Game For Anything

Indonesian game developers wake a sleeping giant

By Dylan Amirio/The Jakarta Post
Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Avid gamer Alwin Daniel, 24, likes to drift off into his cell phone during his tight daily schedule.

The Jakarta-based business analyst is intrigued, for example, by the meme-worthy Tahu Bulat, a locally made mobile game.

“What got me hooked on the game is the fact that the more you play it, the more you can get upgrades and the more money you can collect. It’s an addictive cycle,” Alwin told The Jakarta Post.

Tahu Bulat, literally “round tofu”, is the invention of Bandungbased game developer Own Games. Soon after its launch, it leaped onto Google Play Store’s “hit games” list in May last year, even beating Android’s top game Clash of Clans with more than 1 million downloads.

Without Tahu Bulat’s popularity, not many people would realize what is going on in the local gaming industry, something that could be described as a sleeping giant.

With little policy support or infrastructure, a number of skillful developers have so far managed to drive up the industry’s impact on the domestic economy through continuous creation and surging credibility.

Indonesia has about 400 developers who have produced over 1,000 games, according to research by game engine company Unity3D.

The country had the world’s fastest growing number of mobile game players as of August 2015.

Indonesia is also the country with the largest amount of mobile game downloads in the world. Some 96 percent of mobile internet users play these games.

Revenues from the local gaming industry jumped significantly by 77 percent to US$321 million in 2016.

The skill and the potential of Indonesian game developers has transcended borders as more collaborations with foreign developers are now taking place.

One such example is the collaboration between Indonesian developer True Digital Plus Indonesia (TDPI), a local unit of Bangkok-based PC and mobile games developer True Digital Plus (TDP) and South Korean developer Supreme Games, which created a mobile strategy game called Triumph Over Pain.

“Through this game, TDP and Supreme Games will continue to be active in developing the local creative industry by providing the proper benchmark for how local mobile games should be and how skilled our local developers are,” said TDPI’s country director Sofian Martineau, claiming that Triumph Over Pain was the first Action-Based Role Playing Game (RPG) to be released on a mobile platform in Indonesia.

Several globally well-known action RPG titles include The Elder Scrolls series, the Diablo series and the Dark Souls series, but these titles have yet to make the crossover to the mobile platform.

Despite its tremendous potential, the gaming industry, which is a subsector of Indonesia’s creative economy, is still largely ignored by the government, a reality acknowledged by the Communications and Information Ministry’s informatics application director general Semuel Abrijani Pangerapan.

“Right now, local game developers only control 10 percent of the local market share. This could even shrink to 3 percent if the government doesn’t realize the industry’s potential to contribute to economic growth,” he recently said.

With help from the government, local developers might be able to control 50 percent of the local market by 2020, Semuel said.

Being a country with the fifth largest number of smartphone users in the world, Indonesia has an immense cell phone user base, and therefore the potential for developing a prominent mobile games industry was significant, he added.

At present, regulations affecting the gaming industry are minimal and among the few is a decree from the communications and information minister on the Indonesian game rating system (IGRS), which divides games into five different age categories, namely all ages, 3 years and above, 7 years and above, 13 years and above and 18 years and above.

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