The Czech video game industry grew by 20 percent last year, with a total turnover of CZK 4.54 billion, the Czech Game Developers Association (CGDA) announced this week. In fact, the sector has doubled in size in the past three years alone. Neverthless, developers are critical of what they see as minimal state support. I spoke to the Chairman of the CGDA Pavel Barák and began by asking him why the Czech game industry has been so successful recently.
“There are three primary reasons behind this growth. One is that, in 2018, quite a few Czech games which would become worldwide successes were released. That would be Kingdom Come: Deliverance by Warhorse Studios in February, then the VR title Beat Saber and also, for example, [mobile game company] Geewa’s Smashing Four, which became hugely successful that year.
“Another factor that influenced overall growth was that the major game developers, such as Bohemia Interactive and SCS Software, are still doing very well and steadily growing. They are still profiting from well-established titles such as ARMA and DayZ on the market.
“Thirdly, a number of foreign companies have entered the Czech market over the past three years and started a branch here. These branches have begun generating revenue and growing quite well.”
The video game industry has been growing worldwide over the past decades, surpassing Hollywood box office returns. How does the Czech game industry compare to this worldwide trend?
“It is a little bit faster.
“The worldwide trend is nearly 10 percent and has been quite steady over the past 10 years. The Czech industry is growing a little bit more, 20 to 30 percent a year, although some annual growth is even higher that, such as 2018.
“There are historic reasons behind this. The Czech Republic was part of the Eastern Bloc. The economy is behind Western countries and is therefore growing faster as it catches up. The video game industry has been influenced by that, because Czech games are successful and can compete on the international level.
“We are quite happy about that. It shows that the industry can catch up with Western countries.”
Is the state doing enough to support the games industry?
“Definitely not. It is a pretty complex topic, but our association was started two years ago mainly because the state has been overlooking the whole industry and we want to start talking to the government and individual ministries to change things. We are only taking small steps right now and it is still at a very early stage.
“The situation is not optimal compared, for example, to the movie industry which is heavily supported. Games have basically no support.”
“There are a few projects that we did pursue together with the public sector, but these are usually international missions where we send our experts abroad, or bringing foreign ones over here to hold talks, trying to find business opportunities between Czech and foreign games companies. These sorts of minor projects have already happened.
Could you give us an idea of how the state could do this?
“Yes, there are some ideas.
“Basically, the number one struggle of these companies is human resources. We focus quite a lot on this problem, which is directly connected to education. For us, changes there are a top priority and we are talking not just with the politicians, but universities and high schools too. We are trying to get them to bring about some changes.
“The state should support educational activities beyond the standard educational system that would generate graduates that fit the needs of the gaming companies.
“We are also talking about multiple layers of funding, such as the early stages of game development, or the role of the state in attracting foreign investors.”
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