Brain drain hits PHL game development industry


THE local game development sector is expected to further flourish despite the pandemic, but the so-called brain drain may pose some risks to the industry’s talent pool.

At a recent virtual event during the Cebu Creative Entertainment Week, Game Developers Association of the Philippines (GDAP) President James Lo said the increasing adoption of remote work has allowed more talents to seek job opportunities outside the country.

“Some of our talents get hired outside the country and they move to other companies,” he said. “I’m starting to feel this [brain drain] already. It [brain drain] is very serious in my opinion.”

Brain drain is a phenomenon whereby highly skilled professionals emigrate usually due to more favorable job opportunities.

Lo was referring to the outsourcing segment of the industry, which has 4,000 full-time employees as of 2020 data. This portion—which has been growing in the past five years—accounts for most of the sector while the remainder comprises the original intellectual property (IP) game developers, he said.

The job opportunities outside the country have become “more accessible” amid the digital shift, he said, noting this was not the case prior to the pandemic. Lo explained that the “logistical barrier” had “limited” the talents before to the local job offerings.

“We are talking about fresh graduates having opportunities to work for different countries outside of the Philippines, which can provide them better pay sometimes or something else,” he explained.

With this, the GDAP official highlighted the need to develop a company culture that allows the employees to improve their skills.

“It’s not just money [only]. Some people are not money-motivated—it is all about learning…what environment allows them to learn more. It is very important for companies to communicate that,” he pointed out.

At the same time, he stressed the need to ramp up training efforts to make sure the supply of talents do not run out.

Lo said it is crucial to tap the talents not only in Metro Manila but also those in the countryside to widen the talent pool.

Market demand

The GDAP chief observed the growing demand for game development amid the pandemic as mobility restrictions prompted the public to look for source of entertainment.

“The market is looking for games and entertainment, especially during the pandemic when people are stuck at home and have nothing to do in terms of entertainment. They cannot go out, so they do this as an escape to entertain themselves,” he said.

Citing reports, Lo noted that the outsourcing revenues rose to $150 million last year from $24.1 million in 2015.

Revenues generated by original IP game developers, meanwhile, reached $1.38 million last year, but Lo said the figure is “inaccurate” as many studios declined to declare earnings. He noted there are 400 local game studios and around 100 Filipino games published in the digital marketplace.

Lo, referring to Newzoo data, also said the global game development sector registered $174.9 billion in revenues last year, which is more than what the film ($100 billion) and music ($20.6 billion) industries booked for the same period amid the pandemic.

This year, Newzoo forecasts that the global games market will rake in $175.8 billion, half of which will be accounted for by the Asia-Pacific region, with China seen as the main contributor.

Established in 2007, GDAP is a 50-member trade association with the purpose of promoting and developing a sustainable local game development industry. The group created a road map in 2014 which seeks to secure a new flagship client, gain a flagship studio and create a Triple-A games or those games with big production and marketing budgets.

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