With US$91 billion in worldwide revenues last year, the video game industry dwarfs many other entertainment platforms out there, and Latin America is keen to claim its fair share.
Argentina, in particular, is on a mission to develop the Latin American video game industry quickly, with the Argentine Game Developers Association (ADVA) building collaborative bridges around the region.
The Mexico Connection
“The industry is working on developing more commercial links between Mexico and Argentina in terms of video games production,” said Miguel Martín, Executive Director of ADVA. “This includes a series of events and actions, including the Game Business Summit, and the Argentine Videogames Expo (AVA) in October. We are also publishing a web platform that allows Mexican and Argentine video game companies to create profiles and connect with each other to build the industry.”
ADVA is already working with the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education (ITESM) campus in Guadalajara and the Science Secretary of Jalisco as part of the AL-INVEST 5.0 program, a European initiative designed to contribute to the productivity growth and success of SMEs in Latin America.
Under this initiative, games studios are benefiting from training and technical assistance, as well as participating in business events, gaining advice on market opportunities, and meeting potential clients — a vital part of the process, according to Martín.
“It’s not a simple objective, because we have to work a lot on getting to know each other in the first place,” he said. “We don’t yet have a large connection with Mexico in terms of games production, so this is exciting for us as we try to understand what we can produce together.”
Right now, ADVA represents 60 small- to medium-sized games companies, with an average of 10 people in each studio, but there are also larger companies such as Etermax, which has 300 employees, NGD Studios, with 60 people, and Globant, which has an entire QA department focused on games from larger studios in the United States.
Most of the clients currently capitalizing on Argentina’s skills in this industry are established publishers like Electronic Arts or Ubisoft, but also entertainment companies like Cartoon Network and Disney. In fact, the majority of small studios are serving clients in the U.S., with business models mixed between work-for-hire and the production of original IPs.
“We are trying to push the industry into co-production with other countries in the region in order to strengthen skills and projects for everyone,” said Pablo Navajas, co-founder of Three Ordinary Guys Studio (3OGS), a small firm in Cordoba. “We’ve been traveling outside of Argentina to understand how the industry works in other markets, learn from them, then come back to teach others about it. It’s hard to get investments for game development here, so we try to bring them in from outside by showing them the potential of local studios.”
Martin Cao, CEO of NGD Studios, sees U.S. customers as his top option for doing business, with Cartoon Network being one significant client for the firm. With its team of 60, the company handles full projects, which include the whole package of art design and programming. NGD, which has been around for 20 years, also developed Master of Orion, the first AAA game to be developed entirely in the Latin American region.
“Collaboration in Latin America is not so formal, but often performed a more personal level,” he said. “For example, a friend of mine in Colombia might ask for my advice on launching a new IP and I’ll help them out. There is a lot of transparency and sharing of information between games studios in different countries.”
ADVA is working with the government in its 110,000 program, which is looking to enhance the software industry overall by developing 110,000 new people for the sector. “Video games are an important part of the creative industries, which is something the government understands so they want to help us,” said Martín.
The association is also working with clusters in other Latin American nations to bring more professional skills to the region, because, as Martín says, “we are stronger together so we need to build a more collaborative industry, and hopefully a Latin American games association, eventually”.
If Martín’s ambitions are realized, the region’s strength in the global powerhouse that is the video game industry will grow rapidly, giving U.S. clients a greater reason to source video game production to the nearshore.