Italy faces up to games studio 'crisis'

Italy faces up to games studio 'crisis'
Will Freeman

By Will Freeman

January 26th 2011 at 3:11PM

Calls to end government 'ignorance' and lack of funding

The nascent Italian video games industry is at the breaking point between renaissance or collapse.

That’s according to some of the country’s most highly placed developers speaking at the recent Italian Videogame Developers Conference.

In discussions with Develop they highlighted several obstacles to progress that will be painfully familiar to UK studios.

As well as pointing to an ‘ignorant’ government, members of Italy’s games industry claim they are victim to a lack of both recognition and funding.

“We are in a time of crisis, and the government and the authorities keep spending on the other cultural industries, such as cinema and music,” said Marco Accordi Rickards (pictured), director and chairman of the IVDC.

“We need to change that, and we need to attract investment from the United States and the Italian financial institutions.”

“We have major problems,” agreed Spin Vector’s CEO Giovanni Caturano.

“Moments of crisis, though, can be moments of opportunity, and in this case that is especially true.”

Despite Caturano’s optimistic outlook, the challenges for studios based in Italy are manifold. Many developers at the IVDC spoke about of a lack of investment and funding infrastructure, and several suggested that the country’s government is only just emerging from a period of seriously misguided understanding about games development.

“The strange thing about the Italian government and politicians is their total ignorance on the matter,” revealed Accordi Rickards.

“It is not just that they thought games were nothing more than low quality entertainment. It is worse. They really thought video games were the same as gambling and slot machines. They were very confused, and felt video games were very bad; even close to illegal. Just the word ‘video games’ became a problem.”
Another challenge the Italian development sector faces will be especially familiar to those employed in the industry in other countries; a conflict between trade bodies.

“There is a very tough battle to fight,” admitted Raoul Carbone, vice president and co-founder of trade body AIOMI.

“There are three different associations. One is AIOMI, which is not about only developers or only publishers specifically. It is about game culture and industry. Then there is the IVD for developers and the AESVI. The two exist because they represent different interests. Sometimes they should work together and sometimes they should work for different things. The problem is the AESVI doesn’t think like that. They don’t want developers to be united in an association. They want to be the only one, and they don’t recognise us.”

But game developers in Italy insist they can instigate a renaissance.

With the games market across the country worth a respectable €1.2 billion at retail, the government is starting to take notice. Events like the IVDC have also managed to attract high profile speakers including Phil Harrison and Peter Molyneux.

“The industry here is growing, and we want to grow more, and let the world be aware of the Italian games industry,” said Irvin Zonca, head of racing group at Milestone, which stands as one of Italy’s most prominent studios.

“The growth is accelerating as games reach supermarkets, and casual gaming introduces more Italian people to games. Following the public, now the mainstream media is starting to notice video games. We are starting to see games on television and in magazines, which didn’t happen before.”

Another strength Italian developers can call on is their home nation’s international reputation as a place with thousands of years standing as a creative and cultural powerhouse.

“We need to play on the strength of the familiar concept of ‘Made in Italy’,” says Caturano.

“It works with cars, fashion, art and even glasses, so there is no reason we can’t have the same success with games.”