Latin America’s games market is poised to hit $5 billion this year, a thin slice of the hefty $137.9 billion generated worldwide (as market research firm Newzoo projects). Many of the countries in this region have their own events celebrating games and fostering business relationships, like Brazil’s Independent Games (BIG) Festival and Argentina’s Expo EVA (Exposición de Videojuegos Argentina). And now the video game associations from 11 countries are joining forces as the Latam Video Games Federation to spread awareness of local developers at home and at overseas events.
I met Argentinian studio OKAM‘s cofounder and CEO, Martina Santoro, at BIG last week to learn more about the specifics behind Latam’s goals. Santoro is president of ADVA, her country’s video game developer’s association, and she’s helping push forward the formation of the federation. Talks of teaming up had started in 2015, but this year, Latam is planning on finally making moves.
Representative organizations from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Mexico, Peru, Paraguay, and Uruguay are participating in Latam Video Games Federation. The mission is to boost the countries’ markets as well as increase recognition for what developers are working on. Most of the organizations involved have developers involved or are nonprofits around developer interests — representing Paraguay, for instance, is the local chapter of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA). Bolivian Game Developers is run by folks from Bolivia Tech Hub, a local coworking space. And VG Chile has 36 different indie studios that are members.
The countries plan to join forces at events like the Game Developers Conference and Gamescom, to attract more industry people to attend game events in Latin America, and to cajole governments to provide support in the form of scholarships and funding. By banding together, they hope to boost their markets and visibility of games from the region. The association will also make it easier for developers from Latin American countries to meet and learn from each other as well.
“What we’re trying to do is have a corner, right? Every time, the Brazilians have their own booth [at events], the Argentinians have their own booth, but since ours are small they’re behind something or whatever. Once we had one off behind a column. Nobody could see it. Or the Chileans were on a floor where nobody else was there. They were all alone,” said Santoro. “What we’re trying to do is work as a bloc. We have all the Latin developers together and have more space. It’s easier to interact. ‘Oh, hey, Alejandro, come here, you need to meet this guy.’ We can network as a region.”
OKAM formed in 2010, and since then, the studio has created around a dozen games. It recently launched its first virtual reality title, Ship Ahoy!, a multiplayer nautical battler for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. And it has two other games baking: the turn-based strategy game Realms of the Void, which is in Early Access on Android devices, and the stunning mobile wizard-vs.-wizard fighting game Spellart. It’s a small team of eight that punches above its weight, previously teaming up with Square Enix Latin America to develop Último Carnaval, a digital card game steeped in Latin American mythology.
Santoro says that a lot of folks don’t know about the exciting developments happening on the continent. Latam Video Games Federation could help tell these stories, and she’s also working on a book that will further highlight local developers’ hard work.
“I’m working with Inter-American Development Bank on a book about the region. We’re going to feature the 15 most important studios that are right now working,” said Santoro. “We’re going to tell the story of the studios that maybe aren’t around, but are the ones that started all of it, or the ones that were sold. Nobody knows that Square Enix co-developed a game with a Latin studio, or that DeNA bought a company here, or Jam City. You have these huge things going on.”
Latin America is obviously not one monolithic block; each country has its own culture and circumstances. But Santoro says that one thing they all have in common is that they’re “a mix of everything.” This means that developers have the unique opportunity to appeal to both Western audiences and players in Asia.
“You have the original inhabitants, and then you have people coming from Europe and Africa. We have the biggest Japanese community outside of Japan in Brazil. It’s crazy. A lot of people from the Middle East,” said Santoro. “We have an affinity that helps us when we’re designing or creating any kind of creative content, because we understand what’s funny, what’s sexy. What’s going on right now that’s pretty interesting — we have that experience that separates us from China or India, and it’s making us closer to places like Canada or Australia or hopefully one day the U.S. We’re getting investors not just to make outsourcing services – although we’re still doing that – but also investing in original content. We’re seeing amazing games coming out and making a lot of money. We’re owners of that. That’s what’s changing.”
Disclaimer: The BIG Festival organizers covered the travel costs for GamesBeat. Our coverage remains objective.