[We visit Argentina's major game conference Exposicion de Videojuegos Argentinos, bigger than ever, to check out the dramatic qualitative game industry growth on full display in Buenos Aires.]
The 7th annual Exposicion de Videojuegos Argentinos
(EVA) took place in the University of Belgrano near the edge of Buenos Aires' capital district on December 4th and 5th. The size of this year's event dwarfed that of last year, which in turn dwarfed the size of the year before.
EVA '08 was held in a three story cultural center with about 500 people attending and lectures given in two conference halls, this year over 1000 people attended and the proceedings were distributed among many different floors of the university and three conference halls. While the quantitative growth is linear in a world where growth has become scarce, the qualitative growth of the industry's offerings were more dramatic.
This year the conference featured multiple international speakers. Keynoting were Dr. Ian Bogost
, Nick Fortugno
and local indie auteur Daniel Benmergui
, who gave inspirational talks regarding the potential of games as a medium, successful techniques of appealing to a broad audience, and how independent developers can directly reach their audiences to make a decent living, respectively.
It was like Serious, Casual and Indie summits rolled into a trifecta of back-to-back lectures. Numerous senior production officers from large, AAA studios also gave talks on what is involved in delivering larger-scale projects.
Sony's 3rd party development program made an active presence at the conference, as in previous years, and they threw a gallant fiesta fitting of their reputation. Their PSP incubation program is showing fruit, most notably with local casual game developer QB9
who is working on a premium title for that platform.
made a presence at the expo with two Wii titles and a DS title available to play. In 2009 Sabarasa received a round of investment and is now growing into a fully-fledged console development studio.
had their recently released, browser-based take on Lego Star Wars available to play, and were touting the tools and online infrastructure they're building for rapid prototyping of web-based multiplayer games and mircotransactions.
, creators of freemium MMO Regnum Online
, have re-branded their mobile games division as Hungry Game
and are now focusing on premium iPhone titles.
Not to be outdone, Gameloft
was demoing their locally produced iPhone titles, featuring PS2 quality graphics and physics simulation controlled with the phone's sensors, including a flight simulator. Gameloft Buenos Aires has moved stidently over the past four years from being a porting hub into becoming a pillar studio for the multi-national mobile games empire, sourcing less porting and more full-scale development to its Argentine employees.
had a recruiting presence and local educators Image Campus
and Da Vinci
were busy talking to prospective students and instructors.
Growing online-oriented companies such as Games and Web
were present. The latter is pursuing the sale of pre-paid micro-transaction cards in kiosks throughout Latin America, a promising solution to the hard problem of getting Latin American players to pay for content.
The surprise of the floor was the precense of various start-up companies in their debut exposition. Serious game developer Canned Brains
made their debut, while Advergame start-up Vertigo
had a dueling game on display in a graffiti-laden arcade box they made from scratch. Middleware-developer Codenix
was showing off their custom tool-set for 3D game development, while another middleware-developer - Aquadiez
- was demonstrating their art-asset creation tool.
An exchange rate of 3.81:1 of the Argentine Peso to the US Dollar makes investment capital go a long way in Buenos Aires, these companies are the game start-up equivalent of a Prius, so perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that the number of companies is growing even as the established studios begin to consolidate and move away from work-for-hire.
The stated slogan of this year's EVA was "Pensando El Futuro" or "Imagining The Future" if you translated it for style rather than literally. However the understated theme of this year's conference was "working for your own projects", many of the major studios are either beginning to do original work for clients or have moved away from work-for-hire entirely.
Additionally, many people who have experience working in those larger companies have branched out to begin their own, more lightweight ventures. The future of the industry here may be just as uncertain as the fate of the global industry, but the feeling of freedom will always be part of the package for the Argentine game community.