Brain drain hits PHL game development industry


THE local video game development industry is expected to continue to thrive despite the pandemic, but the so-called brain drain may present some risks to the industry’s talent pool.

At a recent virtual event at Cebu Creative Entertainment Week, Game Developers Association of the Philippines (GDAP) President James Lo said the growing adoption of remote working has enabled more talents to seek employment opportunities outside the country.

“Some of our talent is hired out of the country and they move to other companies,” he said. “I’m starting to feel this [brain drain] already. This [brain drain] is very serious in my opinion.

Brain drain is a phenomenon whereby highly qualified professionals usually migrate because of more favorable employment opportunities.

Lo was referring to the outsourcing segment of the industry, which has 4,000 full-time employees according to 2020 data. This portion, which has grown over the past five years, represents the bulk of the industry, while the rest include the original intellectual property (IP) game developers, he said.

Job opportunities outside the country have become “more accessible” amid the digital shift, he said, noting that was not the case before the pandemic. Lo explained that the “logistical barrier” had “limited” talent previously to local vacancies.

“We’re talking about new graduates having the opportunity to work for different countries outside of the Philippines, which can sometimes give them a better pay or something,” he explained.

With this, the head of GDAP stressed the need to develop a corporate culture that allows employees to improve their skills.

“It’s not just the money [only]. Some people are not motivated by money – it’s about learning… what environment allows them to learn more. It is very important for companies to communicate this, ”he stressed.

At the same time, he stressed the need to step up training efforts to ensure that the supply of talent does not run out.

Lo said it was crucial to harness the talents of not only Metro Manila but also those in the campaign to expand the talent pool.

Market demand

The GDAP chief has observed the growing demand for game development amid the pandemic, with mobility restrictions prompting the public to seek a source of entertainment.

“The market is looking for games and entertainment, especially during the pandemic when people are stuck at home and have nothing to do with entertainment. They can’t go out, so they do it as an escape for entertainment, ”he said.

Citing reports, Lo noted that outsourcing revenue reached $ 150 million last year from $ 24.1 million in 2015.

Revenue from original IP game developers meanwhile reached $ 1.38 million last year, but Lo said the figure was “inaccurate” as many studios refused to report profits. He noted that there are 400 local game studios and around 100 Filipino games released in the digital market.

Lo, referring to data from Newzoo, also said that the global game development industry recorded $ 174.9 billion in revenue last year, which is more than the film industries ($ 100 billion dollars) and music ($ 20.6 billion) have been booked for the same period amid the pandemic.

This year, Newzoo predicts the global gaming market will reach $ 175.8 billion, half of which will come from the Asia-Pacific region, with China seen as the biggest contributor.

Founded in 2007, GDAP is a trade association of 50 members whose goal is to promote and develop a sustainable local game development industry. The group created a roadmap in 2014 that aims to secure a new flagship customer, win a flagship studio, and create Triple-A games or games with big production and marketing budgets.

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