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A thriving Gaming Industry in the Philippines has long been the dream of many-a-Filipino gamer. Just ask anyone who grew up playing on a Nintendo Family Computer, a Sega Genesis, a Sony PlayStation, or even a Windows 98 PC and chances are they once dreamt of creating the next Mario, Sonic, Resident Evil, or CounterStrike.
Sadly, despite enthusiasm of the Pinoy playing population the dream has eluded the country for a number of reasons. Some blame the poor economic conditions of the past 3 decades, others cite the lack of qualified developers, and many just don’t see it as a viable source of livelihood.
However, according to Derrick Mapagu CEO and Founder of local game studio Most Played Games, the local gaming industry has greatly improved in terms of talent.
“I’d say the Philippine gaming industry is still not as big as it should be, but it is definitely growth was enormous the past 5 years. Especially with growth of Game Engine tools like Unity to help on the gap of technical capabilities locally, and of course schools which offer Game Development courses,” Mapagu said.
Mapagu adds that the Philippines still lacks a game that will take the world by storm—the likes of Pokemon Go which has made news headlines not only online but on traditional media outlets.
Ed Geronia, the former EIC of the now defunct Games Master Magazine Philippines also shares Mapagu’s sentiments.
“We are still lagging behind compared to other countries such as Singapore which has a government that incentivizes and supports game and software development as well as the whole startup scene,” Geronia said.
In the embryotic days of gaming in the Philippines, acquiring the physical components (i.e. the game console itself) was already an ordeal. For one, they were relatively pricey—a console could set you back P1,500 in the early ‘90s or about one tenth of the price of a car. Cartridges cost around 300-500 each bootlegged versions went for about P200.
Come the advent of the new millennium and desktop PCs began to rule the roost. A new thing called the Internet gave birth to online games, but as we know now the unavailability of home computers then effectively limited such activities to internet cafes aka “cyberhubs”.
Fast forward to today and the story is vastly different. Gaming- and internet-capable smartphones go for as low as below P1,000.
“The turning point for a lot of local companies to go into game development was the rise of game capable phones. It started with Java games on the Symbian OS until it transitioned into Android and iOS game development,” said Geronia
Another equally-limiting parameter in the past was that games, whether in cartridge or disc format, weren’t readily distributable and available.
App stores, let alone internet connectivity that’s capable of downloading MBs upon MBs of data were simply non-existent then. DVDs were the best bet for transferring large files at the turn of the millennium, but they, too, were pricey.
“Smaller teams are not limited now to publishers like Ubisoft in order to publish the games--this affected the industry greatly,” said Mapagu. “If you look at the top charts in iOS App Store or Google Play, most of the games now are from small teams.”
But for the local industry to be truly internationally competitive, both Geronia and Mapagu believe that government and private sector support are key.
“We are still lagging behind compared to other countries such as Singapore which has a government that incentivizes and supports game and software development as well as the whole startup scene,” said Geronia.
“Frankly speaking, ‘nailing the big one’ in the casual mobile space is what I also envision making in my own company ‘Most Played Games’. I believe at this stage, each studio in PH should help out each other and work together as a community,” said Mapagu.
Indeed the Philippines still has a lot of challenges to hurdle, but if the fire and fervor serves as indication, it is by no means ready to bid “GG” any time soon.
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