The Malta Independent 18 September 2019, Wednesday

Government launches Malta’s vision for video game development and esports

Wednesday, 22 May 2019, 17:45 Last update: about 5 months ago

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat on Wednesday launched Malta’s ‘Vision for Video Game Development and Esports’. During the launch, where the press were not allocated any time to ask questions, Muscat spoke about this strategic vision.

He recalled the experience he had of playing his first video game when he was young. He said that he hadn’t played in a long-time, 20 years, and his daughter came to him, wanting a console if she did well in her exam. “At first she would ask me to play with games with her, now I beg her to let me play,” he quipped.

He said that there is a lot of potential in this sector. “I see so many synergies with the movie industry, data management systems, payment gateways... there are so many things we can do together and maximise the potential this country has. The incentives we will roll out in the coming weeks will be structured, and are in line with EU rules. Secondly they are complimentary to other incentives we give to innovative companies.

He said that the government will be turning Malta into a central hub in Europe for the video gaming sector. “This strategy is not trying to hide its ambition. We are saying that within a decade we want this sector to contribute 1% of our GDP.” He said he wants this field to, by then, have between 2,200 to 3,000 employees. “This is a clear goal we are setting quite publicly.”

“There are many ways in which we will cooperate,” he said.

Parliamentary Secretary for the Digital Economy Silvio Schembri said that the government is revealing another strategy. The ultimate aim of all the strategies is to future-proof the economy and create a more diversified and robust economic growth.

Games are much more than just entertainment, he said, and can be used to promote culture, and can be used in education and healthcare.

This sector has been key for the development of other technology, including internet connectivity and screen resolution, he said.

The games industry globally is worth more than the film and music industry combined, he said, adding that in 2018 it saw an 11% growth reaching $135bn, he said. Giving an example in terms of reach, a simple DJ set of 10 minutes during the videogame Fortnite had 10 million live viewers, he said.

Schembri said that Malta, “given the added value through innovation and blockchain technology, can improve the underlying technology of gamers.”

Esports is sports and games played in computer-based competitions, he said, adding that there are over 290 million viewers.

“This is a multi-billion dollar business, and is expected to generate $1.5bn”

Malta has more than 15 companies employing around 200 people in Malta, he said, with famous games like F1 and Angry Birds for Malta being produced locally.

“Our strategy is to make a big push with esports, then game development production and this will eventually attract publishing activity from the fourth year onwards.”

There will be incentives on personal income tax, video games with a cultural dimention can take up to €200,000 through a tax rebate, the leveraging of startup funding through Malta Enterprise, financial seed and risk capital to invest in game production and others, Schembri said.

Malta also needs to look for talent, he said, adding that Gaming Malta and EGIM will organise new scholarship schemes, work-placements for Maltese students, international master classes in Malta to promote education in Malta and centres of excellence.

The government will also invest in education, including establishing a gaming incubator for video game development, he explained.

The government wants to build a strong local ecosystem for esports and attract international competitions, among other things.

He also announced that to achieve these goals, the government “is signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the world’s oldest and largest esports company ESL.”

A representative of ESL said that they are very interested in Malta. “We are a global esports company, building the ecosystem around the world. ESL is your one-stop shop for esports, be it a local esports ecosystem, international events or online competitions.”

“We work with game publishers, brands like Intel, DHL, Vodafone to drive global esports events to different cities and countries.”

“We have a global network of offices and studios, able to organise international events in local territories. We plan to host local competitions and eventually drive to international events here in Malta,” he said.

The ESL representative gave examples of how they created ecosystems elsewhere, and the number of people attending events skyrocketed over the years in those locations.

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