D1 retention rate in MVP, and 25% of revenue is coming from IAP, exceptional metrics for a title aimed at the domestic market.
The new investment round gives the team runway to further iterate and solidify its head start, before accelerating to scale. We’ll also be doing our part, introducing key talent and connecting the team to the global market leaders we also represent as a fund, the same iconic gaming companies whose games inspired the founders to start on their jouney.
Ninad and Keshav are emblematic of the next wave of India’s gaming founders — ambitious, innovative, focused, hungry to disrupt, and building the next generation of global quality Indian games that will be played for a lifetime. We couldn’t be more excited to help them achieve the next stage of their vision.
PS: The team is actively hiring!