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Brazilian Gaming: The Rise of an Industry Through the Eyes of Its Drivers

Starlit Adventures from Rockhead Studios and Webcore Games took the 2016 BIG prize for best Brazilian game, but barely scratches the surface of what the country has to offer

ANNECY, France — Brazil has long been a powerhouse in Latin American video game production, and home to many of South America’s largest and most important festivals, conventions and markets for the industry. It’s the world’s 13th largest consumer market in terms of game purchases, and in the middle of a period which is seeing exponential growth in production.

Not bad for a country that once had a black market for pirated games due to a ban that was only lifted in the ‘90s.

While the game design and animation often occupy similar spaces in economic models and cultural perception, in Brazil this hasn’t always been the case. For years after improvements were made to government programs which support domestic film and TV production, the country’s gaming industry was left to fend for itself.

That paradigm is changing however. This year the Brazilian Audiovisual Sector Fund has dedicated R$ 100 million ($27 million) to the development, production and publishing of video games. Funds will also be available to aid in accelerating the development of companies working in these fields, as well as being invested in training, education, festivals and markets. An additional R$ 10 million reais is specifically devoted to the newer fields of virtual and augmented reality.

Much like animation for film and TV, the gaming industry is labor intensive, and seen as an area which can provide significant economic stimulation.

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But how has the impact of these new programs been felt in the industry? Variety spoke with a number of Brazilian gaming industry executives about the recent offerings made available to the industry.

“In the past couple of years,” explained Split Studios Guille Hiertz, “some government programs started to invest in games and interactive media, but they are still very shy in comparison to other creative sectors and other countries.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by many, but delivered most succinctly by Valu Animation Studios’ Valu Vasconcelos, “It’s starting, but it’s not perfect yet.”

The transmedia relationship between the film, TV and gaming industries “are very united,” according to Spirit Animation’s chief creative officer Fernando Macedo, “now more than ever. Animation series are demanding games, and so on. The more points of contact between the brand and characters and its audience the better.”

“Nowadays, producers are always concerned about making their IPs multiplatform projects,” said 44 Toons executive producer Carolina Frattini, “and the creators are thinking about universes and stories that can be told on any device, playable or not.”

On convergence, however, consensus was not so forthcoming

“Unfortunately these industries are still very distant from each other as they are all still very embryonic,” said Webcore Games director Fernando Chamis, before elaborating: “We have begun to see cases of projects that are already born as transmedia, with the possibility of forming a strong intellectual property with great potential for future growth.”

Perhaps Fableware Narrative Design’s Arthur Protasio summed it up best. “The convergence of these industries, from both a governmental and market perspective, means more opportunities are on their way. There’s so much room for exchange. A transmedia approach is one of the smartest strategies for our collective and unified growth.”

Gustavo Steinberg produces Brazil’s BIG Festival which will take place from June 23 – July 1, and showcases all the best that Brazil has to offer in gaming. He is also an accomplished director whose animated feature debut screens in the main competition at France’s Annecy Animation Festival, where he reflected on the state of Brazilian animation, and imagined where it might be headed.

“It is still trying to reach its maturity, but there are very good opportunities,” he told Variety. “I see an industry with important independent players, with titles reaching a big audience in the world in a future not so far away from now.”

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