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Gamers, who are they?
Attendees queueing at the E3 2018 – Photo: Mike Blake/REUTERS

Gamers, who are they?

02/07/2018
14:02
EL UNIVERSAL in English/Alejandra Mendoza
Mexico City
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A reflection on what defines a gamer now, and an overview of the gaming industry in Mexico

The term gamer is a source of confusion for many, due to the several cultural layers and stereotypes added to it. Stripped down to its core, however, a gamer is anyone who plays video games. So, you might not be aware of it but you could be a gamer.

Surprising? Not really. All those games downloaded to our cell phones are, well, video games. If you find yourself pulling out your cell phone to resume your “Candy Crush” on your way home, during boring dinners with relatives or friends, or to kill some time off at work – while no one is looking, of course – then you are a gamer. By definition. And in the eyes of the gaming industry, as well.

According to Newzoo, a company specializing in providing market intelligence services for video games, they forecast the video game industry will reach a global revenue of USD $ 137.9 billion this 2018, with 51% being generated by mobile games

That’s an amount of money not to be taken lightly and while, perhaps, so-called gamers and gaming communities are quick to make a distinction between “hardcore” gamers, “casual” gamers and “non-gamers”, the industry welcomes us all with open arms.

But how many gamers are out there, exactly? No numbers will ever be exact, but according to ukie (The UK Interactive Entertainment Association) there are at least 2.2 billion gamers around the world, and the number is expected to keep growing. Currently, China is the one country coining it in, as it single-handedly accounted for one-quarter of global game revenues – USD $ 37.9 billion in April 2018. In fact, the whole Asia-Pacific region reached USD $ 71.4 billion, followed by North America with USD $ 32.7 billion, and Europe, Middle-East and Africa with $28. 7 billion. Latin America is the region generating less, with just USD$ 5.0 billion – and no, Mexico wasn’t considered here. We cozily share second place with the United States and Canada.

Speaking of Mexico, how’s our country doing in the gaming industry? Well, Newzoo says we’re currently the 12th market in the world – outranking several European countries – with an estimated gamer population of 49.2 million, of which 61% are male. While we are no China, our numbers should not be taken lightly either. Yet, contrary to countries with similar figures, Mexico seems to be slightly overlooked, not by the international community, but from within.

Perhaps it’s a cultural thing, sprouting from the informality that surrounded the gaming industry in our country. The essay titled “Video Games Around the World: Mexico” provides an interesting overview of this part of our history that will probably never be taught at schools. According to the essay, when video games were in their infancy worldwide, most titles were illegally brought to Mexico and could only be acquired in the informal market; whether smuggled into the country from the United States or as illegal (fake) reproductions.

Unsurprisingly, it all really began with the “maquinitas” (colloquial Mexican term for arcades), which were the ones that introduced gaming to Mexico. They presented games like “Pac Man”, “Centipede” and “Frogger” to the young people looking for entertainment who could not afford the high prices of home console systems. The shipment of the Atari VCS 2600 in the 1980s began the import of consoles, which otherwise were just sold in the US. And in 1985, the market exploded with the introduction of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).

In order to convey a more serious and formal aspect to the market, the magazine "Club Nintendo" was launched in 1991. It was a “turning point for the video game retail industry in Mexico,” since it created a sense of a gaming community that did not exist before. As an editorial response, "Atomix" was created, being the first multi-console magazine available in Mexico – which became a huge success in the whole of Latin America.

Apart from providing a sense of community, another factor that contributed to the maturation of the industry was the PlayStation, which provided “a more grown-up experience” for gamers who were looking for a different content other than the one offered by Nintendo.

PlayStation stayed as the dominant console until 2005, when the Xbox 360 was released. With the strategy of keeping close to the press and formalizing relationships with Mexican distributors from the beginning – something that Nintendo did not bother to do and that PlayStation took some time to realize – Microsoft secured its position in Mexico.

Thus, gaming found a niche in our society, where it nurtured and survived, but despite Mexico being one of the top consumers in the industry, there is little development and promotion. And not for a lack of trying.

Mexican game developers have tried from the early 2000’s to penetrate the market as game producers but after many failed attempts – due to inexperience and lack of funding – the industry today is still struggling to find its footing in Mexico.
 

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As pointed out in the essay, few universities in the country teach game development courses and you can count in one hand institutes solely focused on the subject. It gives the impression that Mexico, overall, doesn’t think of gaming as a serious industry. Yet, according to Jon Berroya, Vice President of content protection of the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) – as reported by VentureBeat – the video game industry “can create jobs and fuel tremendous economic growth if great developers are recognized and their creations are respected and protected.”

So far, Mexico has developed two important video games. The first one was “Lucha Libre AAA: Héroes del Ring" (2010). This project was, according to the essay, the “biggest IP ]Intellectual Property]” to be developed in Mexico for the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. The developer, Slang, spent millions of dollars in the marketing campaign and the launch party was the sort of event aimed to make history yet the game turned out to be a huge disappointment. It received mixed critics – particularly unfavorable, in the case of the Xbox – and the studio closed its doors.

The second game was an independent (indie) project called “Kerbal Space Program" (2012), launched originally for the PC. Contrary to the AAA game, “Kerbal” was embraced by the international community and has received positive reviews and scores. While Squad, the developer, has plans to keep expanding the universe through new features, free DLC’s (downloadable content), and updated versions for next-gen consoles, the IP was sold to Take-two Interactive, a studio which offered better possibilities of supporting these plans.

Mexico has a lot of potential growth in this sector, and many developers certainly have the desire to break into this market, but maybe society needs to change its view of what constitutes a gamer first and on what can the game industry offer us as a country before the industry can gain the recognition and support it deserves.

Perhaps all it takes is for people to notice they are gamers too. It’s not a requirement that you spend twenty hours a week leveling up your mage to make that assault on the Sunken Temple to find the Dragon’s– okay, you get the idea. It’s enough that people realize games have become a part of our everyday lives and that there is tangible potential in them. Video games are not something that belongs to the few.

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