Friday, November 25, 2005

The Dutch gaming industry

Today there is a symposium about the Dutch gaming industry in Mediaplaza, a futuristic demonstration centre in Utrecht. For those who read Dutch see the announcement. The title Dutch gaming industry sounds posh, but it is in fact in its infancy.

The time tunnel at Mediaplaza (c Mediaplaza)

In the past year there has been a lot of talk about gaming and establishing a gaming industry in the Netherlands. A delegation of business people and education people went to San Francisco and Silicon Valley and visited the game developers. As one of the few game developers, Playlogic, is based in Breda, a junior college made a claim to fame and wanted to become the first gaming college. The college people had not really scouted the educational market as the HKU already has a department Game Design and Development; the department aims at the creative side of the gaming design. Also the NHL in Leeuwarden is already busy with gaming; the college is approved as developer for Nintendo and is develops also games for the mobile platform. (Coordination between educational institutes could help the development of a gaming industry).

The gaming industry has not a crystal clear structure. There is of course the problem as to platforms: consoles, PC, online, iTV and mobile. Consoles games are the most profitable sector. But it is a costly affair to develop games for the GameCube, Xbox and Playstation. Few Dutch companies like Guerilla succeeded with getting their games accepted for the Xbox and Playstation. Hot are presently the online games. Mobile games are difficult to develop as there is little standardisation in the mobile world. No standardisation means extra costs for converting the games to a particular platform. But there are a few developers like Ranj

Another difficulty is the distribution. For console and PC games a distribution network is needed. Game publishers like Electronic Arts and Infogrammes control these networks with outlets in PC shops and retail shops.

And of course development is not easy without venture capital. Games are expensive to develop. In 1995 I had the opportunity to visit the studio which produced Myst. At that time there that game had gathered 16 million US dollars for development. Whatever the eventual figure has been, I do not know. So games for consoles and PC require easily 10 million euro or more.

Looking for opportunities Dutch creatives look in the direction of mobile games as they are locally bound to the mobile telephone provider. Other games are casual games on PC like Tetris; these games can also be developed into viral games for marketing. These casual games are favourite with women above 30 years of age; the Dutch company Zylom is active in this field Another branch in gaming is now serious games, which are usually simulation and decision or business games.

Despite all these handicaps Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Breda and Eindhoven like to be the gaming hotspot in the world and get often local authorities involved. But these authorities should read up on their innovative cities literature with books of M. Castells (Technopoles of the World), and A. Scotts (From Silicon Valley to Hollywood) and read for example Innovation Strategy, the action plan of Helsinki, before commiting themselves to grand plans.

It is interesting to see that serious gaming is being picked up by Universities. At Delft Universities the subject is taught. At Twente University the Technology Exchange Cell (T-Xchange) was opened yesterday. It is a virtual lab where new innovation concepts can be tested in a game setting.

The T-Xchange Lab will be housed in this building

No comments: