Sumo Digital is a British video game developer that has worked on a number of popular games since its inception in 2003. The company expanded to India in 2007 with a subsidiary studio in Pune, followed by another studio in Bangalore in 2021.
The two Indian Sumo Digital studios have worked on games such as Forza Horizon 4, Crackdown 3, Hood: Outlaws, and more.
IGN India spoke with Stewart Neal, studio director of Sumo India Studios, to learn about the company’s objectives and missions for the game development scene in India.
A game jam is an event where several participants come together to create a video game from scratch. How does Sumo India leverage game jams to elevate creativity?
Sumo Digital has pioneered in-studio game jams since 2015, and they have become an integral part of the developer’s social initiative ever since. These jams enable the participants to take a break from their usual day-to-day tasks at work and collaborate on projects developed from scratch with people they may never have worked with before. This allows them to come up with out-of-the-box concepts and construct games any way they want to without any constraints.
Sumo’s game jams can last for up to two weeks, and developers can work individually or as a team on the project. After the two-week “jam” period is up, participants are able to show the resulting game to the rest of the people in the studio. There is no official jury to judge the winning game, the entries are chosen by a vote by people within the studio. The whole process brings together the people in the studio, either through collaborating to make a game or being part of the judging process, it’s a unique way to drive creativity.
How did Sumo Pune develop the character art for dark vision-inspired heist games, such as Hood: Outlaws & Legends?
When we formed Sumo Pune in 2007 we were purely an art studio. We eventually expanded at pace to provide support in other departments such as programming, design, QA, and management roles with the help of our experienced team members – but the art department was there from the beginning.
When it comes to character development, it goes without saying that the most important aspect of character art is understanding the human body in order to create a character that matches the quality of the game. We collaborated closely with the Sumo Newcastle team in the UK when we were creating character art for the dark vision-inspired game, Hood: Outlaws & Legends. We worked with them from the initial concepts to developing the characters and personalities, helping to get their presence and characteristics right across the modelling, as well as the animation. Also, to match the standard of today’s gaming world, we had to focus on the technical aspect from hair and clothing to the weapons that were being used in the game to show the character as real as possible.
Can you tell us about the challenges that a studio has to face while developing a AAA title?
While AAA games are credited with fostering a generation-defining experience and an oversized cultural impact, developing them can be quite challenging. Whether it’s bug-hunting or enhancing the user experience, the journey of an AAA game from inception to eventual fruition can be quite demanding. The need to rigorously test the game and fix any gaping holes calls for financial support and a skilled team of people. But, often, firms struggle to either find financial resources, the right people-power, or both. That’s where having a stable budget and the right people for the job can be pivotal in the successful development of an AAA game.
While there are no current updates on Sumo India Studios working on its own IP currently, our team is focused on developing the best games that we can in collaboration with fellow Sumo studios and third parties.
As part of our strategic expansion plans, we’re currently looking to bolster our workforce at the Pune and Bangalore studios with new talent. For those who’re looking to advance their career in the industry, the listings for the new vacancies can be found on our website.
We are seeing more and more console and PC games coming out of India recently. Can you tell us about the consumer journey of Indian gamers who are now starting to spend on platforms beyond mobile?
In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the development of console games within Indian studios; however, the Indian market has been slower to adapt to console gaming than other regions. This is not because console games cannot compete with mobile games, but because console gaming is more expensive. Mobile games have demonstrated a strong market with a low barrier to entry, with nearly unlimited games available in the palm of your hand. The limited stock availability of current-generation consoles such as the PlayStation 5 has made console gaming more difficult to adopt, but being well-established in the industry, we are still seeing growth despite these challenges.
Gaming has become a leading industry in India since the launch of Jio 4G and increased internet usage demand. As a result of this, PUBG and other mobile games have become extremely popular, with many people playing them for entertainment purposes. The growing popularity of mobile gaming has also increased interest in console games, as players want to explore more gaming platforms. Despite stock shortages, the Xbox Series X and PS5 have currently broken all previous sales records for console launches in India. The sales of these consoles are attracting the attention of major game developers and expanding investment opportunities in the Indian market.
How is Sumo India raising awareness about gaming and games development among women in India?
The Indian gaming industry has grown more diverse and inclusive, now welcoming players from all walks of life, regardless of gender or upbringing. Though we can’t escape the fact that there is a higher male percentage working in the gaming industry, we are now seeing more women in the industry, whether as gamers, developers, or entrepreneurs. We are working hard to ensure that quality, diversity, and inclusion are central to everything we do at Sumo India, and across the Sumo Group.
Can you speak on the future including upcoming projects as well as thoughts on the Animation, Visual Effects, Gaming, and Comics (AVGC) sector as part of the current year budget?
Unfortunately, we can’t openly talk about any of the projects currently in development, but as said, we can confirm that we’re working on over 15 projects at this moment in time, and the teams across both Pune and Bangalore are working hard to ensure that gamers will not be disappointed – more will be revealed on these games in the future!
It’s great to see a task force being set up for the promotion of AVGC. India has been involved in these markets for decades and the recognition of this and collaboration to establish more platforms, training and opportunities for people is a huge step forward for the industries.
What is Sumo Digital’s wish list with the current market?
We’d like to see continued growth for AAA gaming in the Indian games market. As we’ve already discussed, mobile gaming has become a fundamental part of everyday life in this country, with access to high-performance games on mobile devices. The stigma around gaming is shifting, but we’d like to not only see more people, of all ages, encouraged to partake in gaming – but also see it as a career opportunity.
We have unearthed some talented people to join our Pune and Bangalore studios so far, but they’re many more out there.
What are your opinions on the Indian market as a whole and the current state of the game development scene in the country?
The Indian market has seen a lot of disruption in recent years, but with the new normal, the market as a whole is also seeing a solid recovery. However, in terms of the current state of the gaming industry, with the involvement of the youth population, India is expected to become one of the world’s leading market destinations in the gaming industry. The country’s growth is being driven by a younger population, higher disposable incomes, the introduction of new gaming genres, and a rapidly growing number of smartphone and tablet users.
In addition, the gaming industry in India is expected to boom significantly, with 507 million users as of now. The figure shows how quickly the industry is growing in India, which is fantastic, and we believe it could be amplified even further as infrastructure and broadband mobile networks expand. And to be a part of the evolution, we as a leading player in the industry also wanted to capitalize on this expansion, as well as the economy to position India as a major hub of AAA game development in the future.