Making IT games is the new BPO front

Published by rudy Date posted on March 15, 2009

LOCAL gaming development is getting second-mention next to Singapore, and Filipino talents are drawing in clients.

Who knew that tinkering with the computer and trying to make your own computer game as a hobby would lead to a full-fledged, legitimate business? The captains of the industry did.

Now these young gamers-turned-entrepreneurs are fueling the growing enterprise of developing games and outsourcing their services to produce video games.

Although game development has had a long history in more advanced countries, its genesis in the country harks back to hobbyists who decided to make a real business out of making games. People who were passionate about games became entrepreneurial, set up their own outfits one after another, until the industry grew by itself.

It is comparatively small vis-à-vis other business process outsourcing (BPO) industries like contact centers or software development. But the gaming industry is becoming a very promising commerce.

In fact, it is poised for the potential global revenue worth as much as $1 billion by 2010 that will be raked in from outsourcing games alone.

Moving from the game room to the boardroom cannot be too easy as changing players in a role-playing game. One has to be able to find the right niche, in this case overseas.

Gabby Dizon, one of the founders of Flipside Games, a local company specializing in full-scale development and outsourcing services for the game industry, confesses to encountering countless obstacles before his company got its foot in the door.

“Not too many people have done what we are doing so it’s really hard to explain what your company does,” he says. “When you’re trying to do business, this is a hard problem. Almost from the start, we were forced to do outsourcing abroad because the companies that could understand what we were doing are companies that needed our services abroad.”

‘Anito’ break for RP

The gaming industry broke ground in 2004 when Anito Entertainment, for which Dizon worked as a game designer before setting up his own outfit, developed the first Philippine-made, single-player, role-playing game.

“Anito: Defend A Land Enraged” bagged the Innovation in Audio Award and became a finalist for the Open Category at the Independent Games Festival in the US.

Showcasing Filipino talents and skills in regional and international conferences made the Philippines a viable outsourcing destination for developing games. Locally, Dizon credits the success of online games brought in from South Korea for paving the way for gaming to become more accessible to the public.

He and techie colleagues are educating the industry, spreading the message that it is indeed possible to make games locally.

At a steady pace, the Philippines’ game development capability is achieving a greater presence in Southeast Asia.

Dizon says that while many multinational companies are comfortable establishing headquarters in Singapore, they suffer from a deep shortage of talents. The talents come from other countries.

This, he believes, is where the Philippines often gets mentioned.

Fine arts and design

Today, graduates are schooled in classic courses like Computer Science for programmers and Fine Arts or multimedia design for artists.

Dizon believes that Filipinos have inherent skills in art, like drawing. Programmers are excellent in their field as well.

He thinks that schools and training institutions should come up with more specific curricula so students are trained in the skills that game development needs.

The game development sector is changing the landscape by partnering with institutions like the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, De La Salle University, College of St. Benilde and the Ateneo de Manila University.

They provide the proper game development-related skills to their graduates. Dizon also thinks that shortening the training time will make people more productive and faster, thereby helping the industry grow even more.

A lot of game development work was traditionally done in the United States. Games are very late in terms of outsourcing because of the long-held notion that creativity cannot be outsourced, Dizon says.

Clients do not typically look at the price first. Instead, they want to ensure various factors: that the company can get the job done, if the client can deal with and talk to their people easily, and if their English is good or if they will require a translator.

Fortunately, the Filipino’s mastery of the English language and his cultural familiarity with the United States, where more than half of the clients come from, are keys to inking the deal.

“In the outsourcing industry, we may sell different services but it’s a similar game where you offer a service and a client abroad pays for good quality at a good price,” Dizon says. “We’re usually not the cheapest option but we want to be very good value for money.” – Maria Mutya Frio, Bpa/P

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