In recent years, African videogame industry has been trying to carve a niche for itself with no much success. There have been moments of success and moments of decline, but the sector’s true potential has never been realized according to an industry insider your blogger spoke to.African countries policy making and support for local videogames development has been intermittent, half-hearted and often poorly targeted. Not even a single government has shown interest in supporting the industry.Concrete policy and program commitments at the country level especially in South Africa through the Film and Games Development Fund have supported local developers and seen the survival of games scene concentrated in Cape Town and Johannesburg.Many of the South Africa developers studied in a recent research emphasised the favourable regulatory and taxation frameworks enjoyed by developers in other countries. They proposed that the lack of similar frameworks and schemes in South Africa meant that they faced further competitive constraints in an already turbulent and rapidly changing market. South Africa can learn from more mature markets, like South Korea and Japan. Your blogger knows that Japan based developers benefit from a range of programs offering tax credits, employment incentives and grants on a provincial basis.Rather than focusing on attracting international companies to South Africa, it is as important to consider how home grown South African companies can be supported to grow sustainable businesses. Local developers are passionate about their businesses’ capacity to employ South Africa developers. Taxation frameworks and other production assistance initiatives can be devised that both attract overseas businesses and encourage locals. Trade exposed sectors such as games will inevitably be affected by the US dollar’s exchange rate, the fundamental reason why overseas games companies may establish operations in African has to do with the strength of the talent pool. Keeping the talent pool strong, and refreshing it from local education and training programs, is the most effective, long-term way government can contribute.Face to face interactions are important, but this does not mean anymore that video game developers need to be located in major cities like Cape Town at all times.In that sense, creative economy policies should think about flexible ways to accommodate creative workers in the city.
Recent research shows it is time to go beyond the cluster type of economic development policies to attract and retain creative workers and firms in other cities like Durban, Pretoria and Port Elizabeth.Games talent is very transferable to other sectors. Recent research shows clear trend differences in the games cultures of Johannesburg and Cape Town. In Cape Town, games talent is often an input into digital content and applications. This helps grow domestic industries which have more stable demand profiles than the highly volatile and massively oversupplied games consumption markets.A recent initiative of some local companies, saw a shared working space that supports small games enterprises. The aim is to foster an environment of business sustainability. National policy should support such innovative ventures and hubs that pull small businesses and their support enterprises together across the country.While there are obviously plenty of opportunities to develop a sustainable video game industry in South Africa, the key appears to be an ongoing dialogue between industry and policy advisors at national level, and associations.The South African game industry should play with its strengths including local talent, proximity to other African markets, expertise in online gaming and mobile games, competitive university programs in computer programs among others. It needs to make the move from being a contender to being a regional hub for Africa’s video game industry.Various cities in Africa have developed creative economy policies with the aim of diversifying their economy. These policies are about attracting and retaining entrepreneurs and firms from the creative industries sector, such as the music and fashion industries. New technologies such as the Broadband Networks have changed the way video game developers produce games and where they produce them. With the broadband, a small video game company can literally produce a game from anywhere. In cases where they already have the professional connections, developers can work on the same game with different experts located in different cities. Instead of planning creative neighbourhoods, which are often not affordable for start-up companies, African countries policies should aim for flexible solutions such as co-working spaces. Those are more adapted to an era in which new technologies are to a certain extent changing the geography of creative industries based on technological innovation such as the video game industry.