[su_spoiler title=”UK – Land of Hope and Sackboy” style=”simple” icon=”chevron-circle” anchor=”Comment”]Despite the three major consoles coming out from America and Japan, video game development has moved around the globe and here in the UK sales are the third highest in the world. Although the UK gaming industry only employs around 7,000 people, it has a lot to offer the world and continues to produce high grossing, extremely popular games, often innovating and challenging the norm.
When you think about the development of Grand Theft Auto, you may think of a large American based development firm with several thousands of employees. However, GTA is in fact produced by Rockstar North in Scotland with just over 1000 employees. GTA has always challenged the normal trend of first person shooters hitting the top spots on the charts. Although in 2015 open world games did take up strong positions in the console gaming charts, past GTA titles perhaps made the genre more popular to the casual gamer. Only about ten years ago the console gaming charts were awash with racing or first person shooters until the annual FIFA or Pro Evolution Soccer was released. Today we see a whole host of open world games fighting for the top spot such as The Witcher 3 and Just Cause 3 to name a few. Whether or not this is down to the popularity of GTA on consoles is up for debate, however it has definitely contributed to its growth.
Rockstar North is not on its own in the UK. Media Molecule is further challenging the normal trend of modern gaming and creating some wonderful and imaginative games. In 2008, this studio from Surrey released Little Big Planet on the Playstation 3 and was something completely different to what everyone was playing at the time. Platforming was back and in a major way, with incredible visuals and art work giving it an extremely unique feel. The main character Sackboy was instantly lovable, and, aided with the ability to customise his look, he became an iconic Playstation character. Little Big Planet redefined what was popular in gaming. Its whole creation system allowed for hours of gaming, and kept bringing gamers back over and over again. The ability to create your own levels, load them online and play with friends meant the game continued to evolve throughout its release and gained a significant following. Some of the creations were incredible and I’m still not sure how they were possible.
Little Big Planet gave the gamer the chance to create their own story, their own levels, and, to some extent, guide the developers, a year before open world sandbox Minecraft was even in alpha. With its aim of continuing to push boundaries, Media Molecule are set to release a new sandbox game currently known as Dreams. Using the Playstation Move or the Dualshock 4, the player will be able to create and manipulate the game world, forming new characters and three-dimensional levels from scratch. Media Molecule is once again about to reimagine creative gaming, giving control to the community.
On the back of these global successes, UK indie developers have been popping up all over the country and have been responsible for several well-known and popular games that anyone into video games has probably put several hundreds of hours into. UK indie developer Facepunch Studios, for example, has produced both Rust and Garry’s Mod, two great sandbox games that anyone into PC gaming will have experienced. In 2015, another small UK indie developer, Introversion, released Prison Architect, a little prison management game in which you try your hand at running a maximum security prison. Prison Architect was extremely well received when in its beta form and on release it gained a place on several popular YouTube channels. Its simple artwork combined with intensive micromanagement made the game enjoyable to watch and easy to start, yet challenging to excel in.
UK indie developers have continued to push out games that have become extremely popular, but people fail to realise their origin isn’t some distance country, it’s much closer to home. One UK indie developer, Hello Games, is developing one of the most anticipated games of the year, No Man’s Sky. Hello Games even had their own place at the annual E3 show in LA where they got to show off their game to a packed auditorium. Usually E3 is a place for the big developers to show off their new Triple-A titles and the latest hardware. However, in 2014, this little Guildford based indie developer with just ten employees took to the main stage to show off their hard work. It seems that even the UK indie developers are making large steps into the video game industry and breaking new ground.
[su_spoiler title=”Brazil – The games are simply Amazon” style=”simple” icon=”chevron-circle” anchor=”Comment”]Perhaps due to the proximity to North America, or the huge population, Brazil’s gaming market is on the rise- it’s the highest in Latin America, showing that the country is important to the world economy as a consumer. Unfortunately this larger consumer economy is not echoed in the development of games in the country. There are relatively few developers, the biggest one – Tectoy – being primarily a games porter or translator. Hopefully this will change soon, as motions are being passed in law to reduce tax on game developers, which would hopefully encourage new developers to try their hand.
Another hurdle for Brazil as a gaming country is the ratings system. Multiple games, such as Counter-Strike, Everquest, and Bully have been banned on the country, for various reasons. Judges state varying reasons, from inciting social restlessness to harming the psychology of adults playing the game. The Department of Justice, Rating, Titles and Qualification which rates films and games has been criticised as being prudish – however, this is a common criticism levelled at all ratings boards.
Whilst Brazil is not a huge producer now, supply must almost match demand, and it seems Brazil is soon to become a major player in the games industry.
[su_spoiler title=”Poland – Too big to miss” style=”simple” icon=”chevron-circle” anchor=”Comment”]The Polish gaming scene is known primarily for the development of The Witcher, the fantasy series based on the novels by Andrzej Sapkowski. The games are unmistakably European- featuring creatures from folklore such as the Cockatrice, and worlds inspired by the farmlands and rural wilderness of Poland, Romania and Ukraine, amongst other nearby countries.
But this local flavour of fantasy is not the only genre of game that Poland is helping to revolutionise- zombie horror series Dead Island and Dying Light were both developed by Techland, one of Poland’s biggest development studios, along with the Call of Juarez, a western-themed shooter. The use of traditionally American icons – the zombie and the cowboy- seems initially to echo the popularity of bigger powers, but the games in fact help us decode America and those themes. The aforementioned series are all known for being over the top in violence and almost- sarcastic in their style, perhaps commenting on America’s fixation with the aesthetics and brutality of violence.
But Polish developers also involve themselves with the local too. Indie game Kholat, released in 2015, is a horror game based on the Russian 1959 Dyatlov pass incident – a mysterious incident wherein nine hikers died in unexplained circumstances. It could be argued that the Polish developers are in the perfect place to portray the event- not so closely tied to the country of origin, yet still based in a similar culture, able to understand the traditions and folklore surrounding the incident.
Poland is a country traditionally ignored by Western media, but with so many famous games coming from the country, it is definitely a place to watch in the future.
[su_spoiler title=”South Korea – Roll over Call of Duty” style=”simple” icon=”chevron-circle” anchor=”Comment”]When thinking of the most played online ﬁrst person shooter in the world, you would be forgiven for thinking it’s Call of Duty, Halo, or Counter Strike. Although popular in the Western world, these shooters are eclipsed in player count by Crossﬁre. Launched in 2007 by South Korean developers SmileGate and still played in over 80 countries today, Crossﬁre boasts over 400 million registered users and 6 million concurrent players.
Crossﬁre is a prime example of the ‘free to play’ gaming model that originated from Korea. The idea is that games are offered to users free of charge, and played exclusively online. Real money is converted in to virtual cash in order to buy virtual items, known as micro-transactions. In the case of Crossﬁre this includes weapons, armour, character outﬁts and other special features.
If this sounds familiar to you, that’s because the model has been copied in the Western world, mostly via mobile games like Candy Crush that operate in a similar way. For a game to make any proﬁt, it needs to be fun, exciting, and most of all addictive. That’s part of the reason Crossﬁre has survived for so long. Many players are hooked on the gameplay, and have developed laser-accuracy through persistent playing. The best players in the game have to have the best weapons, and the best outﬁts, which is where micro-transactions come in. It works – Crossﬁre grossed just shy of £1 billion in 2014.
The second key to Crossﬁre’s success – as with many other Korean-developed games following the free to play model – is its low system requirements. Its graphics are comparable to games from the Playstation 2 era – though most Korean games in the past few years have used the more up-to-date Unreal Engine 3. Many gamers in South Korea beneﬁt from blisteringly fast internet speeds and top notch computers, yet other nations in Asia have yet to catch up. Free to play games are popular in poorer nations such as Indonesia, the Philippines, and Malaysia, where they are often played in internet cafes. Crossﬁre, for example, has a huge following in China. The amount of money spent on micro-transactions can, however, surpass the cost of a decent gaming computer.
In the western world, Korean-developed free to play games, such as those available on: Nexon Europe, Aeria Games, OGPlanet, Gameforge, and Webzen, are limited to a cult following. Western developers have tried their hand at the free to play market in recent years too, with mixed success. Valve’s Team Fortress 2, for example, is popular, but has many differences to the Korean style, such as allowing players to rent their own private servers. Electronic Arts had free to play versions of Battleﬁeld, Need for Speed, and FIFA, all of which have since been shut down.
[su_spoiler title=”Nigeria – Local indie games done right” style=”simple” icon=”chevron-circle” anchor=”Comment”]Nigeria is one of the largest economies in Africa, so it is only understandable that gaming has a significant space in the country. Whilst the console gaming community in the country is on its first feet, the mobile market is rapidly expanding, leading to mobile gaming being the primary market for gaming in the country.
Due to the popularity of mobile games in the country, the local developers that can support themselves due to their size have decided to theme their games on the country, for example set in local locations or based on cultural ideals and folklore. One example is Okada Ride, a motorcycle game set in the streets of Lagos, the Nigerian capital city. This game is developed by Maliyo Games, a developer whose mission statement is to ‘share the experiences of everyday Africans’. By doing this through a medium so popular both locally and globally, they have been very successful with their games.The importance of the country is not only in the games but in the community too- in both local and global games, micro transactions and in-app purchases have proven hugely unsuccessful as a business model. If only that were the case in the west!
Whilst video games have traditionally been very Western or Eastern, it’s great to see developers in overlooked countries making a name for themselves.