How Chile became an indie video game powerhouse in Latin America
About two decades ago, a group of Argentinian and Chilean entrepreneurs decided to launch Wanako Games, a videogame studio whose main office was in Santiago, Chile, which would later become the largest in Latin America.
They probably didn't know then that it would be the starting point of a flourishing industry that has produced acclaimed video games and attracted the attention of big international players.
"Our industry is relatively young, but we have made great strides in the past 20 years. We have over 70 companies with annual revenues close to $12 million. Some studios have developed top-rated games and have been internationally recognized for their work," said Ian Frederick, Trade Commissioner in Los Angeles at ProChile, the government organization promoting the country's goods and services worldwide.
As an example, he mentioned Zeno Clash, a video game developed by ACE Team that was named Independent Game of the Year by PC Gamer in 2009 and was included in that publication's Top 100 PC Games.
Two other games by ACE Team, Deadly Tower (2016) and The Eternal Cylinder (2021), were awarded Best Game: Latin America at the BIG Festival in Brazil. The Eternal Cylinder was also nominated for the Seumas McNally Grand Prize and the Excellence in Visual Art category at the 2022 Independent Games Festival.
In addition to these awards, the Chilean industry has seen interest from global players. In 2018, the mobile game developer TinyBytes raised $1.4 million from Initial Capital and London Venture Partners. It was their first time investing in a Latin American video game company.
In 2020, ACE Team and Critical Failure were among the recipients of Epic MegaGrants, a program designed by Epic Games to service and assist professionals in the gaming industry who are doing outstanding work with Unreal Engine or enhancing open-source capabilities for the 3D graphics community.
The sector experienced four milestones last year: at the beginning of 2022, 4HA Games and BCS Studios were among 13 companies selected to be part of the Digital Dragons Accelerator, a program created by the Krakow Technology Park to support foreign startups to develop their businesses in Poland.
Time Hunters Studios signed a contract with Nintendo a month later to develop Shintaro's Curse and The Soul Severing Blade.
Then in July, Kongregate acquired Gamaga, another mobile game developer, to expand its NFT and blockchain initiatives. The transaction valued Gamaga at between $5 million and $7 million.
In September, Niebla Games was chosen to join Google Play's Indie Games Accelerator, a three-month digital program for high-potential indie games studios.
"When it comes to titles produced annually, we are getting close to Brazil, which is a much bigger market compared to Chile. Our industry understands what gamers are looking for, and our developers have adapted to fulfill the increasing demand for video games on different platforms, including Nintendo, PC, PlayStation, Steam, Xbox, Amazon, Android, and Apple," Frederick said.
Some games launched by Chilean studios in the past 12 months include Farm Idle by Gamaga/Kongregate, What Lies In The Multiverse by IguanaBee and Studio Voyager, and Little League World Series Baseball 2022, also by IguanaBee.
2023 Game Developers Conference
"For our industry to be known worldwide, we must be where the big players are. That is why ProChile has supported multiple companies in the past 11 years so they can participate in leading video game events such as the Game Developers Conference in the US, BIG Festival in Brazil, Gamescom in Germany, Tokyo Game Show in Japan, and MEGAMIGS in Canada," said Frederick.
The Trade Commissioner added, "Chile was the first Ibero-American country to be part of the GDC in 2012 with five companies. Six studios will be at our pavilion this year, and nine others will participate virtually."
The companies traveling to San Francisco are AOne Games, Critical Failure Studio, IguanaBee, InvadeLab, Octeto Studios, and TinyBytes. The firms that will connect online are 4HA Games Studio, Abstract Digital, Believe, BrewMasters Games, Dreams of Heaven - Games, Gamaga, Niebla Games, Onion Head Games, and Them Handsome Fellas.
To learn more about the Chilean industry, go to bit.ly/ProChileInGDC or visit booth P1659. "All those who join us, whether physically or virtually, will automatically participate in a daily raffle to win bottles of Chilean wine," said Frederick.