Aydin Sarmadi is Managing Director at IGN Brasil and Managing Director of Gaming & E-Sports at Webedia Brasil. Mr. Sarmadi holds a bachelor’s degree in Information and Communication from Université Panthéon Assas (Paris II) and a master’s in Business Communications and Digital Technology from École des Hautes Études en Sciences de l’Information et de la Communication. In this interview, he discusses the expansion and challenges of the gaming industry, the future of the Brazilian market and the strategic management of IGN Brasil.
Leaders League. In recent years, the gaming industry has enjoyed continuous growth. What are the main factors behind this strong performance?
Aydin Sarmadi. The first factor has been the democratization of videogames, that is, the greater accessibility and more affordable prices of consoles and games. There has also been a cultural democratization, as previously there was a certain prejudice related to videogames which only recently disappeared. Individuals could not play without being judged, however, nowadays there is another perception about videogames. Another important factor has been the significant boom in mobile gaming. When Apple launched the App Store and began to facilitating access to games, the number of players grew tremendously, so both cultural and technological aspects have been responsible for the industry’s development and sustained growth.
Although both consoles and PCs remain key segments of the videogame industry, smartphones and tablets have become the real highlights of the global gaming market. How do you evaluate this new moment in the gaming industry?
The global market is changing. In my opinion, traditional videogames with a wide-ranging narrative will have less importance in the future. Today’s core gamer is between 20 to 50 years old, however, this generation is aging and younger gamers are migrating towards online markets. For example, if we analyze one of Nintendo’s most renowned franchises, The Legend of Zelda, you will notice that five or six-year-olds have no idea what a narrative-driven, single-player game is. Children often do not understand what videogames without competition from other players is. As such, the industry faces an intergenerational challenge, because on one hand an older generation used to traditional games exists, and on the other we have a younger generation gaming on smartphones and tablets which prefers online experiences. Several young gamers aspire to be the best player in the world and earn money professionally. They would not, for example, even consider playing 60 hours of Final Fantasy for the sake of it. Competitive games are based on a different concept and are way more profitable – Overwatch being a prime example.
The gaming industry is undergoing a similar transformation to what happened with the film industry: It will lose great works of art and give way to more profitable projects. This does not mean that the traditional games and franchises we love from Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft, for example, will end but, personally, I do believe that their output will be reduced in favor of more profitable titles. For instance, I am aware Activision will buy Candy Crush’s developer precisely in order to prepare for this challenge. Besides the generational aspect, another major challenge will be the war amongst developers to buy studios and franchises. Take a look at the Google Stadia model. Customers pay for a subscription and enjoy access to the games which can be played on any device instead of being stuck to consoles. With this universal approach, it will no longer be necessary to own exceptional hardware as everything will be online.
Brazil is Latin America’s largest gaming market but its full potential remains unexplored. How can Brazilian developers compete globally and be present on the biggest gaming platforms?
Brazil’s gaming sector is becoming more and more promising. Several success stories exist in Brazil and they are generally driven by the philosophy of doing a lot with few resources. Brazil needs more investment in education as developers currently need to be from very privileged backgrounds to produce videogames. Moreover, a general challenge exists in Latin America related to its many economies and currencies. Only by promoting strong socio-economic development could Brazilian and Latin American gaming studios be able to begin competing with rival foreign developers. In any case, for the time being, many Brazilians are already working in studios all over the world.
IGN, the world’s largest gaming and entertainment media platform, has a major presence in Brazil. What is the future of IGN Brasil?
In 2015, we brought IGN to Brazil due to global strength of the brand. I see games as cultural assets and media groups, such as IGN Brazil, can help to democratize gaming culture and create more educational content about videogames thus reducing prejudice related to the sector. For example, when the PlayStation 4 (PS4) was launched in Brazil at R$4000, Sony was widely criticized which is understandable, however, we explored the reasons behind that cost which was directly associated with the Brazilian tax system. IGN Brazil has always believed in the gaming industry and emphatically encouraged gaming culture in Brazil which has led to support from the market, however, challenges do exist. Although Brazil has a great target audience for videogames, both the games and consoles are too expensive for average Brazilians. Whilst in France games cost 0.6% of the minimum wage, in Brazil the average videogame costs roughly 20% of the minimum wage. That is the difference. As the average Brazilian does not have much spare capital with which to buy videogames, companies do not invest much in marketing which then makes it more difficult to include adverts on our website. In any case, we are the most popular website in terms of market reach and I predict the Brazilian gaming industry will continue to develop and increasingly grow in the future.