It takes a big leap to go from hope to reality.
One way to do it is to take what is offered and make the most of each and every opportunity.
International game development has been the new normal for three decades now. In the past, it was common knowledge that game studios were mostly concentrated in North America and Japan. But in recent years, Europe has made its presence felt with a number of incredible games coming out of the UK, Ukraine, Poland, and France. Rockstar, 4A Games, CD Projekt Red, and Ubisoft are just a few standout studios shipping huge games out of Europe.
But one country has been left behind:
In Italy – it’s hard to find a job or create jobs… let alone launch a game development studio on your own. The idyllic dream of making the kinds of games we all love to play is exactly that – a dream. There are a lot of reasons why: high taxes, excessive red tape, and the 2008 financial crisis – which lingers on to this day.
The absence of a state agency responsible for helping nascent developers is one of the biggest issues we face in Italy. Without experienced veterans to lean on, young developers are relegated to the gallows of inexperience. With no help or support from the Italian state, it’s easy to fall into a hole from which it’s almost impossible to get out. An upstart studio like ours has limited resources. Incubators may offer a way to “kickstart” the dream. In our case the incubator asked back for almost 80% of our revenue as return for their investment: something which could give us a heavy toll to pay on our finances. In Italy, 7 out of 10 incubators actually charge a fee just for setting up meetings – at least 1,500 Euros (more than $1,700). Paying these sorts of fees without even knowing if something will come out of it is an easy way to go broke even before starting a business.
A simpler but even more painful topic is Italy’s educational system. Today, more than 66% of the Italian population claims to know one or more “foreign languages” – but less than 25% actually feel that their knowledge of English and other languages is actually “good.” Sadly, the truth is even more dire: Only around 7% are fluent in English and are able to communicate at a high level. English in Italy is taught starting in elementary school – but in reality, the way it’s taught is obsolete. The focus is on grammar and abstract rules. English isn’t conversational; the focus is on written rather than spoken English. The average Italian worker (and probably even the average Italian college graduate), might know the difference between “your” and “you’re” – but very few words to actually communicate complex thoughts. An extensive vocabulary and verbal exchanges are simply ignored by Italian teaching methods.
How can you possibly create a game without knowing the world’s lingua franca? The answer is simple: You can’t. This makes working with overseas teams and partners harder than it should be – or even impossible. Without communication, there is no collaboration.
However, there’s a surefire way to avoid this: You can hire someone – a programmer or even a PR or HR manager – with international experience. Sure, it’s expensive – but the return on investment is potentially massive: The team can now attend international game conventions (where you’ll need an English-speaking crew to conduct hands-on demos) and message loud and clear that you have a major project in the works. Fluent English speakers can also signal to customers that your studio is equipped with the knowledge and experience required by AAA properties.
If you want to make your dreams real, you need to learn how to promote yourself. More importantly, if no one is responsible for promoting you – no support from the state, no incubators – it’s important to rely on absolute, uncompromising professionalism... and contractors who read, write, and speak English at a high level.
As a designer/writer speaking for Affinity Project
The Affinity team says hello :)
a studio currently hard at work on Don-Ay (the first in-game donation platform) – I can attest to the fact that our team seeks to fulfill this dream and reach the top echelon in Italy and abroad.
Even with all the challenges outlined above, we still hope to be one of the first Italian companies to make the leap… and arrive safely on the other side :)