Dark Matter is forging ahead in the game development sector
Two friends, Asim Basnet, 23, and Prakash Shrestha, 21, have loved playing video games since they were kids.
“We played every game we could get our hands on,” Shrestha, who is awaiting her final results in electronics and computer engineering from the Paschimanchal campus in Pokhara, told The Post by phone.
Their love for video games led the two childhood friends, born and raised in Chitwan, south-central Nepal, to seek careers in game development.
The duo had often wondered why there were no Nepali game developers despite a large player base. “So after grade 12, we were pretty sure we wanted to be professionals in the game,” Shrestha said. “I joined electronics and computer engineering to learn game development.”
Since 2018, they have continued game development and gradually improved their skills through trial and error. The two friends developed their first game similar to Subway Surfer. The game, which was developed on a Lenovo V310 laptop, launched on Google Play in 2020.
Basnet, who is currently studying computer engineering at the United Technical College in Chitwan, explains that they decided to devote their time to their vocation and thought about expanding the team. “We decided to register a company and hire people who are as passionate about gaming as we are,” he said.
Subsequently, Dark Matter Game Production was registered as a company in December 2021.
Currently, the Dark Matter team consists of five members: Himal Timilsina, UI/UX designer; Prabin Gurung, database and server manager; Aakash Prasad Gupta, UX Developer/Engine Programmer; Monika Mahato, conceptual artist; and Asbhin Adhikari, 3D modeler/texture artist – excluding Basnet, game designer and 3D modeler; and Shrestha, lead developer.
“We need to hire a sound artist, animator, designer, VFX artist and developer in the next few days,” Basnet said.
Dark Matter has released two games so far: Sprite Ninja: Ninja Hattori and Sprite Ninja: Ninja Hattori Vancouver. Both games have been downloaded over half a million times and 50,000 times, respectively.
“We completed our first phase of game production this year and released the beta version of our first game which currently has over half a million downloads on the Google Play Store,” they wrote to the Post. “Our next plan is to complete post-production on this game and release its final version.”
After releasing the final version, Basnet hopes to start earning a minimum of $10,000 per month.
Seven of the top 10 start-ups were able to secure investment pledges totaling Rs.245 million during the CNIYEF Nepal Start-Up Fest 2022, organized by the Confederation of Nepalese Industries Young Entrepreneurs Forum last Saturday.
Of the seven, Dark Matter Game Production has received an investment pledge of Rs. 15 million, according to Basnet. “We are super excited. We presented our plans for the next few days at the start-up festival, and investors loved it,” he said.
“Projects that made it to the final selection were given the opportunity to be showcased,” the organizers said in a press release. “After the presentations, the investors, in the presence of Baikuntha Aryal, secretary at the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, reached a preliminary agreement to take an equity stake in the projects.”
The other six start-ups that have received investment pledges are Voxcro, Skill Sewa, Team Veda, Kheti, Digital Age Nepal and Doctors on Call. The investors are Team Ventures, Global Equity Fund, Aadhyanta Fund Management, Himalayan Capital and Televenture Partner, according to the statement.
Shrestha believes lack of funds is one of the reasons why there are only a few game developers in Nepal.
“Before, I wondered why the Nepalese didn’t develop video games. But now that I’m in this business, I understand that funding, or lack thereof, is one of the main reasons,” he said. “I think the lack of sufficient funds, equipment and skills are the reasons for the small number of game developers in the country.”
When Basnet and Shrestha started their journey as game developers, they had to rely on their families for the initial investment. “Our families provided us with 500,000 rupees each,” Basnet said. “We bought some pieces of equipment to update the game we launched earlier.”
The gaming market was valued at $198.40 billion in 2021, and it is expected to reach a value of $339.95 billion by 2027, according to Mordor Intelligence, a market intelligence and consulting firm.
Despite significant progress in the field of game development, the Nepali game development community is still small and lacks motivation, according to industry insiders.
“There are only a handful of game development companies in Nepal as there is almost no incentive for developers in educational institutions,” said Rahul Subedi, publisher of Yarsa Games, based in Pokhara. “Most game developers in Nepal are self-sufficient.”
That’s why among those with knowledge of information technology (IT), only a few choose game development, says Subedi. “There is a shortage of skilled labor in this sector, mainly because people think there are no opportunities for career development,” Subedi told the Post.
“It’s a vicious cycle. Lack of motivation in educational institutions regarding game development leads to fewer individuals entering this field. Lack of manpower translates into fewer start-ups continuing game development. This leads to the production of only a few games, which reinforces the idea that there are no opportunities in game development,” Subedi said. “We have to break this circle .”
Subash Adhikari, vice president of the newly formed Kathmandu chapter of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), second Subedi.
In Nepal, according to Adhikari, there is not enough time and opportunity to hone the skills required to become a professional game developer.
“Game development is not new in Nepal,” said Adhikari, a software developer by profession but passionate about game development. “Many Nepalese developers have also been involved in outsourcing projects.”
Despite the obstacles, some of the games created by the Nepalese have achieved success, according to Subedi. Ludo, developed by Yarsa Games, has been downloaded over 50 million times on the Google Play Store.
“If we could develop games targeting the right audience, especially in neighboring countries like India within a similar demographic, Nepali developers could make money doing what they are good at,” Subedi said.
While their success in the gaming world is commendable, Basnet believes they still have a long way to go.
“We want to launch our games on platforms other than Android. We will also localize our products to different markets in the respective languages,” he told the Post.
“We are currently working on a role-playing game for the Android mobile platform. We will continue our production across different platforms and genres in the coming days,” Basnet said.