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In 2015, Indonesia’s Ministry of Industrial first announced its plans to draw up a gaming industry roadmap, calling for industry players to submit a proposal for its development.

This month, industry players represented by the Indonesia Gaming Association (AGI) met with the Ministry of Communications and Informatics, the Creative Economy Agency, as well as the Coordinating Ministry of Economy to discuss the first steps that need to be taken.

As a delegate at the meeting, Anton Soeharyo, CEO of Jakarta-based game developer Touchten spilled the beans to e27 about the challenges faced by the industry and how the roadmap can maximise its full potential.

Here is the edited excerpt of the interview.

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First of all, can you tell me about the recent meeting to discuss the gaming industry roadmap?

We began by explaining that gaming is a big industry in the world, even bigger than film industry. We gave an example of Avatar, the highest grossing film of all time. Meanwhile, in the gaming industry, there is Grand Theft Auto, which produced approximately the same amount of money but is only ranked in the top-ten rank [highest grossing games ever].

Asia contributes more than the US and UK [in terms of income], with China being the number one market. Apart from China, the biggest [region] is Southeast Asia, with Indonesia having the second highest revenue, after Thailand.

There are three things that we aim to achieve through this roadmap: Quality, quantity, and help from government.

We realised that in Indonesia there are only 150 to a few thousands published game developers. We want to increase this number, possibly until it reaches more than ten thousand.

Second, look at the market potential, with US$300 million net worth per year; from this number only 1.6 per cent are ruled by local players. The rest is from China and Korea. So our plan is that by 2020 we want to be able to conquer 40 to 50 per cent of the market.

We need to be kings in our own land.

Third, we’d also like grants or funding, [though] not necessarily from the government … Another thing we’d like to propose is for foreign game companies to work together with local game companies … Be it in form of investment, a private company, all that matter is that there is a knowledge transfer process. We don’t want to tell them to get lost, since the ASEAN Economic Community is coming anyway — unlike China or Vietnam, who implement closed market policy.

In February, we will meet again to discuss in more detail what the government can do. Perhaps a tax holiday or something.

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How is the human resource situation in Indonesia’s gaming industry? Are we competitive enough?

The reality is that the industry is very new, about seven to eight years old, especially for smartphones. Even for console games, the industry tends to be closed. Only after Apple iOS and Android showed up that indie developers can [say] “Hey, turns out we can publish it ourselves!”

All over the world, the demand for talent overrides the supply. Then there is [the problem of] brain drain. Many left to Singapore because they have better salary, and better appreciation.

This is why I expect the government to work with Ministry of Education … for Unity programming to be taught in vocational schools.

There has to be a balance between funding and human resource management. It takes two to three years to master programming. If we begin with vocational schools, then within these years we can already have new developers. Better than simply providing grants.

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What are the other issues that we are facing?

Infrastructure. Such as Internet connection. But we’re not too worried because it’s getting better with time.

The bigger concern are payment gateways. It’s not that Indonesians are not paying, but they don’t know how to pay. Credit card penetration is very low, and the average person use only about US$4 per month for phone credits. So how can they pay for games?

But the greatest challenge of all is the people’s mentality. We are used to buying pirated softwares for years. But I think the government can help by creating campaigns to stop people from buying pirated products.

I’m fascinated by the fact that Indonesia is the second largest market in Southeast Asia, but the local industry only contributes less than two per cent.

We are being invaded. That’s what we told the government. They were like, “Seriously!?”

This is why we need to work together to build the locals, so that they can help in contributing tax to the country.

Frankly speaking, I’m quite certain those who come from abroad don’t pay taxes for operating here.

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Speaking of marketing, does the industry aim to market its products domestically? Or are we aiming for international expansion?

Indonesia is a very big country. Like China, we are actually able to self-sustain. But we believe that the sky is the limit, don’t restrict ourselves only to Indonesia.

Of course we have bigger focus in Indonesia because this is our country, but we also propose for international existence. We need to send delegations to GDC, the Tokyo Game Show. So they know that we exist.

There is a tendency for Indonesian audience to look down on local-made products. What do we need to do to tackle this?

My advice would be to make it as good as possible. Use the outside world as a benchmark, not your own self. Don’t think “What’s the best that I can do?”

See what’s out there, and how you can beat them.

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