Swiss video games head to San Francisco
Every year, in March, San Francisco hosts the Game Developers Conference (GDC) and becomes the epicentre for games development. The conference brings together 30,000 sector professionals and sets the standard for the entire industry. A delegation of 19 Swiss studios and technology companies will be attending the 2019 event under the SwissGames banner.
Small in size but long on talent. This year, Switzerland will be one of the largest national delegations at GDC Play, the game industry’s key event held in the United States. If you hadn’t realised that Switzerland develops video games, then think again. Swiss developers are increasingly making their mark at games fairs and festivals.
SwissGames – Unity is strength
Since 2010, Pro Helvetia, the Swiss Arts Council, has played a pioneering role in supporting interactive media and helping the country’s burgeoning digital scene make a name for itself both in and outside the country.
Pro Helvetia organises delegations under the SwissGames label to raise the profile of Swiss studios at major events such as GDC, Gamescom in Cologne or Nordic in Malmö.
The video games industry is becoming increasingly organised and professional: Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK), Geneva School of Art and Design (HEAD) and Lausanne’s University of Art and Design (ÉCAL) now all run master’s and bachelor’s degrees in Games Design and have become real hotbeds for talent. Associations such as SGDA (Swiss Game Developers Association) or IGDA Switzerland Chapter and platforms such as Ludicious, Epic Game Jam or Numerik Games have given the industry a structure and promoted its growth.
Thanks to these combined efforts, in less than ten years Swiss video game production has expanded from a handful of individual developers to more than 120 studios and start-ups. The Swiss video game community is united around the #SwissGames hashtag and is attracting growing international interest.
Heading to San Francisco
California’s Silicon Valley and Hollywood are fertile ground for creative technology. Swissnex San Francisco has been based in the city for a number of years. Thanks to support from Pro Helvetia, it acts as a catalyst for Swiss innovation and works with Pro Helvetia and Dart each year to support the SwissGames delegation.
For the Swiss studios that are selected, the conference provides a unique opportunity to gauge their game’s or project’s reputation at events being run during the week through presentations by industry experts, promotional showcases alongside their European peers (Courage XL, European Game Showcase), networking platforms (Game Connection America and MeetToMatch), and a presence on the SwissGames stand in the GDC Play sector, which brings together the most important players in the emerging and independent scene. With 19 studios and technology companies, Switzerland will be the GDC’s third largest national delegation this year.
A diverse delegation
The Swiss video game industry is made up of independent studios, each with a different approach and a broad range of themes and styles. This diverse content is also reflected in the developers who hail from a range of disciplines and backgrounds. More women are also starting to join the profession. This year, more than half of the studios in the GDC delegation are led by women or have gender parity in their teams. According to Statista, in 2017, women accounted for only 21% of games developers’ worldwide. 5am Games is an all-female team. After studying together at ZHdK, Aleksandra Iakusheva, Martina Hotz and Selina Capol developed Letters – a written adventure, in which the gamer plays with words and interacts with the correspondence between two friends. A few weeks before the opening of GDC 2019, their game received a GDC Best in Play ‘Honourable Mention’, awarded to the conference’s best independent games. Even before arriving in San Francisco, the Swiss delegation has made a name for itself with two other SwissGames – Morphies Law and Mundaun – which have also received this prestigious honour, while the Lausanne studio OZWE has reached the final round of the International Mobile Gaming Award.
#Swisstech for video games
GDC is also a marketplace for games development tools and where #Swisstech holds its own with its innovative solutions. Three young companies in the SwissGames delegation will be showcasing their new products: Moka Studio, which has worked with researchers at the Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) to develop software that creates 3D animations at the stroke of a pen; vrbn, which has created whole urban environments in 3D; and Sensoryx, which will be showcasing the first autonomous VR/AR glove with fully integrated 3D-positioning.
List of studios in the SwissGames delegation at GDC:
- Momo-Pi: Persephone, Bulle
- Team KwaKwa: Soup Raiders, Lausanne
- Nifty Productions: MomentSQ, Zurich
- Cosmoscope: Morphies Law, Bienne
- Stray Fawn Studio: Nimbatus – The Space Drone Constructor, Zurich
- Lilou Studio: Fishery, Zurich
- Stardust: AVA, Zurich
- OZWE, Lausanne
- N-Dream: AirConsole, Lausanne
- 5am Games: Letters – a written adventure, Zurich
- Sycoforge: Arafinn, Zurich
- Hidden Fields: Mundaun, Lucerne
- Indoor Astronaut: Unrailed!, Zurich
- Apelab: SpatialStories, Geneva
- Charlotte Broccard: TET, Lausanne
- Moka Studio: Mosketch, Martigny
- vrbn studios AG: Custom 3D urban environments for games, Zurich
- Blindflug Studios: First Strike: Armageddon, Zurich
- Sensoryx: VRfree®, Zurich