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Level Up KL 2019 Proves Now Is The Best Time To Play (Or Make) Video Games In Malaysia

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Level Up KL 2019 has now wrapped up and what a week it was. The developer-focused conference, the GDC equivalent to Southeast Asia, has expanded to include a public games festival this year. The jaw-dropping announcements of big players in the game industry setting up offices in Malaysia are wild. And to see the talent of not only Malaysia’s, but Southeast Asia’s game developer in full showcase with new exciting IPs of their makes for one conclusion:

Now is the best time to play, or make, video games in Malaysia.

The video game development industry has been around since 1992, when developers Motion Pixel developed Ghoul Patrol, published by LucasArts, for the SNES. But it has always been a small, niche and rather a hard-to-enter line of work. But MDEC, the government agency looking over all creative multimedia content in the country, has taken huge strides forward around 2014. And now we can see it ever more clearly.

To have Sony Interactive Entertainment, of all people, to open shop here in Kuala Lumpur is a mean feat worth celebrating. It shows how confident SIE is with the current talent pool in Malaysia to have a helping hand making arguably the best games of the generation. And it’s most likely not the effort of just one meeting. Local studios like Streamline Studios, Lemon Sky Studios and Passion Republic have shown their work with AAA games via co-development (or some may say outsourcing). It’s deal years in the making, we bet, and to see that is a milestone for Malaysia’s booming game dev sector.

It’s also cool to see Larian Studios opening up an office here as well. But global CRPG specialists with studios in Belgium, Canada, Russia, and Ireland are not looking for just 3D artists, unlike the trend of most developers here. There are openings for all sorts of jobs, from QA to programming. Another sign of confidence.

 

Looking at Level Up Play 2019, that is also remarkable. Never has Malaysia, since Playstation Experience (PSX) SEA 2017 ever had a video games-focused event. While the halls of KLCC Convention Centre may not be as packed as when the folks of culture arrive for Comic Fiesta, it looks promising. Metronomik’s No Straight Roads, and Magnus Game Studio’s Re:Legend got huge space on the show floor. And the demo kiosks for No Straight Roads are filled with probably an hour-long queue to get there. The first reveal of the Malaysian culture included in the music-oriented action game, a boss fight with rapper DK West (dikir barat) featuring shadow puppets, got a resounding cheer from the crowd.

Same goes for the booths by Streamline Studios, which were showcasing their new game Bake ‘N Switch as well as games they have co-developed, as well as Passion Republic, which were showing off arguably the game of the show: Gigabash.

If you are just a gamer, these developments are still important to you. If you were there on the show floor, all these games by Malaysians are a direct result of government support. The recent 2020 National Budget sees an allocation of RM20 million for digital content creation, to be shared with the darn-good local animation sector and game development industry. The support has grown stronger than ever.

Talking to several developers from outside Malaysia, they were impressed and how big we went in supporting local devs, not something they can have. It’s something we should be more appreciative of. We have the right people on the government side that know what they are doing. Shoutouts to Mr. Hasnul Hadi Samsudin, VP of Creative Content and Technologies Division, and his fellow team members at MDEC for going all out in convincing the government that video games make serious money.

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Level Up Play also shows how strong the grassroots support for esports is in Malaysia. From the Predator Gaming League for Dota 2, the various tournaments for fighting games, racing sim setups, and, of course, a spot full of bean bags for mobile games, esports is still the dominant force when it comes to video games here. The hall on the esports side is noticeably more crowded. But it’s to be expected- esports is a household thing that we have influencers, and pro players that are in influencer status, which brings in the crowd.

The official flag-off event for our national esport athletes competing at the 2019 SEA Games, where Minister Of Youth And Sports YB Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman appearing, was the main event of the day.

That said, it just shows there’s more room to grow, whether it is competitive gaming, or mainstream gaming.

As Level Up KL 2019 closes its windows, we’re more optimistic than ever that Malaysia is really on track to what the ministers all keep saying- being the major gaming hub in Southeast Asia. Whether it is making more folks the opportunity to make games and tell their stories or have gamers enjoy their hobby easier with more access to gaming content.

Right now, it is really the best time to be playing or making video games in Malaysia.