VIGS Management Track: International Markets – What are the opportunities, What are the Challenges?

27 May

May 24th, 2008, by Adrian Audet

After lunch, attendees quickly dispersed into the various sessions. Smooth moderator Steve Bocska, video game consultant and analyst, was eager to channel the audience anticipation, as well as his own, for the panel event. It was good he was eager, because to be honest, skepticism crept up for a moment. Hadn’t the Untapped Markets panel discussion the previous day shed light on a very similar subject? It didn’t seem like pearls of wisdom would be revealed, but more likely an echo was going to be heard during the next hour and a half. Almost immediately however, the haze of doubt dispersed, as Adam Boyes, Capcom Entertainment, Inc., David Laux, Global Games Executive, IBM, and Ming Haoxia, CEO, Shanghai Multimedia Industry Association were quickly introduced. The proverbial gauntlet was thrown down in the form of poignant questions from Bocska. Questions such as, where the best talent is located? ; can a single game title truly cross all cultural boundaries and be successful? ; do the companies the panel represented have a future template or plan? In truth an echo was heard eventually, if only for the fact the panel identified their key points very quickly and didn’t mince words when confronted with questions. The previous panel had focused on specific markets, and it was clear these guys would be addressing much broader trends and issues spanning all global markets.

Adam Boyes responded to the question of best talent by saying several regions had something to be proud of. When asked to make a global dream team though, he responded he would choose Europe for Art, Japan for R&D as well as Design, Canada for Management, followed by Finland and Scandinavia for Technology. Opinions will differ, but Boyes has had the opportunity as a Capcom management insider to have travelled to and seen several regions up close and personally, having a hand in each regions operations and development.

All three addressed the issue of viable content and global acceptance. The key points being that cultural sensitivity will go a long way towards wooing a local audience when developing a game for mass market consumption. Games can be at their core very similar, such as a hack and slash type game, regardless of geography, but it’s in the extra details that the potential for success or failure occurs. The simpler the game, Tetris was given as an example, the better the chance of wider appeal. When story and myth are applied, the translation and meaning can often lose its intended effect. Notable exceptions were addressed, such as World of Warcraft, which was commended by the panel for finding a mix that resonated with such a wide global audience.

David Laux consistently underlined the point that previously new global markets, such as Asia and the Middle East, are now big enough, and healthy enough to sustain themselves, and are able to provide demand for localized products. Ming Haoxia supported with the sentiment with an interesting data trend: China was a net importer of game content as recently as three years ago, and is now a growing domestic developer, able to provide for its own huge domestic entertainment needs. He finished by adding that in a few more years, China will be a net exporter of interactive game content.

The excitement in tapping into the growth explosion was tempered with the fact that developers and publishers will have to find distribution models that are actually viable in different parts of the world. It was summed up best the panel, “Don’t try to sell a box to an online community”.

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