Venezuela and the Videogame Industry: A follow up (II)

Act two.
A game studio using public funds would not be the first time the Venezuelan government incurs in the entertainment business. In 2006 the Government created La Villa del Cine (Cinema Town), a state-of-the-art film production complex to help promote the film industry in the country[22]. Although it has been criticized as being a way for the Government to control such industry and make films with an agenda[23] it has been very successful in putting on camera Venezuela’s heritage and history in high quality productions, something that had not been done before[24]. Content specifically targeted to the Venezuelan public is also lacking in the local gaming community where the games played have all been developed abroad.
Venezuela, being so close to the U.S.A. relies mainly on North American games which in a way have implanted foreign cultures and ideas that some might argue contradict Venezuelan morale and ethics. For example, in 2008, the former EA owned Pandemic Studios released Mercenaries 2, a game based in Venezuela where the main character has to help an army general overthrow the Venezuelan Government[24]. Although during the game the player changes sides and ends up fighting against the coup and the fact that on the credits of the game the developers thank the current real Venezuelan Government one can argue that the game is touching sensible subjects for the Venezuelan citizens. Existing game studios in the country, as mentioned before, work mostly as outsourcers creating content for international publishers and have nothing to do with the local public. It is possible that games targeted directly at the country’s culture and history could be well received as proven by the previously mentioned Villa del Cine.
When discussing the software, music and film industries one of the most debated topics is piracy and copyright. One of the biggest problems faced by the entertainment and software industries in Venezuela is the widespread of copyright infringement where pirates even advertise their products in the national press and sell copies on the streets[26]. The International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), a U.S.A. organization that studies piracy levels around the world reports that Venezuela in the year 2006 alone reported a loss of 124 million U.S. Dollars in software products (including games)[25]. This is 84% of the potential revenue of the sector. Such high levels of piracy could definitely cripple any attempts of making a profit in the gaming industry, specially with video games targeted at the Venezuelan consumers which might not sell immediately outside its borders.
Mariana Garcia, board member of the UCV SIGGRAPH Student Chapter reckons that a solution for the piracy in the country would be to avoid the problem altogether by incorporating business models like the ones used by Nine Inch Nails’ leader Trent Reznor[26]. She thinks that ideas like alternative reality games where the action happens both inside a computer/console and on the real world, or the distribution of higher priced limited collector editions of the games could work in a poverty ridden country where consumers refuse to pay the high price* of original video games. On the other hand, and thinking back on the effect of the new law, Julian Rojas Millan reckons that piracy could even increase with the enforcing of the new law as players used to buying original copies of their games are forced to buy pirated copies as law abiding shops will not be allowed to sell them[27].
It is not easy to answer whether a new enterprise will be successful, specially in the games industry and even more so in a economically insecure place like Venezuela. Being backed by the Government could give some stability to this new start up company as the rising oil prices continue to benefit the country and all its national companies but it will also give way to even more control over what the industry develops and could lead to a new platform of political propaganda like what has happened to some extent with the Villa del Cine.
* Venezuela has been under a foreign currency control scheme[28] for almost 7 years now which means that video game stores that import products from abroad may need to obtain foreign money on illegal and underground markets which in turns increases the final price of their products considerably.
Venezuela and the Videogame Industry: A follow up (I)
Sources:
[1] – Rafaelli, D. 2008.  Pipeline Grafico. GameEXPO Conference. 5-7 December.
[2] – INVENTAD. 2008. Sobre INVENTAD. http://www.inventad.org/sobre/. [Accessed 07 January 2010].
[3] – Caracas Game Jam. 2009. [online]. Available from: http://www.caracasgamejam.com/. [Accessed 07 January 2010].
[4] – GameEXPO. 2009. [online]. Available from: http://www.gamexpo.org/. [Accessed 07 January 2010].
[5] – Duran, C. 26 March 2009. Ciclo de charlas de videojuegos en la U.C.V. el 17 de abril. [online]. El Chigüire Literario. Available from: http://www.elchiguireliterario.com/2009/03/26/ciclo-de-charlas-de-videojuegos-en-la-ucv-el-17-de-abril/. [Accessed 07 January 2010].
[6] – Teravision Games. October 2008. Teravision Games is now Nintendo Authorized DS Developers. Available from: http://www.teravisiongames.com/news/index.php?year=2008#Nitendo. [Accessed 07 January 2010].
[7] – GameSpy. 2008. Microsoft Reveals the Dream-Build-Play 2008 Winners and Makes Indie Game Development Dreams Reality. Available from: http://uk.xbox360.gamespy.com/articles/925/925048p1.html. [Accessed 07 January 2010].
[8] – Duran, C. 11 August 2009. Actualizaciones, Guru Guru y Electiva en la UCAB. [online]. El Chigüire Literario. Available from: http://www.elchiguireliterario.com/2009/08/11/actualizaciones-guru-guru-y-electiva-en-la-ucab/. [Accessed 07 January 2010].
[9] – Asamblea Nacional. 2009. Informe que presenta la comision mixta de la asamblea nacional sobre eel proyecto de la ley para la prohibicion de videojuegos belicos y juguetes belicos, a los efectos de su segunda discusion.  Available from: http://www.ciroduran.com/files/2009/ley/informe-2da-discusion.pdf. [Accessed 07 January 2010].
[10] – Nation Master. 2000. Murders (per capita) by country. [online]. Available from:
[11] – Duran, C. 30 October 2009. [online]. Mi opinión sobre la Ley de Prohibición de Videojuegos y Juguetes Bélicos. Available from: http://www.elchiguireliterario.com/2009/10/30/mi-opinion-sobre-la-ley-de-prohibicion-de-videojuegos-y-juguetes-belicos/. [Accessed 07 January 2010].
[12] – Rodriguez, C. 2009. Interview by the author. 2 December.
[13] – Exposure to the media
[14] – Gaceta oficial de la Republica Bolivariana de Venezuela. 2009. Gaceta Oficial #39320. Asamblea Nacional. Available from: http://www.asambleanacional.gob.ve/index.php?option=com_docman&task=doc_download&gid=2027&&Itemid=190. [Accessed 07 January 2010].
[15] – SIGGRAPH UCV Student Chapter. [online]. Available from: http://siggraph.ciens.ucv.ve/. [Accessed 07 January 2010].
[16] – Rojas-Millan, J. 2009. Interview by the author. 18 December.
[17] – Duran, C. 2009. Interview by the author. 18 December.
[18] –  Duran, C. 30 October 2009. [online]. Mi opinión sobre la Ley de Prohibición de Videojuegos y Juguetes Bélicos. Available from: http://www.elchiguireliterario.com/2009/10/30/mi-opinion-sobre-la-ley-de-prohibicion-de-videojuegos-y-juguetes-belicos/. [Accessed 07 January 2010].
[19] – The British Board of Film Classification. [online]. Available from: http://www.bbfc.co.uk/. [Accessed 07 January 2010].
[20] – Pan European Game Information. [online]. Available from: http://www.pegi.info/en/index/. [Accessed 07 January 2010].
[21] – Entertainment Software Association. 2009. 2009 sales, demographic and usage data. Essential facts about the computer and videogame industry. [online]. Available from: http://www.theesa.com/facts/pdfs/ESA_EF_2009.pdf. [Accessed 07 January 2010].
[22] – Fundacion Villa del Cine. [online]. Available from: http://www.villadelcine.gob.ve/. [Accessed 07 January 2010].
[23] – Ingham, J. 2007. Venezuelan cinema, Chavez style. BBC. [online]. Available from:  http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/7070799.stm. [Accessed 07 January 2010].
[24] – Electronic Arts. 2008. Mercenaries 2. [Disk]. PC. Pandemic Studios.
[25] – International Intellectual Property Alliance. 2007. 2007 special 301 report Venezuela. [online]. Available from: http://www.iipa.com/rbc/2007/2007SPEC301VENEZUELA.pdf. [Accessed 07 January 2010].
[26] – Garcia, M. 2009. Interview by the author. 17 December.
[27] – Rojas-Millan, J. 2010. Interview by the author. 06 January.
[28] – Sydney Morning Herald. 2003. Venezuela announces currency, price controls. [online]. Available from: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/02/06/1044498917650.html. [Accessed 07 January 2010].

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