The Big Names in Latin America’s Videogame Industry
The videogame industry in Latin America is experiencing a sweet moment. Its continuous growth since the beginning of the decade, not only in users but also in creators, has placed it on the investors and large companies’ radar. There is no doubt that the traditional Latin creativity has found a expansion field in the videogames world, but it’s also true that this talent is faced daily with the limitations in access to finance, the need for a more favorable technological environment and a bigger development of the marketing and commercialization structures. Many creators are successfully exploring the crowdfunding way to finance their projects.
With a total of 1.428 billion dollars, Mexico has surpassed Brazil and Argentina and is already Latin America’s country that spends the most in videogames, also reaching position 12 among the main markets worldwide, according to the latest from NewZoo. Colombia and Venezuela close the list of the five main countries in Latin America, with sales of over 291 and 204 million dollars respectively.
Throughout 2017, the videogame sector recorded revenues of over 100 billion dollars, an increase of 12% over the previous year. Although Latin America barely represents four percent of the market’s income worldwide, it’s also the one that shows a better performance and a higher rate of growth. In just one year, videogame sales grew between 20 and 30%. In the case of consoles, they also represent the only place where sales increased, with a 9% growth.
Argentina is a market known worldwide for its great creativity. From there, world-renowned figures such as Daniel Benmergui, who in 2012 won the Nuovo prize for videogame innovation awarded at the Independent Gaming Festival (IGF), have emerged. More than 100 companies are devoted to creating videogames in Argentina, according to the Developers’ Association (ADVA). Last year the sector billed 30 million dollars.
Chilean videogame industry has a turnover of more than 12 million dollars and generates 350 jobs. In spite of the numbers, in constant growth, the sector’s actors recognize there is little support from the private sector, a problem that most of the companies in the region also have. In Chile, there has been an increase in the foreign companies’ interest to make alliances in Chile such as Sony, Microsoft, Valve, Google, Apple, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Sesame Street, EA, Activision, Atlus, Pebblekick or Spil Games. This year the investment will be about US $ 190 thousand.
However, it’s Mexico, without a doubt, the ecosystem that is focusing the greatest investors and companies’ interest and where there also is a more dynamic and creative activity. According to The Competitive Intelligence Unit firm, Mexican market’s pace grew by 13% in 2016, but in 2017, that growth has increased. Mexico’s industry has a value of 25 billion pesos, which has turned the videogame industry into a more important sector than the film industry, also of great strength in Mexico.
In the videogame consumption field, Mexican players consume over 1.5 million dollars, which places them in the twelfth position among the videogame markets worldwide. The NewZoo agency study, which specializes in e-games and global digital markets’ information, reveals that 61% of game players are men, among which, those in the age range of 21 and 35 suppose 25%. It also reveals that 39% plays on PC, mobile and consoles; that is, they are multi-platform. Another interesting behavior fact is that 71% of Mexican players watch video content about gaming, consoles and gaming tricks.
At PanamericanWorld we have chosen five Latin American videogame sector’s players. When we speak about actors, we refer to both the creators and the designed games, which in many cases have been key to popularizing videogame culture in the region and taking it to all areas of consumption. There are established names and others that are willing to break powerfully into the market. The year 2018 can be a key for them.
Fat Panda Games is one of the leading Mexican companies in videogames founded in 2013. Devoted to videogames and intellectual property creation and development, it produces videogames for PC and Mac platforms that they later upload to the Steam platform. They also have a mobile development area and they are working to implement some of their projects to PlayStation. Fat Panda’s idea was born, according to one of its founders Pedro Suarez, after watching Indie Game: The Movie in which they realize the industry and videogames potential. Being lifelong gamers, they say: “If these guys could do this, then we can too”. Fat Panda is one of the few studios in Mexico that are present on PC and Mac platforms and consoles. Most have focused only on the mobile market. Suarez acknowledges that the videogame industry in Mexico is still facing the investors’ lack of confidence, who continue to observe this sector with many misgivings and risk. As far as the videogame industry is concerned, not many investors understand the market or see the potential because they simply don’t know about it. The most complicated issue has been investment.
Daniel Benmergui is one of the best-known and most influential game designers in Latin America. Known for the art games creation such as “Today I Die”, “I Wish I Were the Moon” and “Storyteller”, the Argentine won in 2012 the Nuovo prize for videogame innovation awarded at the Independent Gaming Festival. After becoming an independent game developer, Benmergui was development director at the French mobile gaming studio Gameloft, and managed more than 120 game developers. His most recent creation is “Fidel Dungeon Rescue”, a game starring a friendly dog, named Fidel, who tries to find through a puzzle-crawler the best way through monsters, treasures and magic. Each game is only a few minutes long, but there are many surprises and tricks to learn every time. For Benmergui, between simple proposals like Angry Birds, or very complex ones like Grand Theft Auto 5, “there are a lot of games that can be done, with a lot of people willing to play, buy and support, and you don’t need to have 20 million of dollars to make them”.
Mulaka is announced as one of the most interesting independent games for early 2018. It is developed by Lienzo, a studio founded in Chihuahua that managed to move elements of the Tarahumara culture to a title that will reach PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC. Mulaka is an action and adventure game, based on the Tarahumara culture. Its developers decided to focus on that culture because they know that abroad people identify Mexico for the Mayans or the Aztecs, trying to demonstrate that in Mexico there are more than those two cultures. Lienzo is the first Mexican studio to position its Mulaka videogame on all available platforms. With only eight members, this group of millennials has managed to get the Nintendo’s attention so their project is promoted for their new Nintendo Switch console. Mulaka, which in Spanish means corn stem, is a sukurúame or Rarámuri shaman with skills to transform into animals, prepare explosive potions and a vision that allows you to see beyond reality. The protagonist of the videogame that Serrano places in the category of action, known as hack and slash, has to save the world from one of its imminent destructions resulting from the wrath of the gods disappointed by humanity.
Neon City Riders, by Mecha Studios, has been developed by a three-people team in Xalapa, Veracruz. It is an adventure game with overhead vision that takes design and gameplay elements from the 16-bit era. Its creators have managed to raise through a Kickstarter’s crowfunding campaign the necessary funds (150.000 pesos) to complete the game’s development, which will be commercialized in next year’s first quarter. Jorge García, the studio founder and game director, explains that everything started a year ago; he decided to give up his job as a full-time programmer to focus on a videogame design with all his favorite elements.
Neon City Riders found high acceptance among the Mexican public due to the quality of their demo. They have also developed an intelligent communication campaign that has included visits to events such as Campus Party in Guadalajara, or local showcases in Mexico City. In just a week they made enough money to develop their project. The game takes place in Neon City through the violent Rick’s figure, whose mission is to infiltrate the bands that are ravaging the city. Among the game references is the eighties aesthetics of movies as “The Warriors” or “Big Trouble in Little China”. It is an action adventure with overhead view and elements inspired by the Zelda saga.
The Chilean game “Endless Lake fye” recognized as 2016’s best Facebook Instant Game. It is a type of game that can be used within this social network and was developed by the Bekho Team’s Chileans. Until December 2016 12 million unique users had played it 33 million times. The Dutch company Spil Games developed the game as well, and it competed with classics such as Pacman and Space Invaders, which are part of the titles that Facebook offers online. “The future looks promising. In Chile, there is a lot of talent and good ideas, and we can offer competitive prices compared to other markets since our development costs are lower”, says Bruno Camousseigt, one of the Bekho Team founders.
As other companies that belong to the videogame industry in Chile, Bekho Team has received ProChile’s support for the internationalization of its offer. This is how they have been able to participate in important industry events in key markets, such as the Tokyo Game Show in Japan. “The support we have received from ProChile so far has been fantastic, mainly with financing for trips to fairs abroad and ProChile’s team support in the destination countries to establish commercial links, as well as advice on doubts regarding foreign trade”, Camousseigt added.