The 17,900 people who attended the Argentina Games Expo, or EVA (it’s acronym in Spanish), held in mid-September was no coincidence. It wasn’t just the fact that it was the 20th edition and all the symbolism involved; or that it was held at the CCKirchner (Kirchner Cultural Center), the largest cultural center in Latin America; it was the product of more than two decades of uninterrupted work by its organizers.
Of course, the history of the EVA starts in 2003 in a small classroom at the Universidad Tecnológica Nacional (National Technical University), but video games had gained a foothold in Argentina several years prior. I’m not talking about those famous titles we were able to buy or rent in a store such as Mario, Sonic, and company, but those developed by Argentines who dreamed of making a career out of it. Like being in a garage band except with the sounds of computers and keyboards.
The result of all that resiliency, perseverance, and constant learning have led Argentine video games to where they are in 2022. Now there are more than 75 titles in development, an ever-growing community of people educated at public and private universities, a more interested local community, and most importantly, a government that is much more present.
Video games in Latin America’s largest cultural center
An example of that last point is the fact that this local industry, represented by the Association of Video Game Developers in Argentina, or ADVA, was able to celebrate its 20-year anniversary in a well-known venue as the CCKirchner.
This dialogue with the government, managed for more than a decade by Alejandro Iparraguirre (Video Game Coordinator within the Argentine Federal Ministry of Culture) strengthens those ties and demonstrates that video games are much more than something for your children to entertain themselves so they leave their parents alone. They are expression, art, entertainment, a way to be included as well as a way to work.
There are thousands of students with hopes for the future, small businesses doing what they love, and fields discovering new realms of possibility. Musicians, artists, animators, localizers, architects, and thousands of professionals discovering that they can work in the video game field. It’s also a route to a better quality of life in your home country.
All of these aspects were overwhelmingly present at EVA 2022.
The look of hope on the faces of attendees during every talk was illuminating. The willingness of developers to learn from their users, the surprise of the 60 student volunteers upon seeing an entire industry come together, and the energy brought from those who have been in the industry for years all show that the video game industry in Argentina and the entire region will continue to grow.
By the numbers
Latin America represents just 5% of the annual video game market, which on the surface seems like a minuscule amount. But the truth is that number provides more than a mountain of possibilities, it’s an enormous opportunity to continue to grow.
Argentina alone earns 70 to 80 million dollars a year in worldwide sales, including its domestic market. The leader in the Spanish-speaking region, Mexico, earns more than $1 billion from its more than 75 million gamers. Peru continues to grow its numbers by age and gender; Chile continues to strengthen its several long-running companies; and in Uruguay there is no shortage of funding for small studios that have quickly become part of a very-established sector, headed by Ironhide, one of the most important mobile video game companies in Latin America.
It’s clear that our region is the next target for the international industry, and the reasons why are several: The first is that we are providing talent. The second one is that that access to talent is more affordable compared to that from the first world. And the third is that more and more people are getting access to the technology necessary to have and play video games.
Of course one of those points is not one to celebrate, but the other two are so powerful that I understand that we have to firmly embrace them.
Keys to reaping these rewards
The general democratization of development tools and video game access for more people is a big deal, even though it is still considered by many to be an expensive hobby. There’s also a ton of talent in our corner of the world.
There are Argentines at dozens of high-budget studios who have huge titles on their resumes: Sebastián Enrique on the FIFA management team and Adrián Novell in its design team; Pablo Toscano directing Ubisoft Quebec’s animation projects; Eduardo Vaisman directing the sound team at Ubisoft Toronto; and hundreds of well-known names in the local industry. There’s also Mexico’s Fernando Reyes, who runs the multi-player design for Halo Infinite at the famous 343 Industries.
However one thing that is also top of mind is the lack of diversity at these well-known posts. This topic is on the regional agenda with movements such as Women in Games, which is generating positive results in the short and medium term. But there are still many obstacles to overcome to get to the desired end goal.
In conclusion, we can say that Latin America is fertile ground for the worldwide video game industry. We just need to stay on the path that’s given us experience along with years of adversity. Today there are lots of us who want to talk about video games, get experience, play, and teach. That’s why the future couldn’t be brighter. Can we get there?