SA’s gaming industry needs financial backing to become a global player
When gaming federation Mind Sport SA called for local developers to submit games to be considered for its 2017 competitive circuit‚ no one came forward.
According to expert Nicholas Hall‚ the reason for this is not a lack of local talent but rather because creating competitive‚ multiplayer games is a financial headache.
Hall is the CEO of lobby group Interactive Entertainment SA which creates opportunities for developers to grow the local industry.
While a survey by Interactive Entertainment SA shows the industry is growing‚ money made from local sales is a pittance.
So when Mind Sport SA asked local developers for competitive games‚ like those traditionally played on its circuit‚ it is no surprise there were no takers.
When it votes for competitive games to be played provincially and nationally at its annual general meeting on December 4‚ it will instead consider popular international games like Dota 2‚ Fifa 2017‚ League of Legends‚ Call of Duty and Mortal Kombat X.
"The bottom line is [developing those games] does not make financial sense‚" Hall says.
"The problem with multiplayer games is you wouldn’t want to target SA but rather go international. [Local demand] accounts for 0.2% of the global perspective. It’s a very small market."
But getting games to do well abroad requires a marketing budget with muscle. International gaming corporations have marketing budgets costing "more than it does to develop the game"‚ Hall says.
Another fact that has local developers swimming upstream is that those who are buying games in SA are not spending their cash on local games.
Interactive Entertainment SA statistics show that in 2016 only R72,700 came from the sale of local games for entertainment.
Mind Sport SA’s Colin Webster says it is disappointing that the government is not doing more to help local game creators "take on the big boys".
He believes that if the government backed them‚ they would have the cash to bankroll the development of popular competitive games.
"Some developers in this country are absolutely brilliant but they need to move towards [making] games people want to play.
"Government needs to support developers in something that can make money."
According to Webster‚ that is what the South Korean government did and last year that country’s gaming industry raked in $3-trillion.
"It is hoped that one day locally produced and published games will make it onto [the] centre stage‚" Webster said.
If the local industry is not developing games for tournaments‚ what is it doing?
Digital arts lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand Hanli Geyser says many local developers are focusing on innovation with experiential games.
According to Interactive Entertainment SA‚ there are 31 active game development companies in the country‚ employing 255 people.
These companies are valued at about R100m‚ the lobby group says.
Of the games they are making‚ 81% are for entertainment‚ 11% are serious games meant to teach the player something‚ and 8% are for advertising.