Yesterday, Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat launched the country’s ‘Vision for Video Game Development and Esports’.
A European Video Gaming Hub
Muscat noted that he saw “many synergies with the movie industry, data management systems, payment gateways…” and that there were lots of things the country could do to maximise the potential the video game and esports industry has to offer it.
According to Muscat, a number of new EU-compliant incentives will be launched in over the coming weeks to help turn Malta into a European video gaming hub, employing between 2,200 and 3,000 people.
He emphasised how serious the plans are, saying:
“The strategy is not trying to hide its ambition. We are saying that within a decade we want this sector to contribute 1% of our GDP.”
Parliamentary Secretary for the Digital Economy Silvio Schembri, who has been so pivotal to turning Malta into ‘Blockchain Island’, explained that the goal was to ‘future-proof’ the Maltese economy, by encouraging diversification and growth.
Schembri also reminded people that the video game industry feeds into many other sectors, including culture, healthcare, education and technology, not just entertainment.
In this vein, it’s worth remembering that Malta already has a healthy film sector, with TV shows and movies including Game of Thrones, Gladiator, Troy, World War Z, Queen of the South, Sense8, Murder on the Orient Express, By the Sea, The Da Vinci Code, Papillon, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, 13 Hours and many more filmed on the islands – and video game development talent would surely catalyse further productions, given today’s reliance on CGI.
Noting that the video gaming industry is now worth more than the film and music industries combined, he said that in 2018 the sector saw 11% growth and was worth $135 billion.
Specifically regarding esports, he said it is now pulling in over 290 million viewers worldwide, adding “This is a multi-billion dollar business, and is expected to generate $1.5bn”.
For more details on the truly meteoric rise of esports, check out our article ESPORTS UNSTOPPABLE: TRANSITIONS FROM NICHE TO MAINSTREAM.
Referring to Malta’s existing video game sector, Schembri said that there are already more than fifteen companies employing about 200 people, pointing to some famous Maltese-developed titles like F1 and Angry Birds.
Investment, Education and Tax Breaks
Fleshing out the government’s plans, he said:
“Our strategy is to make a big push with esports, then game development production and this will eventually attract publishing activity from the fourth year onwards.”
Apparently, plans are in place for personal income tax incentives and tax rebates for start-ups – probably similar to those already offered for other innovative sectors.
He also touched on the need for industry talent, saying that Gaming Malta and EGIM will be offering scholarship schemes and work placements for Maltese students, and that international classes will be offered to attract talent and promote Malta as a gaming hub.
Already, Maltese institutions like MCAST offer popular video games development courses, and this initiative is sure to increase the flow of local students.
Other plans include the creation of a video game development incubator and investment in the local esports infrastructure to attract international tournaments.
A Partnership with ESL
Though Malta already hosts a few small esports tournaments, like the GO Malta Esports Festival, the country now has bigger ambitions. To this end, Schembri revealed the government is signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the world’s largest esports organisation, ESL.
Discussing Malta’s plans, an ESL representative said:
“We are a global esports company, building the ecosystem around the world. ESL is your one-stop shop for esports, be it a local esports ecosystem, international events or online competitions.
“We work with game publishers, brands like Intel, DHL, Vodafone to drive global esports events to different cities and countries.
“We have a global network of offices and studios, able to organise international events in local territories. We plan to host local competitions and eventually drive to international events here in Malta,”
For more about ESL, see ESL REBRANDS ITSELF TO REFLECT PHENOMENAL GROWTH OF ESPORTS.