Catalonia gets boost from new business model

Go big or go home | Miniseries move Catalan producers | Digital game delivery boosts small shops
Fest Traveler: Sitges

Worldwide digital delivery of videogames straight to end users via platforms like Nintendo’s Wii and the Apple Store amounts to a new business model for the Catalan vidgame industry.

And it’s a golden opportunity that boutique developers and producers have responded to with a string of international titles.

Barcelona-based Novarama’s kid-skewed “Invizimals” (“Invisible + Animals”) for Sony offers heightened virtual reality through a mix of high-tech game graphics and real-life images from a user’s own environment — the game comes with camera and microphone.

The use of this type of technology is groundbreaking, and “Invizimals” sets its ambitions high, aspiring to be a 21st century “Pokemon.”

Another Catalan company, Digital Legends, has nabbed awards for “Bruce Lee Dragon Warrior” for the iPhone/iPod Touch. And Cosmonaut Games’ “Dive: The Medes Island Secret” has sold worldwide via the Nintendo Wii platform after attracting some marketing coin from Catalan state Costa Brava and Gerona Tourism Board, since the game centers on the region’s Medes Islands.

“Dive” producer Jose Giacomelli of Cosmonaut Games is a good example of the kind of young, creative entrepreneur forging the vidgame future in Catalonia.

“This is a young market,” Giacomelli says. “Lots of people still don’t know about digital delivery … I think it will explode over the next five years.”

Cosmonaut develops two to three games a year, like most boutique outfits, working out of Barcelona on the back of a deal with Nintendo’s Wii.

For Oriol Boira, creator of videogames at Catalan pubcaster TV3Cs Clubsuper 3, “Two things describe the industry at present — growth and diversification. Social games and mobile gaming are serious competition now, and the new business and digital distribution model is helping greatly.”

Costing just ?100,000 ($127,000) to create, “Dive” has 70 million potential customers worldwide and took just a year to deliver from first idea to the first purchase. With an average download price of $7-$20 per game, Catalan film producers must look on in envy at a business model with much less risk and lower distribution costs than movies.

With the Catalan state prepared to splash cash to forge a high-tech cultural brand for the region, opportunities for synergies between film and vidgame industry — like those for Spain’s “Planet 51″ last year — look to increase.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more