Chess is ancient and one of the most popular indoor games played in the world. Although it is said to be the game of brainiacs, chess can be played by anyone irrespective of the age. It has high involvement of all parts of the brain in every single move of the game, thus helping in better functioning, a benefit that no other sports on the Earth can ever offer you. To make it even more exciting, WowChess, an online gaming app recently came into being to cash in on the growing popularity of the sport among youngsters in the country. With lakhs of chess players unable to compete in offline tournaments due to the pandemic-induced lockdowns, WowChess aims to bring this offline behaviour to online space. Besides enabling the conduct of tournaments online, the app will empower players across India for now – and eventually the world – to play tournaments in different formats such as arena blitz, bullet, puzzles, storylines, among others. The platform offers around 25 tournaments each day and claims to be the only chess app in the world, which allows players to enter into competitions with an entry fee and win prizes. Kartikeya Rao, CEO, WowChess, speaks more about this app, the way it functions and its future prospects, in a conversation with Ramesh Kumar Raja. Excerpts:
What exactly is WowChess? Is it like any other platforms offering online gaming or esports tournaments? What is your USP?
WowChess is an online gaming application, available for both Android and iOS through our website www.wowchess.com. Chess is played all across the country with an estimated 100 million Indians who know how to play the game. The team at WowChess has come together to re-imagine chess and add fun to this fantastic game. We aspire to offer exciting and different forms of chess competitions, tournaments, and gameplay with a user experience that is unlike any other chess app. Simply put, we want to make playing chess a wow experience and the USP of the WowChess is “this is a made in India” application. Our mission is to make chess more democratic and enjoyable and to give everybody a chance to compete, win and be recognized.
How many types of gameplays and competitions do you offer?
We have traditional gameplay formats like tournaments, single combat as well as puzzles. But to give a wow experience, we have also introduced a mini tournament format called Battle Royale and puzzle tournaments/ challenges. In Battle Royale, a player can set up a tournament for up to 5 more people with bespoke parameters to play with their friends and colleagues. We have also introduced puzzle tournaments and challenges that brings a competitive angle to puzzles and that has been a major hit with our customers.
How do you organise tournaments online?
So far, we have organized more than 1,800 tournaments and distributed over 7.50 lakh rupees in prizes. On a daily basis, we cater to over 25-plus tournaments between regular arena and puzzle tournaments.
We have also conducted corporate tournaments as well as tournaments with a club of current and former students of IIT/IIM/ BITS.
With the fear of COVID-19 pandemic still in the air, how do you look at the growth prospects of WowChess in India?
WowChess is seeing a 30% growth month on month and our average user spends almost 48 mins daily to play the game on the application. The pandemic has changed the way we live our day-to-day life and the way we live, work, play or interact with each other. When we look back, what we see today are two very different worlds, a pre-Covid and a post-Covid. We are just happy to keep entertaining in this difficult time. People are taking to different forms of hobbies and routines, and chess has always been played and valued in India. This has definitely led to a growth in our database and reaching out to new people and bringing them onto our platform.
How is the gaming industry transforming in these tough times?
It’s going to keep growing and who knows: maybe it will begin to get more eyeballs than cricket in the near future. Chess is a game that is ancient. And in India, we have produced champions like Vishwanathan Anand. India is also home to many prodigies, boys and girls. Chess streaming is seeing a huge surge globally, so it’s very exciting to see how chess transforms in lockdown.
|“We are just happy to keep entertaining in this difficult time. People are taking to different forms of hobbies and routines, and chess has always been played and valued in India. This has definitely led to a growth in our database and reaching out to new people and bringing them onto our platform”|
How many installs you have earned till date on both Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store?
In the few months since we went live, we have under 10,000 users but we are expecting to hit 2 lakh or more by 2022. Our app is available for download through our website www.wowchess.com and on the Apple App Store.
What exactly is your business model?
The most compelling task immediately for us is to continue adding value to our customers. Value in terms of a great app experience, unique gameplay and the ability to be champions.
We are focusing on customer acquisition and are optimizing that at all the time. We are committed to creating engaging competitions, unique IPs and content as we look at revenue generation.
Do you have any app expansion plan?
We aim to improve the customer experience. The idea is to keep the platform growing by enhancing the interface and making it accessible to more players across the country. Globally, chess is acknowledged as a game and we are happy to do our part in enabling players to enjoy, win and succeed in every way. We are committed to investing in AI/ ML and continue to wow our players.