EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Rodrigo Ramírez – Executive Director IGDA Paraguay

Welcome to another entry into Hispanics in Games, everyone! Today, I’m speaking with Rodrigo Ramírez, Executive Director at IGDA Chapter Paraguay. Rodrigo joined the industry as a bit of an outsider, and has since become pivotal in creating opportunities for game developers in the country. I find his insight extremely helpful, and broad, in the way that only good managers are able to think about their issues. His social approach to solving the infrastructure shortcomings in the country is a huge reason why the games industry is on track to grow exponentially. Without further ado, there’s the one and only Rodrigo Ramírez!

Rodrigo’s Story

Hello Rodrigo! Thank you for agreeing to speak with us! Could you please tell us a bit about yourself and the role you have at IGDA – Paraguay?

Thanks to you for this opportunity. My name is Rodrigo Ramírez, I am 29 years old and I am a graduate candidate for Sociologist, about to defend my Thesis. From a young age I was a follower of what we could call geek culture and I am a video game enthusiast.

I have experience working in social projects that seek to strengthen civil society, social organizations and intermediate associations in the achievement of their objectives, social capital and the enduring of ties both with the Government and with International Organizations, for the well-being of their members.

In this way, my position at IGDA Paraguay is Executive Director. My main role is being in charge of organizing, coordinating, executing and communicating the decisions, initiatives and activities issued by the Board of Directors together with the President of the Association, which is the Government of IGDA Paraguay Chapter.

As such, my activities are focused on the administrative, public relations and logistics areas, supporting each of the events carried out by the association from charging partners, representation before other organizations, presentation of documents, legal procedures and streaming events made each month.

How did you come to occupy this position at IGDA – Paraguay? If I remember correctly, it was a very uncommon path!

It was all thanks to the extensive support that the entire Paraguayan creative ecosystem, from cinema to music, through games as well, received from the Inter-American Development Bank, through a project called “Promotion of the Creative Economy.”

This project had contemplated supporting IGDA Paraguay by hiring a Manager for the institutional strengthening of the Association.

This strengthening included carrying out the necessary procedures with the Tax Offices of our country to carry out financial transactions legally as a Non-Profit Entity, systematize legal documents and Board meetings, create a communication plan, increase the number of partners. and assist in the presentation, execution and finalization of an Initiative with the IDB within the framework of a Creative Bonus to generate a recepient’s own resources.

In our case, the initiative was to develop a couple of classes for university students, and one for children, on Videogame Development with the aim of teaching them basic tools to get started in the field. These classes were held in partnership with the Columbia University of Paraguay.

Due to my experience working on the social projects mentioned in the first question, and after a series of interviews with the IDB and the President of the Association at that time, I was hired for that position.

Once the IDB project was completed, the Board of Directors considered it necessary to keep me as contracted with the position of Executive Director of IGDA Paraguay.

Rodrigo, second from the right, meeting with the representatives from the Federation of Creative Industries and the Inter-American Development Bank.

Trials and Tribulations Facing the Paraguayan Games Industry

In your opinion, what are some of the challenges that the gaming industry as a whole faces in Paraguay?

I believe that one of the challenges presented by the industry in Paraguay is the disinterest and apathy that our Government shows towards the creative economy and in particular towards the games industry. It has been proven how profitable this industry is, especially for developing countries due to its relatively low cost of production, being that the ideas are the main product along with the creativity of the developers.

With public policies aimed at promoting the industry, several of the more specific challenges that we have encountered could be solved:

a- Lack of qualified workforce: although video game studios show great capacity, value and quality, they are limited in their growth because they do not find qualified personnel, so they cannot invest or explore in more ambitious projects.
b- We have little access to finance capital: due to the dynamics of the industry, which represents a relatively long development process that requires a strong initial investment and earnings that take time to access, there are few cases of investors who knows the industry and venture to support the studios and also there are a few credit products that fit these characteristics.
c- Formalization of businesses: in addition to technical training to increase the industry workforce, entrepreneurship awareness is necessary. Many of the initiatives within the industry are not done with a commercial intention, they are done from an artistic perspective, even as a hobby. There are not many who decide to bet on Gamedev as a source of income through the formalization of a company.

From your experience, what are some of the challenges that individual developers are facing in countries such as Paraguay?

It can be said that, both at the level of the industry in general and at the individual level as a developer, the challenges are intertwined and one is related to the other.

On an individual level you can feel several of the challenges already mentioned, a CEO must invest in the training of new employees to increase his workforce and must find new ways to finance his projects.

In the case of a developer, he is in the dilemma of whether to undertake his own project, found his studio or collaborating with already formalized companies. If this is the case, much of the technical knowledge on game development will come from oneself on a self-managed basis, either through tutorials or online classes, or through the guideance of other, more senior developers.

However, the main challenge for an independent developer is to live working in video games, whether it’s their own or not. The vast majority of developers still do not work full-time in the industry. They do it ocassionally. This is due to the growth limitation faced by established studios and the lack of formalization of new ones.

IGDA – Paraguay and Its Role in Helping Local Developers

What are the difficulties of running a chapter of IGDA in Paraguay, and what is IGDA doing in order to help?

Many of the difficulties that IGDA Paraguay faces are related to what we exposed earlier, since the studios must work twice as hard to keep their projects well directed, and independent developers who do not work full time in the industry, can’t give their full support to the association.

So, keeping the partners motivated is necessary for the operation of IGDA Paraguay, this implies being in constant communication with them, finding opportunities that are beneficial for their ventures and holding events that are of interest to them.

Another thing is to make the industry visible to people outside of gaming, to position local companies on the public agenda, either through social networks or through conventional media. Hence the importance of public relations, especially with State Institutions and International Organizations.

Rodrigo, in the top-middle, participating in a workshop for kids along with IGDA members Eduardo Benítez and José Avalos. Picture shared with permission from parents.

Can you provide examples of success stories, where developers have been able to overcome difficulties and succeed in the industry in recent times? 

Of course, we have several game studios and startups that managed to overcome these challenges and have had success stories.

The video game industry in our country is still young, but throughout the years, great strides have been made by pioneers within the industry.

Within this line, Paraguayan enterprises and studios have laid the foundations for the current situation within the sector, such as Posibillian Tech, which is one of the first studios dedicated exclusively to the development of video games, launching the game Fhaktions, winning several international awards.

Warani Studios is another studio that has made several games, such as Guerra del Chaco, a first-person shooter that recreates the historic struggle between Paraguay and Bolivia for control of the Chaco during the years 1932 to 1935. In addition, its game Malavision, originally for STEAM, managed to reach the Sony PS4 Console, and with the imminent launch of its sequel THE ORIGIN.

And finally Pombero The Lord of the Night created by Inside Studios, a new venture that launched a first-person horror game about the famous popular tale of the Pombero.

Do you feel like Paraguayan developers are able to be competitive with their creative output, in the current marketplace? 

The Paraguayan market is still young and the first steps are being taken, the sector is still relatively small and there are still mistakes to be made, experiments to try and deals to close. That said, I am completely confident in the ability of the Paraguayan developers. The quality of the work, given the difficulties already mentioned, is comparable to the international market.

Games have an identity, but without ceasing to be universal, they have a touch, they are open to feedback, and there is a passion for games that is genuine and it shows in the products.

That is why success stories such as Fhaktions have managed to win over Asian consumers, for example, one of the most competitive markets in the industry.

If we can overcome many of the challenges mentioned, I am sure that more Paraguayan games will get the attention they deserve and the local development industry will witness unparalleled growth.

What Remains to be Done

What do you feel is lacking in terms of national infrastructure in order to help the game development industry grow in Paraguay? And what are the steps currently being taken (by IGDA and/or anyone else) to overcome these shortcomings?

In terms of infrastructure, several points can be discussed. The trend in the industry is online games and purchases through microtransactions, which implies an optimal internet service.

Because Paraguay does not have direct access to the internet infrastructure, but rather outsources it via its neighboring countries, costs increase and connectivity is not excellent, so it becomes a huge problem in the development of multiplayer experiences.

Another issue is that Paraguay does not have access to Paypal, which complicates the transactions of local video game studios with international markets.

IGDA Paraguay, through the Federation of Creative Industries and the Paraguayan Industrial Union, advocated for the involvement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to carry out the necessary procedures for PayPal to finally come to Paraguay.

An IGDA meeting in Asunción, Paraguay.

What can fellow developers from other countries do in order to help Paraguayan developers (and aspiring developers) overcome the limitations of their current conditions?

We have tried in the last year, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic, to strengthen ties with developers from other countries, especially in the field of indie games, since their stories are relevant to the context of our country. These interactions have allowed us to broaden our vision of possible solutions to some of the challenges in Paraguay, in addition to showing us paths, alternatives and financing opportunities and possible markets to exploit.

Understanding the industry consolidation processes in their countries, especially those in Latin America, could help us diversify our strategies and plans for the future.

It really helps us to know these developers, how they overcame obstacles and how they achieved consolidation. Also, how they are organized, what activities they carry out and what are their forecasts for the future.

International entities such as the Latin American Videogames Federation have supported us with event passes, scholarships and access to training that have helped to strengthen local developers.

Many times we think that the problems we have are unique to us, and through interaction with developers we have learned that many share our challenges and that in many countries the same situations have occurred, and they have triumphed over those obstacles.

Being up-to-date on market trends, the latest innovations and the steps taken at an international level help us to focus the actions of IGDA Paraguay, always at the service of our partners.

Thank you very much for your time! Please share a final message with our readers.

Many thanks to you for this opportunity to talk about the industry in our country. I am sure that Paraguay will make significant progress in the following years. We are working to remove obstacles within the industry, providing our partners with the best care so that their ventures can achieve the expected success.

At IGDA Paraguay we believe that collaboration between developers, institutional strengthening of civil society through alliances and constant dialogue with Government Officials will allow the creation of an ideal and stimulating ecosystem for entrepreneurship within video games.

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