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Event Report: Argentina's EVA Shows South American Spirit

Gamasutra had a chance to peek inside the 6th annual Exposicion de Videojuegos Argentina -- Argentina's video game industry event -- and reports back on the state of South American game development and why complex console games and MMOs are well within lo

Patrick Dugan, Blogger

November 20, 2008

4 Min Read

[Gamasutra correspondent Patrick Dugan had a chance to peek inside the 6th annual Exposicion de Videojuegos Argentina -- Argentina's video game industry event -- and reports back on the state of South American game development and why complex console games and MMOs are well within locals' reach.] The 6th annual Exposicion de Videojuegos Argentina took place near downtown Buenos Aires last weekend. The venue this year was in a larger, multi-story cultural center featuring two lecture halls, a showfloor and VIP loungue for visiting international publishers -- including Sony Computer Entertainment, who was also a primary sponsor. Appropriately, the location was right next to Plaza de las Americanas, and the event marked the continued climb of the Argentine game industry into greater and greater growth. The industry in Argentina remains resilient, despite international recession fears and local inflation. There's a general sentiment that as Argentina, and Latin America in general, become more expensive, there is a flight to quality, to provide games on par with Northern Hemisphere products at still-lower costs. The top tier studios have embraced this theme by trending toward console development -- with a few interesting exceptions. The showfloor featured eight studios and educational institution Image Campus. BoomBang.tv was showcasing their chat-based web MMO, which is now seeing hundreds of thousands of regular users. Industry newcomer Globant made a presence; since partnering with EA to provide tool-set and development support, the studio has been aggressively moving from an IT outsourcing house toward full-fledged AAA game development, and now employs hundreds of developers. Gameloft's growth spurt has cooled this year, but they are still a major employer in the area, and have become one of the most important studios in president Michael Guillemot's international mobile gaming empire. NGD Studios continues to see positive cashflow from their free-to-play, microtransactions-driven MMO Regnum, and had a new engine to demonstrate at the show, featuring normal mapping, dynamic shadows, and other impressive technical feats. Sabarasa Entertainment had Protothea available to play on the Wii, and also presented Mazes of Fate for the DS, which went gold and shipped earlier this year to North American and European markets. Three Melons demonstrated their work with the Unity engine, and are diversifying toward free to play games that feature product integration, rather than solely producing specialized advergames. Last but not least, Elements developer QB9 was demoing their new free to play MMO, Shoshi Land, which began as one employee's labor of love and grew into a psychedelic fiesta of schadenfreude. Not presenting was Dan Benmergui, who left his senior position at GameLoft last year to create experimental web games, and went on to be honored at the Tokyo Game Show's Sense of Wonder Night. The lecture content that year was quite strong, talks ranged from the particulars of multiplayer architecture, to the business of running a start-up, to theory of design and prototyping. One talk asked, "How can we make games that reflect the Argentine experience?" and then explored how the country's diverse landscape, history of corruption, passionate culture and unreliable infrastructure could make for stylistically distinct gameplay. The Sony keynote went into detail about their incubation program, the PlayStation Network, and the technical requirements for developing on the PSP, PS2 and perhaps, one day, the PS3's online store. Sony's move into Latin America comes with strength. In addition to providing dev kits to six developers so far, with eight more in talks, Sony Argentina has officially launched the PSP and PS3 with some sales success. Argentina's economy, like many commodity-driven economies in Latin America, is facing potential difficulties due to near-term disinflation, but stands to benefit quite well from the tsunami of credit flooding out of Central Banks in the Northern Hemisphere. The Argentine Peso currently trades at 3.3:1 against the dollar, making services and information exports particularly valuable, while the recent dollar rally has greatly slowed local inflation. Should the dollar's strength continue, then the local game industry stands to benefit monetarily, while a weaker dollar would boost commodity prices and benefit the agricultural base of the national economy, which buoys the local game industry indirectly. In 2008 the expansion of the major studios, with Globant at the fore, added several hundred jobs to the industry, marking a growth rate of over 50 percent. But to the developers here, the fluctuations of markets and economies isn't as important as the joy of getting to make a game, and the opportunity to make a game with more soul than anything in the world. This enthusiasm made EVA 2008 a benchmark success, and with greater access to console development, more experience in the talent pool, and a looming sense that these times pose the greatest creative opportunities yet seen, next year will be even better.

About the Author(s)

Patrick Dugan


Patrick Dugan believes games about characters and social dynamics are the future of the medium. He is currently prototyping a cutting edge, independent drama game about Irish pagans running up on English paladins. Before this he did QA and Level Design for Play With Fire, an innovative casual title released at the launch of Manifesto Games. He keeps a blog called King Lud IC, detailing the new school of game design.

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