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GameCrimes: The Spanish Indie Crossroad

A post dedicated to explore Spain's relationship with the English language and the expansion of the Spanish Indie Scene.


-This is a re-post of our post from 17/02/15 at "Foundation (Part 2)". Some parts are slightly modified to make it work better as an independent post here in Gamasutra. I also have added a bit of info regarding newly appeared game releases and Spanish indie publishers. 

Please note that I tried to provide the links to the source info in English when possible, but there were many instances where Spanish text had to be used. -

My previous Gamasutra post was aimed to explore why now is a good time to give dedicated exposure to local/national scenes of non English speaking countries. On this post I will focus on what makes my country, Spain, a good subject to this kind of dedication.

The English Breach

Spain’s relationship with the English language is a tricky one. While currently we’re the EU country that has an earlier start for teaching a 2nd language at age 3, that doesn’t translate in having a better speaking level of English, with only Hungary being below Spain in % of people able to hold a conversation in English.














A few reasons for that:

  • The teaching of English was severely impaired by the Spanish Civil War and post-war's Franco policies. Spain was closed to any foreign influences and the education in Spain suffered a regression to an old fashioned XIXth century model, a cleansing of the teaching body and a renewed role for the church as an educational agent. It took a few decades for Spain to open up again, and that meant that we didn’t have a generalised teaching of English as a second language until 4-5 decades ago. Expanded info about that here.
  • That late start means that it was also a slow one, and one consequence is that part of the population that did study English in school is still crippled by a lack of self-confidence in using it, with public displays of terrible English by Spanish personalities not really helping (one of the worst examples in recent memory is Ana Botella's -Madrid's mayor- 2020 Olympics presentation)

  • Another key reason is the fact that since the 1940s, everything was dubbed and not in its original version. That started (again) as part of Franco policies, but it became a norm that continue nowadays with every non-Spanish product being dubbed, hence the general population is way less exposed to other languages. This is also why the Spanish market expect games to be properly localised as well.
  • Spanish is a very strong language, being it the second most spoken after Chinese, and while not as culturally pervasive as English, we have the feeling of doing just fine with it. This is akin to the lack of pressure that the English native speakers feel to learn other language as they think they can get away with English everywhere in the world.

Thankfully this is (slowly) changing and we had the fastest progress of English learning within the EU since 2007. If our generation already has the hang of it (to a certain extent), the following one will undoubtly be better than us at English due to the improved  bilingual teaching, bigger focus on the value of English as a 2nd language and the fact that the Internet has weakened the language barriers.

The Future starts slow (The Spanish case)

The overall Spanish videogame industry hasn’t stop growing. GameTrack data shows an increase of 5% users for total population between 2012 Q3 and 2014 Q3 (anecdotically It also shows an increase on 7% for females making them now the 48%, the biggest rise on EU markets). In Euros it increased a 31% between 2013 and 2014 to a total of 763 million Euros. So as a general market we’re one to keep in mind (and that is not counting other Spanish speaking countries).

That's for the overall market. The Spanish indie scene is behind the English but is starting to catch up. While some of the reasons usually given for the increase of indie developers apply to everyone at the same time (like the democratisation of the development tools, apparition of new platforms and audiences or the development of the digital distribution as opposed to the physical one) others affected Spain later than the main indie scene.

  • Sucess stories breed people's interest and desire to replicate them, but for the Spanish developers they might have felt a bit “far off”, that was until the first Spanish indie stories started to surface with UnEpic in 2011 and Deadlight in 2012. That showed we could break into the indie market as well.

  • Crowdfunding as a finance way was known in Spain but videogame devs starting using it a bit late, which is not unusual. The fact that Kickstarter requires someone in the UK or US didn't help. But successful projects like “Candle”, “Dead Synchronicity” or “Crossing Souls” helped breaking that barrier.

  • A great mix of old and new people ocurred. While you have people coming from the previous hobbyist videogame scene and some veteran developers from the likes of Pyro and Dinamic, new people started pouring in from the ever-increasing videogame education related programs and mixing to form the current bubbling dev scene.

  • Related to the previous point, because of the economic crisis and the weak videogame industry in Spain, lot of developers had to look for jobs outside Spain and gain experience and knowledge abroad. Some of those eventually become indie developers themselves.

  • Spain lacks strong publishers. FX Interactive and Badland Games are not big enough and self publishing is a risky option. Hence some Spanish devs look to foreign publishers like Fictiorama did with Dead Synchronicity and Daedalic or Deconstructeam did with Gods Will be Watching and Devolver Digital. (UPDATE: Since I originally published this post, 3 new indie publishers have appeared in the Spanish market, which could be seen as another point to showcase how the Spanish indie scene is growing)

Those are a few stray points to help to understand the sudden expansion of Spanish videogame companies which went from 70 to over 300. This is a great gif created by Daniel Parente for his Industry analysis to explore that expansion geographically

This crossroad of a booming indie scene, a low level of English speakers (higher among those in tech jobs) and a strong consumer market that naturally causes an increase in the number of developers is what makes the idea of our blog GameCrimes as a venue to give information in English about the Spanish scene a natural development. We* think our scene has reached a point where it will outgrow our local market and start making bigger waves in the English scene (best example of that is Tequila Work's RIME taking the EDGE magazine cover or the recently released Dead Synchronicity: Tomorrow Comes Today by Fictiorama).

*I need to mention my partner in the blog and the podcast, Ara Carrasco (@Aracarrascoart)

Credits for the European map: © JAKUB MARIAN (OVERLAY), © TINDO - FOTOLIA.COM (BLANK MAP)

Credits for the Spanish map gif: © Daniel Parente (whom just now has an ongoing kickstarter for his game Upside Down Dimensions. As I've used his creation I feel the less I can do to repay him is mention it here:



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