The rapid growth of Malaysia’s game development industry

There has been a huge improvement in the local gaming industry as there are more indie developers emerging today, says co-founder

By KEVIN WONG

One of the fastest growing industries in the world today, which evolved from a group of bedroom innovators into a multibillion dollar industry, is the video gaming industry.

Last year alone, the industry made more than RM423 billion. This massive evolution is also attributed to the rise of mobile apps.

With the exponential growth of the industry, Malaysians are also jumping on the virtual world’s bandwagon to kick-start their careers as game developers here in the country.

Back in 2014, the local game development industry managed to rake in about RM246 million — which is spare change against RM420 million in 2016 — proving how fast the industry has grown compared to other entertainment sectors.

Magnus Games

According to gan, Malaysia is one of the biggest consumers in the region that are willing to spend money on games (Pic by Afif Abd Halim/TMR)

The Malaysian Reserve recently had the opportunity of speaking to Magnus Games Studio Sdn Bhd co-founder Gan Dong Chee, who shared his journey as a local game developer.

“At the age of 20, my younger brother Wai Su and I — who both started playing video games from a very young age — decided to create our own games.

“We eventually found an investor to support us,” he said.

However, Gan said although he worked very hard to make the game enjoyable, it still failed in the end because the investor — like most investors — did not understand the core fundamentals of game development.

“It is mainly about having fun and creating a game that you, yourself would enjoy.

“If a game is solely developed to make money, then in my opinion, it is going to be really hard to make a good game,” he said.

Gan added that the other mistake he and his brother made was to follow the trend by developing what was popular at that time, instead of starting their own trend of creating games that they would enjoy themselves. After a few years of constant failures, the two brothers decided to take a break from the industry to pursue their education.

Gan went to America to pursue his studies in music production, while his brother went to Lim kok wing University of Creative Technology to improve his skills as a game developer and designer.

“We decided to start Magnus Games in 2014. It was a struggle in the beginning, as we did not have enough money to properly develop games.

“That’s when we decided to look for investors — but because most investors did not understand this new digital business, we were not successful,” he said.

As game developers, Gan said this was one of the biggest challenges they faced.

“It led us into debts and that was the point where we decided to look for opportunities overseas and stumbled upon the Square Enix Collective.

“We showcased our game Re:Legend and it received 99% up-votes from gamers around the world.

Re:Legend has been ranked number one on the platform up to today,” he said.

Square Enix Collective is a curated platform that enables independent game (indie) developers to post ideas, as well as for gamers to provide feedback to help developers evaluate and improve on the games before they are released to the masses.

Gan said from his experience of using the platform, the global market does not care where you are from as long as you produce good quality products and services.

“That is where I realised that we no longer need to restrict ourselves as Malaysians.

“This revolution led us to our next set up last July — a Kickstarter campaign where we became the most funded project in South-East Asia,” he said.

The Kickstarter campaign for Re:Legend received about RM2 million, which will be invested into the development of the game.

Kickstarter is a platform that helps artists, musicians, filmmakers, designers, as well as other creators to find the resources and support they need to make their ideas a reality.

“This has also led to the approach of many big game publishers wanting to collaborate and publish more games with us.

“Magnus Games is the first game development company in Malaysia to receive international recognition through the Kickstarter campaign,” he said.

Gan said there has been a huge improvement in the local gaming industry as there are more indie developers emerging today.

“Malaysians are becoming known for its intellectual properties such as Uncharted Waters Online and Street Fighter, and this has led to more opportunities for outsourcing companies to set up offices here in Malaysia,” he said.

Gan added that the industry is expected to experience a big growth rate with the Digital Free Trade Zone and more foreign companies investing in Malaysia.

“I believe Malaysia is the hub and central for trading — and with the country moving towards digital trade, we are definitely headed into the global market,” he said.

According to Gan, Malaysia is one of the biggest consumers in the region that are willing to spend money on games (Malaysian gamers comprise 14 million out of the total 32 million population in the country).

The game development industry recorded 2.9 times its export growth — nearly doubling the sales value from RM262 million back in 2014, to RM516 million as 2016.

With regard to government support, the Malaysia Digital Economy Corp (MDEC) has set up an incubation hub in Bangsar South, Kuala Lumpur, to support this rapidly growing industry.

MDEC provides grants, Multimedia Super Corridor status and tax incentives for the industry.