We need to be loud and proud of Irish gaming
IRELAND MAY BE trying to establish itself as a hub for gaming firms, but on first glance around the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles this week, you’d be hard pressed to find any evidence of a green revolution having a whirlwind impact on the industry.
But just because the Irish presence isn’t as obvious as at other exhibitions, that doesn’t mean it’s not there – it’s just more muted than we’re used to.
There are plenty of multinationals with Irish bases at the event: Microsoft, Activision, EA and even Zynga are all at E3 in some way. But there are also some success stories closer to home. Havok, for example, is a regular presence at the annual event, even if the company doesn’t exhibit on the main floor.
One firm that was there, however, is Boxpay. The global payments provider returned to E3 for the second year in a row to showcase its billing platform that allows consumers to pay for digital content through their mobile phone instead of using a credit card.
Co-founder Iain McConnon said that, while exhibiting at E3 can be a pricey business, in the case of BoxPay, it has paid off. The company announced a deal with Samsung for a new billing product related to purchases on the tech firm’s Smart TV platform.
It can be an advantage to be an Irish company when it comes to dealing with US firms, he said.
“I think it’s because they’re more familiar with it, beause Google, LinkedIn and Facebook all have offices in Dublin,” said McConnon. “I think they see it as more US-friendly and also trustworthy. They speak the language, contracts are very similar.”
But industry figures in the US say Ireland could do a bit more to shout about its successes in building a gaming hub in the economy.
Belfast-born David Perry left Northern Ireland in the early 1990s to pursue a career in the games industry. His company, Gaikai, this week announced it had signed a major deal with Samsung TV to bring cloud gaming to its Smart TV platform, and has also done a deal with LG.
“People never assumed that we would have as much support, as much money and as much tenacity,” he said. “This is the biggest consumer electronics company in the world. There’s no bigger deal I could do.”
Perry said Ireland’s successes in building its games industry are not as well known as they could be in the US, citing Canada as one of the more successful and vocal countries in this regard.
To a company such as Microsoft, which has a considerable presence in the State, Ireland is a hugely important market. The marketplace is savvy, said Chris Lewis, Microsoft’s Europe vice-president of interactive entertainment, and it has a knowledgeable gaming community and plenty of indigenous talent to feed into its Xbox Live Arcade platform.
“It’s very much an open forum, we’re always looking for new IP, we love to encourage new IP and new development houses to come and talk to us about what ideas they might have,” he said.
“We don’t have a monopoly on finding good ideas. Invariably, they come a lot of the time from partnerships with other businesses.”
Those partnerships were coming thick and fast at E3 this year. Microsoft announced a number of new deals for its Xbox Live platform that would see new sports content from the NHL and NBA come to the entertainment platform. Agreements with Nickelodeon and Paramount Movies were also unveiled during its press conference on Monday.