BUENOS AIRES – Argentina has leveled up in the global video game market thanks to homegrown talent, competitive costs and a surge in demand during COVID-19 lockdowns.
The South American country has more than 120 development studios and 83 percent of video games created last year were exported internationally.
A number of large companies in the field have opened offices in the country or hired local developers and creatives.
“I emphasize creativity and quality a lot. That creative Argentine gene when it comes to generating content or selling business models on technological bases positions us as a differentiator,” said Mauricio Navajas, president of the Argentine Video Game Developers Association (ADVA).
There appears to be a bright future in the industry in the Latin America despite the crisis brought about by the coronavirus pandemic which has sparked a recession which could affect the region for two years.
The industry is divided in half between games for consoles and computers and smartphone applications.
Phone apps are growing at a rate of 25 to 30 percent a year compared to around five percent for consoles and computers.
Dario Simonassi, vice president of engineering at Wildlife Studios, said the future of the industry is clearly in mobiles.
Wildlife, a unicorn Brazilian gaming company that was valued at more than $1 billion before its debut on the stock market, recently opened an office in Buenos Aires.
“We chose Buenos Aires because it is a location with a long technological history,” Simonassi added.
“Argentina has a history of unicorns that have been working in technology and the internet for many years and the Argentine educational system, with its ecosystem of universities, has created a pool of very interesting talents for Wildlife.”
He said the country has a number of senior engineering talents that “are very difficult to find elsewhere” and predicted that it will become one of the key places for this type of skill-base.
The COVID-19 outbreak has not stopped the arrival of the company in Argentina.
Despite lockdown measures in the capital, it has already hired 80 people who work remotely and estimates that it will hire a total of 200 local engineers by 2021.
Wildlife has released more than 70 games since it was founded nine years ago, including Sniper 3D, Colorfy, War Machines, Zooba and Tennis Clash, which have more than two billion downloads.
The industry has seen a huge rise in demand around the world during lockdown and the restrictions imposed to curb the pandemic.
“We saw growth in the order of 40 percent during the pandemic, it was almost like jumping forward half a year,” Simonassi said.
Around 54 percent of the video game development studios in Argentina expected an increase in profitability in 2020, which had grown to 69 percent by March after the emergence of the virus, according to an ADVA survey in 2019.
“The translation is direct, consumption increased, demand increased and supply wants to accompany this growing demand,” Navajas said.
Smaller startups with fewer resources had a harder time positioning their products in app stores, where big companies have more leverage and funds to advertise their launches.
Navajas added: “Ninety-three percent expect to maintain or increase the number of employees, the data we have obtained during the confinement is very impressive.”
He said business models are “constantly expanding and the cake is growing for everyone, while generating employment and foreign trade for the country.”
It is a multidisciplinary industry that employs artists, animators, programmers, video game designers and screenwriters.