Interview with IGDA Vietnam's Nicolas Leymonerie & Thai Thanh Liem

By AMRITA VALECHA | 20 June, 2011 - 15:37

Could you tell us about IGDA Vietnam and its members?
Nicolas Leymonerie: The Vietnamese chapter of the IGDA (International Game Developers Association) is a non-profit organization aiming at supporting the development of the local game industry and promoting it internationally. It has been created on 1st October 2008 and since that date we have organized five meetings regrouping a large part of the still young Vietnamese game Developers community.

The association is composed with a core organizing team including Nguyen Viet Son as main organizer in Hanoi, Thai Thanh Liem as main organizer in Ho Chi Minh City and myself as coordinator. The association is quite informal but we can estimate about 10 "champions" (company representatives) regularly involved and nearly 40 companies that receive our newsletter.

What is your role in the IGDA Vietnam?
Nicolas Leymonerie: I've been the initiator of the creation of IGDA Vietnam and naturally I became Chapter Coordinator of the association. My role is to communicate the news of the association and coordinate the organization of meetings and events. I've also got a representative role during international events.

Thai Thanh Liem: I’m the organizer of IGDA Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh City. I currently assist Nicolas on what he needs in association and managing stuffs in Ho Chi Minh City. I’m also in communication with other game developers in Vietnam (especially in Ho Chi Minh City) to spread news regarding IGDA VN and invite them to the association.

What are the various events that take place in Vietnam? Any upcoming events?
Nicolas Leymonerie: Regarding the Videogame industry there are very few events in Vietnam. In 2007, 2008 there was the ISGAF, that became the ‘Vietnam Game Show’, but there were no other edition of that event. Now there are only IGDA meetings and few seminars of other independent groups. The next IGDA Vietnam's meeting is not planed yet but we are still thinking about it especially with proposals coming from foreign companies to be introduced to the Vietnamese audience. On another hand we came in Bangkok in March to officialize the organization of an important event with IGDA Bangkok and ICTBA (Cambodian IT association). We are still working on its preparation.

Thai Thanh Liem: I have a plan to do a workshop of Mobile Game Creation process, but yet discussing with Nicolas on how we execute it. Also, there should be a meeting regarding legal stuffs in Vietnam game development, as some game developers push their product out to global and ignore this matter, in the end. We need to warn them and other indie developers to take this matter seriously in order to keep the Vietnam game development image.

Could you tell us about the Vietnam Gaming Industry in terms of size?
Nicolas Leymonerie: In 2008, the Vietnamese Software Association referenced only 5 local game studios for 15 publishers. In 2011, I think that we can easily multiply the number of game studios by 10. The major game companies employ thousands of people and some are present in other countries in Asia.

Thai Thanh Liem: Vietnam Gaming Industry is mainly about Game Publishing on Vietnam market; Game Development is yet new even in our local market. Major game companies are now making more SNS game on their SNS network. We have around 5-10 our own creation SNS products in 2011, but these products are still new to become a blockbuster in global network or oversea network. Some other indie developers are pushing their contents out to iOS, Android market, the good sign is that the mobile game development is growing overall, we can name a few game developer that already have products in overseas markets but we don’t have training session for them yet to share with all the others. From my calculation, there should be more than 20 game studios in Ho Chi Minh City but the fact that they refer to work on the side rather than joining the association is the main problem as the IGDA VN so far doesn’t look like to bring them any help. We have to improve this point also.

How do you see the Gaming Industry growing in Vietnam?
Nicolas Leymonerie: One sure thing is that it's growing fast. In addition to the increasing number of game studios mentioned above, we can expect an increase of foreign companies setting up a branch in the country, because the human resources are getting more experienced and the labour cost is still cheap. We are looking for the support of the public authorities to strengthen the growth of this industry that could bring a lot to the country.

Thai Thanh Liem: Yes, it’s growing kind of fast, more products but quality products are still few. The biggest loss of Vietnam Game Industry is about creative stuff and the development process. Foreign companies that are coming in Vietnam are mainly building their outsourcing division to lower cost on their main site. In order to push more creative game studio here, we need to have more products in global market to attract more attention to the country where the cost is low and the creativity is still high.

Could you mention a few major game studios in Vietnam?
Nicolas Leymonerie: The major game studios in Vietnam are part of the major game operators, they are: VNG, VTC, FPTOnline. We can also mention big foreign companies like Gameloft or Koei-Tecmo. On another hand there are good independent Vietnamese game studios emerging such as Colorbox, EMobi, MusicKing…

What is the ratio between Outsourcing and IP Development when it comes to the gaming industry in Vietnam?
Nicolas Leymonerie: I don't have a precise number about that but I can approximately say that the ratio is about 1 on 10 in favour of the Outsourcing (graphics and porting especially). The creation of really new IP for commercial video game is quite recent in Vietnam.

Major Challenges faced by the Gaming Industry in Vietnam.
Nicolas Leymonerie: The Vietnamese Game Industry is actually growing faster than the capacity of qualified people to respond to the job offers. To face that major challenge, some companies are building their own centers to educate people in game development. The other challenge that I used to hear is the lack of creativity that prevent to develop new IP, it's maybe due to the importance of outsourcing in the industry that only require to follow models. But it's also a matter of time to change that.

Thai Thanh Liem: Like Nicolas already mentioned above, I really think that the industry need more support to strengthen the development mindset, to have more new IPs and indeed, more outsourcing projects will follow to come