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The Mexican Game Market: An Overlooked Industry

by on June 21, 2013
 

In my last article, we proved Spock wrong, as in fact Nixon was not the only person who could go to China.  Today, we will look at gaming in a different part of the world: South of the Border (South of the US anyway).

I was in Mexico this Spring giving a series of lectures on how to use Games and more specifically Game Making to make STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) education more palatable for today’s students.  My visit was sponsored by the US Department of State (the folks who run the US Embassies around the globe). I held a Facebook Q&A Session (their largest to date), and gave one series of lectures to educators and business owners and different set of lectures to parents and students.  The culmination of the program is a game design contest, with the winners receiving a trip to Silicon Valley.

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Photos by John E. Williamson

The most promising statistic from the trip was that a full 40% of the student audience was female.  The students were motivated, inquisitive and a little frustrated at the relative dearth of titles with Spanish language support.  All of the games I have designed and produced have been localized and released world wide, so this was a bit of a surprise to me. But it turns out, their assertions were correct.  Many, international hits, that would be easy to translate were never localized into Spanish.

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Photos by John E. Williamson

The Embassy, parents and educators were gracious and most appreciative that I was willing to visit them in person. All of the previous lecturers resorted to remote teleconferences due to the apprehension of gun violence in Juarez, Mexico. 

Due to the violence levels, I was escorted in an armored car, from one fortified location to another.  The Embassy was fortified, and so were all the business I visited, the maquiladoras.  Quite a change from my normal tourist walk about ways.

This dour mood was further driven home by the memorial service held at the Embassy for one of the consulate employees killed in shooting the week of my visit. For several years, Juarez held the title “Most Dangerous City.” That said, gun deaths are down from a record of 2,086i n 2011 to just over 700 in 2012, and 2013 appears on track for lower numbers still. Ironically, El Paso, TX just over the river, had the lowest crime rate in the US for any city with a population over 500,000.

Mexico and Central and South America have their share of problems and I’ll skip the debate on where the blame for the problems should be placed.  But these countries, and Mexico in particular, have many advantages that should not be overlooked for game investment and development.

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Photos by John E. Williamson

The Spanish Speaking Market represents an opportunity for rapid growth and expansion.  Granted, this market is smaller in scale than China, but it has fewer barriers and a more gamer friendly population and most games designed and developed for the Spanish Speaking Market in Central and South America, could be also be sold to the US Hispanic market., who would welcome gaming content developed for their culture.

Mexico alone has a population of 110 Million, 22 Million of those are internet users and 16 Million are active gamers.  Very active in fact.  The average gamer in Mexico owns 5 gaming platforms, a most impressive number.  29 million hours per day are spent gaming in Mexico alone.

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Photos by John E. Williamson

The Mexican game market is a healthy $1.2 Billion. Granted that is 15% of China’s game market. But the game market is doubling every 4 years in Mexico, making it the fastest growing game market.  The US, and most of Europe have Free Trade Agreements with Mexico, and the game market and the economy and general, are not state controlled. Mexico has a strong educational system, including its colleges and a full 50% of the population is under 25. Soon the majority of adults and policy makers in the country will have grown up with a controller in their hand. (footnote: the richest person in the world, is a tech giant from Mexico, Carlos Slim)

If one includes the rapid Hispanic population growth of the US (projected to be the largest demographic in the US before 2020) and the countries and Central and South America , you have a quite substantial video game market. One with fewer barriers to entry than many other parts of the globe. Game developers in Mexico are making some excellent games on their own, but the market is big enough to support additional outside investment and innovation and exports of their products.

I am currently designing two  iOS games that I believe celebrate the rich cultural history of Mexico and in doing so, would make them not only unique stylistically in the market, but successful in all of the Americas as well. Next up: A trip down memory lane. My visit to Russia for game research and a chance encounter with a nemesis of my father.

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