Video games 'made in Barcelona'

It is one of the most powerful cultural industries in the world.

It is one of the most powerful cultural industries in the world.

And it’s still going to grow much more. It is not strange that the market is hectic. It is a global cake of 80,186 million euros and so far this year the giant of leisure and communication Vivendi (Canal +, Universal Music) has launched hostile opas against large videogame companies such as Gameloft – which has already acquired- and Ubisoft , which for now resists. And Activision Blizzard has been made for 5.9 billion euros with King, the creator of the popular mobile game Candy Crush.

the videogame sector, with 1,083 million euros of turnover in 2015

the videogame sector, with 1,083 million euros of turnover in 2015

adds more than cinema and music sales together. In the entire state there are 15 million video game users, the fourth largest European market. However, it is only the eighth developing country. Public institutions and some investors have begun to support this industry that creates jobs of high qualification and wealth, but there is still a huge way to go and is the weakest flank for the growth of the sector. And, even so, in the Catalan capital there are already some videogame companies that look like they were taken from a film about Silicon Valley. Horacio Martos, CEO of Socialpoint , a Catalan company specialized in mobile games, believes that Barcelona can become a big hub of the videogame in the coming years.

Socialpoint demonstrates: it has eight floors in a modern building of 22 @ that welcomes 280 workers and invoices more than 120 million dollars a year with games such as Monster Legends, Dragon City, Dragon Land or World Chef. Games that succeed in the world, because only 1% of the firm’s revenues come from the Spanish market. Entering the Socialpoint building is entering a universe where talent is pampered and creativity is fostered in ways that in other companies are mere science fiction. Half of a plant is dedicated to a fabulous gym with physiotherapist and the other half to a games room, where there are from musical instruments to giant screens, machines of the million and … a hairdressing salon. Among the social benefits of the company there is even medical insurance for pets. 30% of the workforce is foreign and their average age is 30 years.

Martos founded Socialpoint together with Andrés Bou with 60,000 euros from a family member in 2008. “We were in France studying a master’s degree and the idea of ​​making a video game on Facebook came up. At that time there were very simple videogames for this platform and we saw the opportunity to create more complex, deeper and more social ones. Then there were very few people making video games in Barcelona and in almost ten years the sector has changed a lot. Today Barcelona has ten very important companies and 50 start up, a lot. The sector grows a lot. We would like it to be faster, but we are convinced that Barcelona will become a video game hub in the next five or ten years, because more and more global companies are betting on it, as there is a lot of talent “.

Of course, he says: “When I compare Barcelona with other cities in the world, the most important difference I see is government support. We have never received help and although now small businesses are given some credit, it is not a strong, solid and convinced bet. There is no such philosophy that technology start-ups have to be what makes the economy grow. And when they work, they generate very high quality jobs. Then, hiring foreign people is very complicated; a huge mistake, because you have to be able to bring experts from outside to grow the talent here and the ecosystem continues to grow. I would like it to be easier because people want to come to Barcelona, ​​it is very attractive to live and develop and many international companies set the goal of opening studios, branches, in it “.

Socialpoint has 20 million active users per month, five million per day.

Socialpoint has 20 million active users per month, five million per day.

He left Facebook for mobile phones and his income model is free to play, in which the biggest players make payments of 1 to 50 dollars for special elements within the game. Games that take between one and two years of development by teams of fifteen to thirty people and cost several million euros.

The competition of Socialpoint is in Barcelona itself with King, whose offices are located on Tarradellas Avenue and L’Illa and employing 500 workers. David Picón landed in 2012 as team leader in this center of creation and development of video games for mobile phones that this multinational born in Sweden and creator of the popular Candy Crush opened in Barcelona. And he points out that three very successful games have come out of here: Papa Pear, Diamond digger and Bubble witch 2.

Gamer since childhood, his father worked at IBM, and having made a career in Electronic Arts in London, Picon says that the video game has been a process of progressive democratization in which the quantum leap have been mobile: “Any user of mobile He has become a gamer. ” For Picón, the situation of Barcelona in the sector is very positive. “One of the problems in Spain is that the industry is very atomized, but in Barcelona several international companies have been established. It is very attractive for the capture of talents: when I recruit very specific profiles, I tell an English ‘come to Barcelona’ and do not think about it for five seconds. “

In King, which reaches 400 million monthly users and has fantastic offices in Barcelona to encourage creativity as they do in Socialpoint, the projects they develop in the Catalan capital are born in it and are in agreement with the company’s strategic line. And he explains that they arise in many ways, some not so obvious: “Papa pear arises from a portal that we have where there are more than 200 online games, tiny games where hundreds of thousands play, we analyze the metrics and see which ones are more successful”.

Picón believes that the sector has a long way to go because

Picón believes that the sector has a long way to go because

he says, “we carry the games in the genes, we play consciously or unconsciously since the stone age, there are basic activities such as exploration, learning and using what we learned, improving ourselves, interacting with others, socialize, improve your abilities … and all that videogames synthesize it in a very immediate way “. And in that growth, coincides with Martos, the problem of Barcelona is the support at the time of undertaking. “In Silicon Valley there are very strong investment systems
You have an idea and you have not finished writing the e-mail and you already receive a message of how much you want, I give you 5 million. People who bet on a hundred things or lose time and money. “

Jesús Alonso, director of the masters of videogames at the UPC, is one of those self-taught gamers that started when there was barely anything to do. He studied computer engineering only because it was programmed. I wanted to make videogames and ended up riding masters and degrees at the UPC. “When I started the video game degree there were few companies; Now, a lot. Some very large, although nothing compared for example to the study of Ubisoft in Canada, with almost 3,000 people “. The growth is incredible in Barcelona, ​​but he recognizes that there is a lot of small study and points again to the need for financial support to overcome this problem. That the investors “instead of brick they do it in the most important industry. But there is a certain fear. As a well-known case of investor is Gerard Piqué, who has dared to set up his business in something that he likes and the project is doing very well, the Kerad Games studio. It is a case to follow “. Because, he says, “the level of preparation here has nothing to envy the US.” And the scope of the video game is such that it will be extended to many other areas: “In the learning will largely replace the books. The game is the natural way to motivate us, we are born with the game “.

One of the small studies that have appeared successfully in the Catalan scene is Lince Works.

 

Three friends launched and got Sony’s support for Aragami, a video game that appeared a week ago and has already recovered the investment. David León studied computer engineering and then ended up launching to the UPF videogame master’s degree. There with other companions they created a project, Path of Shadows, which would later become Aragami. In his team there are ten people and his headquarters is located in the Sagrada Família area, in a plant much more modest than those of Socialpoint or King. “Some of the big companies move a lot of money, then the indies industry is a little laboratory rats, many small companies that support everything, eating crumbs and experimenting. One thousand survives and achieves success, “he says. And it is also, remember, it is not the same to create games for mobile from Barcelona than for consoles or PC.

There is much less money. But his and his friends’ passion was for videogames and instead of another more lucrative job, they bet on it. They charged 600 euros a month during the three years of the project and now they see the results. “We have grown playing videogames, our idols have been game designers and our monalisas or quijotes have been Marios, Zeldas and Metal gear; each generation, a type of medium that idolizes. We wanted to be able to do something like that. ” They went through Barcelona Activa, asked for a personal loan of 20,000 euros, obtained a participatory loan from the State for innovation and then the Gamebcn program, where the Generalitat and La Caixa are located. And in 2015, after publishing a video on YouTube of the game, they contacted Playstation Europe in London and gave them the money to finish it. It cost 400,000 euros and in a week they have earned 500,000. But Leon points out again that the financial environment is complicated; public aid, small, and missing medium-sized companies so that all the talent that is being formed now does not end in another country.