A CLOSER LOOK AT THE GAMING
The international gaming industry is huge − bigger in revenues than the US film industry, earning an estimated $76bn (R912bn) per year. In SA alone, PwC estimates that R1.4bn is spent on video games for computers, cellphones, tablets and consoles.
But, Danny Day cautions, this is no indication of the current state of game development in the country. “Of that R1.4bn, none of it goes into the local scene,” he says, adding: “It’s all going to big international corporations, big international distributors and hardware sellers. Very little of it actually stays in the country, even in the retail space, because your mark-ups are so small.”
Make Games South Africa (MGSA), the association of independent game developers, ran a survey this year to get an idea of the size and scope of the local industry. There were 40 active game development companies that responded, which overall have directly created 253 jobs, showing a 5% growth from 2014. Together the organisations released a total of 67 games in the 2014, and the declared value of these organisations is about R53m, an 82% growth from last year. country. “When PayPal launched we decided that we would do pre-orders for Desktop Dungeons,” says Day, who got on the plane even though the trio couldn’t afford the trip. Day took his seat on the plane as pre-orders went live. A few minutes later, he was on his way to the US via Dubai.
“By the time I got off the plane in Dubai, we could afford the entire trip. By the time I had completed the leg to Los Angeles and dashed to E3 to start demoing the game, we could pretty much afford to continue developing the game for the next year,” says Day.
“The pre-orders worked well for us and we turned this into an open beta [trial testing], and for the next t woand- a-half years we released a new version of the game every Friday to our beta subscribers. People could buy the game for $10 [R120], or $20 [R240] if they wanted to support us. Some 13 000 people bought the game that way, so when we released the game we didn’t need venture capital anymore.”
At E3, Day would seal a deal that would remarkably alter the future fortunes of those involved in Desktop Dungeons. On the last day of the convention and exhibition, the video games developer would ink a partnership with a digital distribution company based in the US called Steam. Steam is t he world’s l argest online distributor of video games for personal computers; software on a user’s PC connects via the internet to the Steam server, from which games c a n be bought, downloaded a nd automatically upgraded.
Some 4 500 games can be found on Steam, which boasts a community of 12m active users, with anything from 6m to 9m people playing concurrently.
For game developers, this platform is t he dream distribution net work. Because there are so many users, and no material product costs, games can be offered to a wide market at an affordable price. The cut that Steam takes is relatively small. When Day managed to get