#SwissGames gains Brazil

by Lea Strohm*

swissnex Brazil welcomed its first ever #SwissGames delegation in São Paulo on the occasion of the 2017 edition of the Brazilian Independent Games Festival – BIG Festival – the third biggest indie-game festival in the world and gate to the Latin American market. In the last days of June, game-developers and VR specialists from all over the world came together to see the newest creations of Brazilian and international indie game-developers.

With Switzerland being guest country of BIG Festival 2017, swissnex Brazil brought ten Swiss game designers and VR specialists during a week to boost business, get to know the Brazilian ecosystem and present their own work and the Swiss game-design and VR landscape. Besides the presence at the BIG Festival, the exchanges happened through various other activities organized by swissnex in collaboration with local players and institutions.

Brazilian games expert and consultant André Faure kicked off the week with a presentation of the Brazilian games market, both on the developer as on the consumer side. The Brazilian Games Market, with 3.4 million users, is the fourth biggest in the world after the USA, Japan, and China. It accounted for US$ 1.6 bi of revenue in 2016. Unlike the overall economy, the digital games sector is booming and is supposed to grow by 7% in 2017, mainly thanks to the increased use of mobile games, played mainly by women on their smartphones. Until the end of this year, Brazil will have one smartphone per inhabitant and, out of these 200 million smartphones, approximately 93% run Android, which makes the development of games for iOS less relevant in the country.

One of the highlights of the week was the event Gaming for All, organized by the post-graduate and undergraduate game design course of Anhembi Morumbi University, home of the oldest and biggest game design course in Brazil. Workshops for students given by the Swiss delegation members were followed by a developer’s meeting and Q&A session with local developers and soon-to-be game design graduates. The big interest and enthusiasm from the Brazilian side made the experience very grateful and it became clear that Brazilian and Swiss developers share many common worries, like difficult entry to job-market for young developers or lack of access to funding for studios.

 

Following the schedule, the Swiss-Brazilian Pitching Night filled the auditorium at the Google Campus São Paulo. With “elevator pitches on steroids”, as the moderator of the night Luli Radfahrer explained it, the event was an entertaining way of presenting Swiss and Brazilian projects to the local audience. A small crowd of hundred people watched while the developers struggled to do show their ideas in a slightly modified version of the Japanese presentation format PechaKucha. The pitches of two high-school students from ETEC Pirituba, which includes game design courses in its curriculum, were especially impressive.

While the pitching night at Campus São Paulo attracted the start-up and the tech audience, the location of BIG Festival, Centro Cultural São Paulo, was taken over by the gamers! A panel discussion presented the Swiss gaming sector, which doesn’t win through size, but has gained fame over the last years for its high-tech, artsy games. Disney’s investment in a research center in Zurich, which works closely with the Game Technology Center at ETH Zurich, figured as an example of this interest. Comparing the Swiss scene to the Brazilian, Rafael Morgan, of AirConsole, mentioned that “Swiss and Brazilian developers probably watch the same tutorials, so they are on a very similar level”, summing up what had become clear in encounters and conversations during the week.

As part of a focus on virtual reality, the delegation included BIG VR keynote speaker Salar Shahna, CEO of World VR Forum. At its annual summits, World VR Forum has united professionals from VR and AR twice for a festival and forum in Crans Montana. During the time in São Paulo, Shahna repeatedly insisted that VR needs to stop to figure as a side-dish in film- and gaming festivals, but become the “main-dish”, because of the vast opportunities of these immersive technologies. While fragment.in, an ECAL spin-off and sole romand member of the delegation, showed how VR can be used to create interactive art installations, Salar also mentioned other famous Swiss VR success-cases, like the flight-simulator Birdly, which had passed through the swissnex office Rio de Janeiro in May.

Overall, the first #SwissGames delegation in Brazil wasn’t only a way of letting these two ecosystems meet for the first time, but also brought to the table many opportunities for Swiss developers in Brazil. On one hand, the high number of well-educated young game developers coming out of universities like Anhembi Morumbi University shows the potential for partnerships for co-production with Swiss developers. On the other hand, the Brazilian consumer market will become increasingly important, as shown by the case of Struckd, a game development engine from Zurich. Struckd’s highest number of downloads come from Brazil, without them ever having made an effort of launching the game in Brazil, as Flurin and Silvan, the two co-founders, explained. Besides tracing the roots of their success, the week in São Paulo allowed them to make important contacts in order to boost their business in Brazil. Considering the many opportunities, swissnex hopes to welcome other Swiss Games and VR delegations in the future.

A special thank goes to ProHelvetia and BIG Festival for the support that made the delegation possible. Further thanks to our partners at Anhembi Morumbi University and The Hive Brazil, as well as support from ECAL.

*Lea Strohm is former Junior Project Manager at swissnex Brazil.

More picture of the event at our page on Flickr.