The South African gaming industry must build competency in game design and produce local success stories to attract more investment before it can compete globally.
This is according to Danny Day, chief executive of QCF Design, speaking at a New Media and Open Source seminar organised by the Cape IT Initiative (CITI) last week. Day lambasted the lack of financial and infrastructure support to game developers from the South African banks.
"If you speak to bank managers and you tell them about the game design business they are very dismissive because they don¹t take it seriously. The current environment is not encouraging for entrepreneurs in the game design space and we are losing good talent to overseas markets," Day says.
Despite these challenges, Day has forged an active community of game developers under the Game.Dev banner, giving developers a platform to showcase and evaluate each other's work. The group has a forum, www.gamedotdev.co.za, which has all the latest developments by SA designers across all the major metropolitan areas.
Day made a strong call for the private sector to lend financial support in order to establish a formal incubator where developers can work on their innovations and act as a publisher for local content.
Viola Manuel, CITI's executive director, identified marketing support as one of the major areas where the game designers need help.
"It is clear from the discussions we have had today that there is strong need for game designers to acquire marketing skills in order to reach global markets," she says.
One of CITI's key strategic objectives is to drive export promotion by building bridges between local ICT companies and their overseas counterparts.
"There is also an opportunity for CITI to assist by facilitating an educational session for potential funders such as banks about the gaming industry. It is a very unique and somewhat complex industry," she adds.
The earning potential in the gaming industry is so huge that last year the industry generated more earnings than Hollywood Box office movies, excluding DVD sales. Nearly $18-billion was generated from gaming sales in the US alone in 2007, an increase of 47% from the 2006 sales.
Other participants at the seminar emphasised the need for SA to take advantage of this boom in the gaming industry. Many new applications of game knowledge have sprung out of the gaming industry. These include: activism and awareness-raising games; working games (such as games where players optimise proteins, label images or perform other tasks that are difficult for machines); adver-gaming and social gaming, to name but a few.