That’s the buzzword we keep on hearing about when a country aspires to take center stage in whatever scene they are dabbling into. Be it technology, esports … or even games development.
Malaysia is currently at the cusp of achieving something great when it comes to digital economy, spearheaded by its agency – the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC). Supporting local talents financially and by sharing expertise flown in from all around the world, they’ve made some great strides these past few years. They have unearthed unpolished gems and turned them into world-renowned works of art with Malaysian-based studios, having a (small) hand in building AAA games such as God of War and more recently Spider-Man.
However, does this warrant claiming Malaysia to be the hub which MDEC have often touted in their spiel? Or is it just a marketing buzzword to attract foreign investors and talent?
When asked by Kakuchopurei what gives MDEC the right and/ or confidence to claim Malaysia as the video games development hub in the region when most local companies focused more on asset creation rather than developing their own IP and AAA games, CEO Dato’ Yasmin binti Mahmood replied with the following:
“When we say ‘a hub’, it’s an aspiration and there are many ways you can define what a ‘hub’ is. And I think in Malaysia also, we have to be a bit more forgiving and maybe just dial down a bit on the critical component part of it.”
She then referred to an earlier speech by Senior Director, Visual Arts for PlayStation, Michael Mumbauer, who earmarked Polar Express as an example. Pointing out that while the movie which saw a CGI version of Tom Hanks didn’t prove to be a commercial success, it provided a learning experience for everyone involved.
Mirroring it to what MDEC is undergoing at the moment, Dato’ Yasmin elaborated “That learning experience is what we need to draw from. Right now, we need to know how holistic we want to define it – in terms of the community and the ecosystem which we are building.”
“We aim to build a hub in Southeast Asia – not a global one yet. But I do not mean to say it in a negative manner; we aim to be a honeypot so that all the other aspiring games developers in the region can look forward and go to; a place where the ecosystem is most mature.”
“There are pockets of (games development) ecosystems in SEA – in Philippines, Indonesia, and Thailand. But what we want to become is this community and ecosystem which is as comprehensive as possible so that not only Malaysian players are thriving, but also can complement the rest of the world”.
So there you have it. Via the MDEC initiative, the Malaysian games development scene aspires to be more than just an asset-building market, but instead grow into a proper, thriving ecosystem which would be central to the industry in the region.
Personally, I long to see a AAA Malaysian-made game grace the floors at E3, rather than just being relegated to the credits scene. I want to be able to proudly claim “That game’s made by Malaysians” rather than just going “Those concept art are by Malaysians” or “Malaysians had a small hand in it.”
We might not be there yet but from what we’ve seen at Level Up KL 2018, MDEC is well aware of the challenges that await them, with their gameplan firmly underway.