India gaming startup bets big on social and mobile

Hashcube, a startup from Bangalore that developed Sudoku Quest on Facebook, played by over 2 million users, aspires to tap into social and mobile to driving gaming across the world.
Written by Srinivas Kulkarni, Contributor

"By 2016, social games will account for nearly 50 percent of the video game market," according to an article on GameSummit.

I wouldn't be surprised if that really happens. Social gaming has taken over the gaming industry, and has made progress in leaps and bounds if you consider the amount of casual social gamers that exist today versus the serious gaming enthusiasts who are still at it on their PC, console, or even portable device. Yes, of course, there will be a lot of time for this aspect of gaming to actually transverse into the gaming universe; nonetheless, there are a lot more casual gamers than there were at least five years ago.

Much of this is credited to the surge in the mobile industry of smartphones, tablets, and phablets — essentially all mobile and portable devices. If a game such as Candy Crush is this popular in this era, it's no surprise that the much-attributed popularity is because of its social and mobile existence. Yes, it probably all started Farmville and many such popular casual gaming apps, but the industry has grown beyond that aspect. Today, with the help of integration within social and offline gaming, all thanks to ubiquity in terms of app stores being integrated with Facebook, this creates a huge demand for games and gaming strategies to largely go mobile and social.

One such startup from Bangalore is driving quite a buzz because of its very popular game Sudoku Quest, which has over 2 million users through Facebook alone.


Hashcube was started by childhood friends Deepan and Ram when they were in college as a hobby project. To their surprise, the website started making money from Adsense, and after two years of working on the website part-time along with their day jobs, they quit their jobs to focus on the website full-time.

They built multiple websites for many games, and then Facebook came along with its API for developers. The company launched a Facebook app called Sudoku Quest, which grew much faster than the websites, so the focus shifted to Facebook. Now, after amassing a user base of 2.5 million on Facebook, the company has again shifted focus to the mobile platform by launching mobile apps for the flagship title, Sudoku Quest.

"We were making puzzle games online when we started. We did three websites with different games on each of them. Around the same time, Facebook launched — hence, we did a Facebook game, and that grew much faster than the website. Since then, we have been working on social games — but the focus has shifted to mobile now," said Deepan Chakravarthy, co-founder of Hashcube.

Their product is one of the most popular games in the world, Sudoku. According to Chakravarthy, this product stands head and shoulders above any other Sudoku app because of the many exclusive features it has. A few of them are:

  • It's the only Sudoku game with a campaign model in which you have five maps to conquer with 268 levels.

  • It's the only Sudoku app with a beautiful color scheme to represent each digit, which makes it easier to solve and nicer to look at.

  • Sudoku Quest has 11 variants of Sudoku, from 4x4 to 10x10, including overlapping puzzles (Samurai Sudoku), unlike just 9x9 Sudokus on most apps.

  • There are six power-ups within the game to help you out if you get stuck. It's the only Sudoku app that is monetized on such an IAP model.

  • The game has deep Facebook integration, allowing you to compete with your Facebook friends for high scores and exchange gifts with them.

  • Also a first, you can play the game simultaneously on Facebook, mobile, and tablet, with all of the data synced to the cloud using your Facebook identity. You can play on an iPhone, an Android tablet, and Facebook on desktop at the same time.

"We are also probably the first company to pioneer in-app purchases in games like Sudoku. All the others in the market are selling content, whereas we give the content free and charge for power-ups in the game," said Chakravarthy. Although Sudoku is played across all ages, their primary target audience is 35+ women in western Europe and North America. Interestingly, a lot of their gaming is driven by social and mobile. According to a report by the[a]listdaily, the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region is on the up as one of social and mobiles strongest growth regions; it will be interesting to see whether Hashcube targets this audience too.

He said that the company's biggest traction comes through Facebook open graph because of the game's deep social integration. It also cross-promotes the app on desktop to leverage its existing user base.

Well, so far, there is a huge upsurge for mobile and social gaming in India. With almost every other person carrying one of the smartphones, tablets, or phablets playing games such as Candy Crush, Temple Run, and Subway Surfer in most public transport systems in India, you'd be surprised how many of them are engrossed with gaming and social throughout the day. Globally as well as in India, this market seems to be really growing, and Hashcube got quite the start it needed. It is yet to be seen how much more it would be able to exploit this and what kind of innovation it will come up with next.

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