Nepal’s biggest original game developers
The gaming industry is an ever-growing giant of a sector that has penetrated every corner of the globe. And from one, often overlooked, corner of the globe—Nepal—has arisen a gaming company, Sroth Code, that seeks to hold its own in this exceedingly competitive market. By deriving inspiration from Nepal’s rich, ancient and contemporary cultures, Sroth Code is today creating multi-platform games of all stripes: after starting out with puzzle games and infinite runners for mobile platforms, Sroth Code is now focusing on developing complex RPG games whose contours are shaped by Nepal’s mysteries, myths and mores. In the pipeline are even more ambitious undertakings, such as a tower-defense game coloured by Nepal’s epics and highly immersive MMO games that will be enacted in Nepal’s varied locales.
As with most other countries in this hyper-connected globe, Nepal too boasts thousands of video-game enthusiasts. Strangely, though, until Sroth Code Games came along, the country did not have a game-developing community to speak of. Sroth Code aims to not just develop world-class games for all platforms (PC, console and mobile), but also spur the growth of the gaming industry in Nepal. One of the main impediments to creating profitable games in Nepal has to do with the government’s regulations regarding dollar flight out of the country. Around the world, most mobile-game developers employ the freemium model, wherein players download games for free from the app stores and buy game credits to tackle the higher levels of the game. Nepal’s developers are stymied when it comes to working with the freemium model because the dollars they owe the app stores for the upgrades purchased by their customers cannot, by law, leave Nepal. Thus from the get-go, Sroth Code has had to be extremely creative with how they design both their games and their revenue model. To overcome the hurdle created by the injunction against dollar flight, they came up with rather ingenious revenue-generating mechanisms. For their most successful early mobile-platform game (Haku Run), they worked with a movie-production house. The game featured characters from the hit movie Loot 2, the gameplay took place within Nepali locales, and embedded in the game’s environment were non-intrusive advertisements for Nepali companies. Situating the game in Nepal and using Nepali pop-cultural icons caught the eye of Nepali gamers, thousands of whom downloaded the game; and embedding advertisements brought the company pretty good revenue.
Following the success of Haku Run, Sroth Code focused on coming up with at least a dozen casual and hyper-casual games they could develop quickly. Among these releases, Pong Havoc became quite a sensation in Nepal, and was even trending in Australia. Today, Sroth Code is devoting most of the team’s energies to developing an exceedingly ambitious multi-level, RPG game called The Chronicles of the Himalayas. The game is a Nepal-based saga about a young Sherpa boy who has to overcome insurmountable odds to find his lost father. Over the course of the game, which plays out in the Himalayas, the boy comes to internalise the wisdom of his culture, learns about the myriad climatic problems the mountains face, starts to revere the mountains and finally emerges from his ordeals a man whom his people can look up to as a hero. The promising game has attracted foreign investors and has also led to musicians from the popular folk band Kutumba collaborating with the crew to produce the game score. The game demo and the first levels of the game will be released before the end of 2018. In 2019, when the Chronicles will have been released in full, Sroth Code will also become a platform for hosting games created by other Nepali developers. The company will continue to work on larger games and branch out into creating short animated movies and digital comic books.
Haku Run Downloads
Sroth Code Games is led by Uttam Adhikari, who together with Uday Gurung, co-founded the company. The two first met in 2015, when they were both involved in relief operations for the victims of the 2015 earthquakes. When Uday learned that Uttam was running a camp for coders, called Sroth Code Camp, Uday decided to enroll for classes. There, Uttam, who had already worked as a web developer for more than seven years, learned that Uday (who also has a background in coding) shared his passion for gaming.
So they decided to create a gaming company. Uday soon moved into the apartment that Uttam was living in, and that apartment doubled as the first Sroth Code office. When they started out, they would write game code by night and sustain their venture by developing websites and other tech verticals during the day. To save money on office overheads, the duo and their team even cobbled together their first set of furniture (the office table was a repurposed carrom board), and they saved on expenses by subsisting on the leanest of meals. In 2016, Sroth Code showcased their first games at the King’s College Incubation competition, where they took home the $1,500 winner’s prize purse. In early 2017, buoyed by a newfound confidence, they took part in that year’s Udhyami Seed Camp. They impressed the camp mentors with their work history and business acumen, and were on their way to joining Movers and Shakers.
No stage too big for Uttam now
“I had to make a presentation before a large crowd about Sroth Code during the 2017 Next Growth Conclave. I had never been a confident public speaker and I was extremely nervous before my presentation. I figured the way to beat the stress would be to rote-learn my delivery and speak in a continuous stream. When I got up onstage, I began well enough, but five or six lines into my presentation, my brain froze. I could not recall anything that I had prepared, and in my fear and frustration, I cursed at myself. Unluckily for me, that bit of outburst was captured by the mic! Since then, I have pushed myself to become a better public speaker—my job demands it. And today, I actually look forward to talking in front of crowds and making pitches to panels of investors and business associates.”