Job demand increasing in Malaysia for Games Design Professionals
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More people are now playing video games than ever before and by the end of 2020 the industry is estimated to make over $90 billion in revenue. The Games Industry is growing at an incredible rate and shows no sign of ever slowing down. Almost everyone plays games in some form or another whether on the PC, console or on their mobile devices. The Game Industry is generating more revenue than any other entertainment medium out there so the potential for game developers out there are enormous and is constantly growing daily!
Game developers are amongst the most highly skilled creative talent out there in the creative industry. To be a successful game developer, one not only has to figure out the problems of making a fun and entertaining game but also has to solve the complex production and marketing problems related to the industry. Hence, there is a need for people who are trained and competent in the workflow of Game Development with very specialized fields of study.
From Fortnite to Call of Duty, video games have grown to become cultural juggernaut, making up the largest sector in the entertainment industry.
Globally, there are around 2.5 billion players, with China making up 25 percent of gamers. And now, games are individually making the same amount of money as Hollywood blockbusters.
In 2019, Fortnite made $1.8 billion. And Modern Warfare, the latest in the Call of Duty franchise, made about the same as the highest grossing movie of all time, Avengers: Endgame.
The pandemic has only accelerated video games’ cultural footprint. Before COVID-19, Twitch, a streaming service, had 15 million daily viewers. In March 2020, that number grew to 22.7 million daily viewers.
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Increased Growth of Computer Games Industry thereby Increasing Demand for Qualified Games Design Graduates from Top Private Universities in Malaysia
Today, the video game industry serves a huge market and is one of the fastest-growing in the entertainment sector. According to market intelligence and analytics firm Newzoo, the world’s 2.7 billion gamers are expected to spend US$159.3 billion (RM681.4 billion) on games this year, a 9.6% increase from 2019.
This growth is prevalent in Southeast Asia as well. According to the firm, Malaysia’s 20.1 million gamers spent an estimated US$673 million on games last year alone, making the country one of the biggest markets in the region.
Video games are more than just a booming entertainment business – they’re reshaping the way we interact with the world.
The gaming industry inspires innovation by constantly pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, driving companies like Google and Microsoft to create new technology to serve the billions of gamers around the world.
In fact, according to Microsoft, there are more than two billion gamers around the world. This number includes everyone from those playing free games on their phone to those using a state-of-the-art computer fitted with the latest hardware. And the gaming market is only growing.
By 2022, experts forecast the gaming industry will produce $196 billion in revenue. It’s no wonder then that tech giants like Apple and Google are trying to cash in by launching gaming streaming services.
But it’s not just giant companies looking to make money off of gaming. As the global culture around video games continues to change, it has given rise to a new way for people to make money.
All these present excellent opportunities for Malaysian students interested to study Game Design or Game Development. In addition, the Malaysian government is investing in this industry and many game studios locally and globally have been set up here.
Games technology covers a wide area that includes simulation, programming and adventure features for use in areas such as entertainment, gaming and multimedia. Students looking for a career that combines creativity and technical IT skills, then the Computer Games Development course is perfect for you, as you will be able to explore games as both a technical and an entertainment medium. In order to gain the necessary skills to succeed in the competitive gaming industry, students should choose the best university in Malaysia for computer games design or game development to study at.
Games Industry in need of qualified and well trained professionals from top universities
If Malaysia wants to go further and be the games development hub for the region, it needs to have a critical mass of skilled people that are qualified and well trained. To achieve this, private universities in Malaysia are key in nurturing game technology talents. Asia Pacific University (APU), University of Wollongong (UOW) Malaysia KDU and Multimedia University (MMU) are just some of the higher learning centres offering various IT courses to cater to this market.
However, too many students are enrolling for generic IT courses that allow them the flexibility of choice or because it’s an easier option. This has resulted in the number of students learning computer science or proficient in programming, logic and algorithms dropping significantly over the years.
The reality is that the Game Industry needs specialists or at least people with the propensity to code well and problem-solve. C++ is one of the crucial programming languages but we need programmers who are grounded in fundamentals so that they can easily adapt and move between languages.
Global Growth of Computer Games Industry
Now more than ever, gaming is at the heart of the entertainment business. The way consumers engage with and through games is constantly changing. Not only does this result in more overall engagement, but it also leads to entirely new segments of game enthusiasts. There are now more than 2.5 billion gamers across the world. Combined, they will spend $152.1 billion on games in 2019, representing an increase of +9.6% year on year.
Console will be the fastest-growing segment this year, growing +13.4% year on year to $47.9 billion in 2019. This is the second year running that growth in console games will outpace mobile gaming growth. Last year’s regulatory changes in China, as well as the absence of new global blockbusters, signaled slowed growth for mobile games. What’s more, rising anticipation toward the next generation of consoles will slow down the market during the second half of the year.
Mobile gaming (smartphone and tablet), meanwhile, remains the largest segment in 2019, growing +10.2% year on year to $68.5 billion—45% of the global games market. Of this, $54.9 billion will come from smartphone games. PC gaming will be both the smallest and slowest-growing segment, increasing +4.0% year on year to $35.7 billion. Despite the segment being smaller in size, PC’s status as the bedrock of innovation in the games market remains evident to this day. Nearly all of the most popular game genres, including battle royale and MOBA, can trace their roots back to PC gaming’s modding community.
In 2019, the U.S. will overtake China as the world’s largest gaming market by revenues. Overall, the U.S. games market will generate $36.9 billion this year, predominantly driven by its +13.9% growth in console game revenues. At $18.5 billion, console represents more than 50% of the total games market in the U.S.. Meanwhile, China’s nine-month licensing freeze on new games, as well as measures to reduce screen time among children, are still felt throughout 2019. Publishers, however, are now able to monetize their new games once more, but the consequences of the freeze and new approval process will still impact growth in the Chinese market this year. Japan, South Korea, and Germany round off the top five countries by game revenues in 2019.
Forecasts for the global games market toward 2022. Consumer spend on games will grow to $196.0 billion by 2022, a CAGR of +9.0% between 2018 and 2022.
Mobile gaming will generate revenues of $95.4 billion in 2022 and account for almost half of the entire games market. This will be driven predominantly by smartphones, with revenues of $79.7 billion by 2022.
The state of Malaysia’s video game industry
In Malaysia, the video game industry falls under the digital creative content sector, which is one of the fastest-growing in the national digital economy, as recorded by the MSC Malaysia Annual & Quarterly Industry Report (AQIR). The industry generated revenue of RM7.1 billion last year (exports worth RM1.2 billion), with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.6% from 2014 to 2018.
According to Hasnul Hadi Samsuddin, vice-president of digital creative content at Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), more than 330 studios in the country are directly involved in various stages of production and development in the digital creative content industry. The video game industry, as reported by MSC Malaysia AQIR, brought in revenue of more than RM580 million in 2019 alone. More than 90% of that was exports, he says.
“Major AAA games have seen their game art and co-development in Malaysian studios, including Street Fighter V, Gears of War 5, Marvel’s Spider-Man, Final Fantasy and Uncharted 4. Multiple original local intellectual properties (IPs) have seen steady growth — titles such as Crab Wars, Postknight, King’s League and Simulacra have been highly successful. A future slate of titles, including Re: Legend and No Straight Roads, are currently in the process of signing deals with global publishers,” says Hasnul.
According to PWC Global Entertainment & Media Outlook 2019-2023, the Malaysian video game market generated revenue of US$443 million in 2018, with a forecast CAGR of 4.8% to reach US$561 million by 2023. The report states that Malaysia’s high proportion of smartphone ownership has enabled rapid growth in social and casual gaming revenue. Social and casual gaming overtook traditional gaming revenue for the first time in 2017, accounting for an estimated 60.6% of the total games market in 2023.
MDEC provides a lot of support for local players in the industry. For instance, Level Up Inc is a content accelerator hub for games and interactive media located in Bangsar South, Kuala Lumpur. This facility houses development programmes with early-stage content incubation, facilities, mentoring and accelerator programmes as well as R&D amenities, such as console development kits, to enable content creation and prepare content developers for IP commercialisation.
The agency also organises Level Up KL — a conference and business platform — to attract, develop and catalyse the Malaysian and regional ecosystem. It is the biggest and most influential game developer and game industry business platform in Southeast Asia.
Business development programmes that allow access to game markets around the world are also provided. “This includes assisting Malaysian studios in having a sustained presence in global markets such as the Game Developers Conference, Tokyo Game Show, Gamescom, Taipei Game Show and Chinajoy,” says Hasnul.
Other ecosystem and development programmes provided by MDEC that serve the game industry include the Digital Content Grant, Digital Content Creators Challenge and Digital Content Enrichment and Upskilling (DICE-UP) programme. The Digital Content Grant is a government fund designed to support local digital creative companies develop, produce, co-produce and market their digital content in animation, digital games and interactive media content.
Meanwhile, the Digital Content Creators Challenge (DC3, formerly known as IPCC and DICE) is a platform for local talents to hone their creativity and ability to develop new content ideas. DC3 winners will receive consultancy and mentoring from industry heavyweights. The programme currently supports three categories: animation, interactive media and digital comics.
DICE-UP is the most recently launched programme catering for industry demand for talent development. The programme provides financial incentives of up to RM10,000 for skills development that strengthen capabilities in the digital creative content industry such as for technical professionals and those in leadership roles.
“MDEC leads the game industry ecosystem through effective engagement and supports the Malaysian game ecosystem, which includes stakeholders such as the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia, Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning Unit, Ministry of Youth and Sports and Esports Malaysia. This also includes the game developer community such as the International Game Developers Association Malaysia and Game Development Council of Malaysia, as well as various other industry and academic partners,” says Hasnul.
Malaysian National Creative Industry Policies
The Malaysian National Creative Industry Policies, governed by the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia has identified the gaming industry as one of the ten main categories in the Creative Industry, namely Visual Arts, Performing Arts, Music, Literature, Fashion and Design, Traditional and Cultural Arts, Creative Education, Creative Technologies, Film/TV/Gaming Content, and Culinary Arts.
In 2018, the Gaming Industry alone contributed USD100 million to Malaysia’s revenue and expected to show an annual growth rate (CAGR 2018-2023) of 10.9 per cent, which will result in a market volume of USD168 million by 2023. Malaysia also ranks 21st worldwide in term of games revenue, with the total amount of USD633 million.
With the massive growth of the creative industries, Malaysians are also jumping on the virtual world’s bandwagon to kick-start their careers as game developers. Today, the production of games require a team of highly skilled professionals in the areas of graphic material digitisation, programming of digital sound and characters, and the creation of creative content. The spur of the Gaming Industry also sparks the interest of other young technology entrepreneurs to venture and explore the Game Development industry.
Malaysian Companies in Gaming Industry
Malaysian companies are making their mark in the gaming industry. For example, PassionRepublic Sdn. Bhd., a homegrown animation studio based in Malaysia has over 95 employees comprising highly-skilled young talent who are incredibly passionate about digital content creation. PassionRepublic has successfully produced digital content for leading companies such as Sony, Microsoft Games, Warner Game Brooch and Square Enix. The Company will be expanding its animation studio, building its R&D capabilities and continuing to grow both locally and globally by offering innovative digital content in the gaming industry with the support of MIDA.
LEVEL UP KL, an annual Southeast Asia games industry event led by Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC)
The Malaysian Government has recognised the gaming industry as one of the sectors which can boost the economy. Since the year 2015, Malaysia has been hosting the LEVEL UP KL, an annual Southeast Asia games industry event led by Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC). The event aims to bring together local and international players at the regional games development scene in Southeast Asia, as well as to provide a platform for players in the industry to interact, learn and share knowledge. Several notable companies in the gaming scene present during this annual event include Sony Interactive Entertainment, Epic Games, Google, Bandai Namco and Microsoft XBOX.
Support from Malaysian Government to Develop eSports
During Budget 2019, a total of RM10 million has been allocated to develop eSports. With the commitment shown by the Government, the eSports in Malaysia is expected to boom this year as Youth and Sports Ministry also aspires Malaysia to be the eSports hub in the region. Esports Malaysia (ESM), a governing body for electronic sports in Malaysia has been reformed to address the concerns of eSports athletes and spearhead the development of eSports in the country.
Moving forward, Malaysia’s Gaming Industry will continue to grow, as more and more companies and creative individuals are rapidly exploring this innovative industry. In line with this, MIDA will continue to assume its role to assist and nurture local gaming companies to grow and become regional or global players.
Growth of Computer Games Industry in Malaysia
THE Malaysian games industry is poised to grow. For one, the government recently allocated RM20 million from the 2020 National Budget to the development of the digital content creation industry – a move that will hopefully spur the games development industry further, on top of furthering e-sports in the country.
Rising smartphone ownership is increasing access to mobile games globally and has enabled innovation in gameplay and business models.
However, production values are very high and costs of development are rising partly due to heavy demand, lack of specialized and qualified skilled workers, and the pressure to deliver more within an increasingly shorter amount of time.
Hence, there is a need for people who are trained and competent in the workflow of Game Development with very specialized fields of study.
Games technology covers a wide area that includes simulation, programming and adventure features for use in areas such as entertainment, gaming and multimedia. If you’re looking for a career that combines creativity and technical IT skills, then this course is perfect for you, as you will be able to explore games as both a technical and an entertainment medium.
The Industry is growing at an incredible rate and shows no sign of ever slowing down. Almost everyone plays games in some form.
Game Studios Setting Up in Malaysia
At the same time, games development companies in Malaysia are forming solid anchors for the industry. That a major games development studio like Japan-based Bandai Namco setting shop in Malaysia in 2017 is an indicator of local talent quality. Furthermore, the Communications and Multimedia Ministry is partnering with Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwide Studios (SIE WWS) to establish the global games powerhouse’s very first Southeast Asia studio in Malaysia
With this establishment, Malaysia will be working closely with SIE WWS to create more opportunities for the local and regional games industry. The collaboration with SIE WWS is to ensure the accelerated growth of games industry in the country will be supported. Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwide Studios Malaysia Sdn Bhd (SIE WWS Malaysia) will provide art and animation services as part of the SIE WWS activities, developing global exclusive titles for PlayStation platforms.
Additionally, local game startups such as Magnus Games, Metronomik and Kaigan Games are growing in employee size and recognition. This is not counting the already-established games developer studios in the country, which include the likes of Passion Republic, Lemon Sky Studios and Streamline Games – all which have worked on best-selling AAA games that range from Naughty Dog’s Uncharted: Lost Legacy to Dark Souls 3. These are studios with employees numbering in the hundreds, with Lemon Sky being upwards of 350 people at the moment.
While they started off doing outsourced work, some of these studios are beginning to produce their own IPs – Passion Republic with GigaBash, and Streamline Studios with Bake ‘N Switch. Both games were recently mentioned by Sony International Entertainment World Studio president Shuhei Yoshida as Southeast Asian games to look out for.
Malaysian-based games studio Metronomik signed a global publishing deal for their upcoming game, No Straight Roads, with London-based Sold Out Games. Additionally, Malaysia-based Magnus Games took the stage to launch Re: Legend, a cooperative multiplayer RPG that will be going into Early Access on the Steam platform at the end of August.
Metronomik is headed by Wan Hazmer, the lead designer of Final Fantasy XV. No Straight Roads is their first game – an action game with a heavy emphasis on music. The game is set for a 2020 release date.
Magnus Games, on the other hand, is a studio co-founded by brothers DC and Welson Gan. Re: Legends notably saw tremendous success with its Kickstarter campaign in 2017, which later connected the studio with publisher 505 Games for the August 30 Steam Early Access release.
Local game development company Kurechii similarly announced the publishing of its latest game, Kings League II, on Apple Arcade. Apple Arcade is a game subscription service that offers unlimited access to a curated list of quality games, with Kings League II being among the first 100 on the platform – a Malaysian first.
At the same time, entertainment company Media Prima re-launched the IGN Southeast Asia game news portal, now with more focus on e-sports and a renewed content strategy.
The Larian arrival
Perhaps the most surprising news, however, is the announcement that Belgium-based video games development company Larian Studios will be opening a Malaysian studio soon, and is now beginning its hiring process.
Larian Studios is best known for its Divinity series of role-playing games, with its most recent two incarnations – Divinity: Original Sin and Original Sin II – being bestselling and critically-acclaimed titles. Larian Studios is currently at work with the development of Baldur’s Gate 3, the third instalment of the popular RPG series.
Larian Studios’ co-founder and CEO Swen Vincke, who was present during Level Up KL Biz 2019, says that the Malaysian studio will be helping with the development of Baldur’s Gate 3. The studio uses a development system where multiple studios across the world work together by passing work to different time zones, which allows the developers avoid the dreaded “crunch” (industry term for long overtime work conditions) as well as speed up development.
This system has allowed Larian to develop Divinity: Original Sin II in two years – a great achievement for an RPG of its scope. The company has been looking east to expand this system and Malaysia has been selected as a home.
“At the end of the day, we looked at Malaysia and saw that there was great government support; that people spoke English, and there’s a lot of talent present here and it’s still growing. There’s good infrastructure of schools that are willing to improve [games development] also,” Vincke says.
The studio is looking to hire at least 20 people by next year.
Going forward, Vincke says that the headcount will be grown organically, with them picking more talent as they progress. “I hope within a couple of years we’re going to reach 50 people,” he says, but adds that it depends on the success of their games. “But the trend is only going upwards.”
Computer Games Industry Growth in Malaysia
Malaysia has about 700 people currently employed in the games industry, a figure that is hoped to grow considerably in the coming years. Moreover, the country is home to companies that produce a sizeable amount of content.
In a golden era of video games and animation, Malaysia may be undergoing a renaissance of our own. Animation content from Malaysia has penetrated 120 countries, with more than US$39.3 million (RM165 million) in export value. Ticket sales from two CG animated features – 2016’s Boboiboy the Movie and 2019’s Upin and Ipin – totalled over US$9.5 million (RM40 million).
As for the game industry, Malaysian game developers have notably worked on some of the most iconic games, including Final Fantasy XV, Uncharted 4 and Street Fighter V, with many local talents currently working in top game companies globally. The game development sector recorded exports of US$163.1 million (RM684 million) in 2017 a 48.7% increase over 2016’s US$109.7 million (RM460.1 million) exports.
Stats by Niko Partners that the region’s young population is propelling a fast-growing eSports market. PC and mobile games revenue hit US$2.2 billion (RM9.2 billion) in 2017 and that number is expected to double to US$4.4 billion (RM18.4 billion) by 2021. In terms of market size, about 300 million people in Southeast Asia consume games and that is also expected to rise to 400 million by 2021.
It’s no surprise, then, that the Malaysian Ministry of Communications and Multimedia announced on 10th Aug the introduction of a new Digital Content Ecosystem (DICE) policy, by year end, with the aim of strengthening the digital content industry. DICE will be collaborative effort between the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia and the Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC).
“Malaysia is well poised to further grow and solidify its position as the games development hub of the region,” says Minister of Communications and Multimedia Gobind Singh Deo.
“Malaysia is attractive to digital content and creative tech studios due to its youthful demographic, access to talent with cultural influences from both the East and West, and a higher education system that has a focused tech-track.”
Malaysia has been involved in the animation industry as far back as the 1980s, and with the gaming industry as far back as the 1990s, said Tan Chin Ike, head of school for University of Wollongong Malaysia (UOWM) KDU School of Computing & Creative Media.
Starting salary for games development and animation fresh graduates in Malaysia
A graduate with a degree in games development can expect to earn an average of RM2,000 to RM2,400 upon entering the industry. The rate is slightly lower for graduates in animation — they can expect to get about RM1,600 to RM2,200, depending on the studio.
UOWM KDU’s Tan says most graduates have unrealistic expectations and expect to earn at least RM2,400 upon entering the industry even without having to work overtime or on weekends.
From the company’s perspective, a fresh graduate with little or no experience is not very valuable because he or she is an unproven element and can’t demand such high salaries. They also may not be able to handle the workload, he says. Even large animation companies have low starting rates, as they want the graduates to work their way up the ladder before they can be paid more.
Les’ Copaque’s Tang also says that most graduates today want big money for less effort.
“The current generation also has commitment and discipline issues,” she says.
However that has not stopped the studio from hiring fresh graduates. Les’ Copaque, which is one of the largest animation studios in Malaysia, has over 160 employees and up to 80% are fresh graduates. But nothing is set in stone and some graduates with better portfolios have been hired with a starting salary of RM2,800 to RM3,000, Tan says.
Also, while graduates are expected to have an appropriate degree, most animation studios are willing to consider even those with totally different backgrounds.
Tang says the studio has even hired those with engineering and aerospace qualifications.
“On top of passion and technical know-how, animators need to have acting skills because they need to be able to act out what they intend to animate,” says Tang.
However, most universities do not place enough emphasis on this, she says.
Another skill they need to have is the ability to present an idea or work properly, as this is vital for working in teams. While ensuring that we have a ready supply of qualified graduates, the industry also needs to find a way to retain talents. Our talents are in high demand and many of them head to Singapore for better opportunities, says Tan.
“Medical, engineering and accountancy are often cited as the main professions suffering from brain drain but the creative multimedia industry also faces a similar situation here,” he says.
For example, the workforce of Ubisoft Singapore — the French gaming giant’s Asian office — is made up of about 20% to 30% Malaysians, says Tan.
That’s why many local studios resort to hiring foreigners in the end to fill up their vacancies, he says.
“The simple truth is we need to attract bigger companies to Malaysia. Talents leave because they want bigger and better challenges,” he says.
“They want to push the envelope of development and work on huge game titles. Malaysians in Singapore will eventually leave the island for bigger companies. It’s one of the realities of the industry.”
- Game Art: Concept Artist, 2D Game Artist, 3D Game Artist, Level Artist, SFX Artist
- Game Design: Game Designer, Level Designer, Story Scripter, Game Tester
- Game Technology: Game Programmer, Engine Programmer, Tools Programmer, A.I. Programmer