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Malaysia to Introduce Digital Content Ecosystem Policy to Boost Gaming, Animation Exports

By Tan Jee Yee August 15, 2019

  • DICE policy will be crafted through collaboration with stakeholders
  • Level Up KL 2019 will be open to public to increase popularity, awareness

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.

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.”

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Rolling the DICE

The DICE policy, Gobind notes, will be spearheaded by MDEC with the aim to accelerate the digital content creative ecosystem as a driver for economic growth in Malaysia. The policy will focus on attracting investments, building local talent and companies, and strengthening the ecosystem through government and private sector partnerships. A collaborative approach will be taken in crafting the upcoming policy – MDEC will be organising town halls and focus group discussions with ecosystem players including academia.

“It also aims to advance research, IP creation, commercialisation, branding and marketing capabilities in order to improve export potential,” says Gobind.

The minister adds that the policy will also look to best practices in order to “promote healthy animation and gaming environment for all users.”

This area in particular sounds promising, considering the slew of controversies plaguing the video games industry. Most prominent is the culture of “crunch” – gruelling work schedules that is causing developer burnout. On top of that are predatory monetisation methods that use gambling mechanics to entice players to spend on “lootboxes”.

When asked if DICE will be addressing these issues, Gobind says: “This, of course, is a learning curve for us and we are looking at it from a very practical point of view. As we go along, there will be problems. The government is always there to make sure that when these problems arise, we are able to deal with it.

“My shout-out to everybody in this industry is that all of you have a role to play. Everyone who can contribute should look at how they can contribute. Let’s work together.”

The next level

At the introduction of DICE, MDEC also took the opportunity to announce the next Level Up KL, which will be held from 6th to 10th November at KLCC. Now at its 5th iteration, Level Up KL is an annual Southeast Asia Games Developers conference meant to drive the growth of the games ecosystem by serving as a platform for developers, publishers and technology providers to learn and share.

For the first time, Level Up KL will be opened to the public on 9th and 10th November, to attend and experience the games for themselves. MDEC CEO Surina Shukri says that the decision is to make the event akin to the Tokyo Game Show and GamesCom gaming events from other countries.

This wasn’t the only good news of the day, which also saw Malaysian-based games studio Metronomik sign 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.

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