Level Up KL Biz 2019: Local games development industry keeps levelling up

  • Baldur’s Gate 3 developer Larian Studios expanding to Malaysia
  • Streamline Media Group has new Day Zero QA division


MDEC CEO Surina Shukri (second row, sixth from left) with MDEC Digital Creative Content VP Hasnul Hadi Samsudin (second, fifth from left) and Larian Studios co-founder and CEO Swen Vincke (top row, fourth from left)

THE Malaysian games industry is poised to grow. For one, the government recently allocated RM20 million from the 2020 National Budget to the development of the digital content creation industry – a move that will hopefully spur the games development industry further, on top of furthering e-sports in the country.

The envelope was continuously pushed during Level Up KL Biz 2019, the nation’s premier games development conference. In its fifth year running, the event became the launch platform for games industry announcements for the region.

That’s in line with the event’s goal of becoming a regional event, as well as cementing Malaysia’s position as a regional beacon in games development.

“Our next milestone is to position Malaysia as Southeast Asia’s games development powerhouse, validating our nation as the preferred destination for this empowering industry,” says Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) chief executive officer Surina Shukri.

“As Malaysia has an enormous pool of local talent capable of developing games enjoyed by the world, right from our own backyard, I am absolutely confident that we will hit that milestone very soon.”

Major announcements

Level Up KL Biz 2019 was organised by MDEC, and ran from Nov 2-8. It featured a variety of industry-focused activities that included Masterclass Workshops, discussion panels, game development jams and business connections.

It’s also an event for major announcements for the region. Streamline Media Group, for one, announced a new brand called Day Zero, described as a quality assurance and localisation division. This new team will be working closely with other Steamline divisions in building multiple game products simultaneously, on top of offering services to the global games industry.  

The company provided updates to its own video game, Bake ‘n Switch, which will soon be an Early Access title on the Steam platform. The game recently won three awards at the Reboot Red international development showcase: Game of the Year, Outstanding Gameplay and Visual Excellence.

Local game development company Kurechii similarly announced the publishing of its latest game, Kings League II, on Apple Arcade. Apple Arcade is a game subscription service that offers unlimited access to a curated list of quality games, with Kings League II being among the first 100 on the platform – a Malaysian first.

At the same time, entertainment company Media Prima re-launched the IGN Southeast Asia game news portal, now with more focus on e-sports and a renewed content strategy.

The Larian arrival

Perhaps the most surprising news, however, is the announcement that Belgium-based video games development company Larian Studios will be opening a Malaysian studio soon, and is now beginning its hiring process.

Larian Studios is best known for its Divinity series of role-playing games, with its most recent two incarnations – Divinity: Original Sin and Original Sin II – being bestselling and critically-acclaimed titles. Larian Studios is currently at work with the development of Baldur’s Gate 3, the third instalment of the popular RPG series.

Larian Studios’ co-founder and CEO Swen Vincke, who was present during Level Up KL Biz 2019, says that the Malaysian studio will be helping with the development of Baldur’s Gate 3. The studio uses a development system where multiple studios across the world work together by passing work to different time zones, which allows the developers avoid the dreaded “crunch” (industry term for long overtime work conditions) as well as speed up development.

This system has allowed Larian to develop Divinity: Original Sin II in two years – a great achievement for an RPG of its scope. The company has been looking east to expand this system and Malaysia has been selected as a home.

“At the end of the day, we looked at Malaysia and saw that there was great government support; that people spoke English, and there’s a lot of talent present here and it’s still growing. There’s good infrastructure of schools that are willing to improve [games development] also,” Vincke says.

The studio is looking to hire at least 20 people by next year.

Going forward, Vincke says that the headcount will be grown organically, with them picking more talent as they progress. “I hope within a couple of years we’re going to reach 50 people,” he says, but adds that it depends on the success of their games. “But the trend is only going upwards.”


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