US game developer reaps benefits of Malaysia’s blossoming creative multimedia industry
Not the time to be humble but to shout about it
WHY is the US Government focus on South-East Asia important to Malaysia?
“Because it is a chance for Malaysia to take its story to another level now,” says Alexander Fernandez (pic), chief executive officer of the Streamline Media Group, a video game developer and provider of outsourced production services to the advertising, film and games industries.
The Malaysian story has clearly moved beyond cheap and talented labor. Today it is a story about innovation, creativity and technology. “There is a time to be humble but this is not that time for Malaysia. The work we do out of our Malaysian studio is wowing the world and you need to shout about it,” he says.
Fernandez’s Streamline Studios is an example of how the artistic and engineering talent in Malaysia has made a big impact. Arriving in Kuala Lumpur (KL) with a backpack after the financial and economic crisis in Europe forced him to shutter his high-cost set-up in Amsterdam, Fernandez has seen his KL studio grow from doing small art to full development in the art industry in less than two years.
And it has also started to develop its own technology and going into full game development with IP ownership. It owns a game called Axon Runner, has worked on Star Wars Connect and is currently working on a major project due to launch next February.
It has created games for the iOS and Android platforms, the Xbox and PS3 and other game consoles too.
“What we are doing here is extremely advanced,” he says. Couple that with the commitment of government policy, the desire of entrepreneurs and an education sector that is fast getting in tune with the changing needs of the game industry, “all the seeds have been planted and watered here. It is time for Malaysia to harvest.”
He plans to do just that with his fast-growing studio which currently has around 30 people with another 80 working from around the world.
Ironically, while he launched Streamline in 2001 with the vision that artwork can be outsourced to anywhere the talent is, provided one has the processes in place to manage the work, he now has a different take for the Malaysia operations which he launched in 2010 and intends to grow far beyond its current size.
“But I want to hire more Malaysian talent,” he says, bullish on the quality of the people in the creative industry here and having come to realize early on that Malaysians have a natural ability in art, which he says cannot be taught.
“The computer is just a tool. It does not make the artist. That comes natural and you have plenty of that,” he says.
Married to that is the engineering talent he has discovered and is applying to develop technology to create games. This is a significant boost to his KL operations and why he is convinced that Malaysia must now shout out its innovation, creativity and technology story to the world.
“Technology is so critical to the development of the game industry which is really a melding of art, design, psychology and technology,” he says.
Developing the technology means that one also moves up the value chain. “Don’t just be the widget maker. You want to be the one to make the tools; the one who has knowledge of the product. Don’t get into the space of merely doing repetitive work,” he cautions.
Business being business, cost clearly has to be a major factor, but with wages in China growing at an average clip of 10% a year, he says “Malaysia is in a very lucrative position to capture a large part of the market if it can organize itself and not just focus on trading.”
In fact, he says that “talent in Malaysia is beyond competitive” and as such, entrepreneurs have to realize the opportunity this presents by growing their networks and internationalizing their business. In other words, they need to grow their exports.
That is what Streamline is doing and it took a big step in this direction by setting up its headquarters in New York in September. With Europe still hurting, 90% of Streamline’s business comes from the United States and the company wanted to be closer to its customer base.
Customers like the story that Streamline has to sell, which Fernandez encapsulates neatly as, “Western management with Asian talent, creativity and technology.”
With the creative industry changing so rapidly, “almost every six months”, Fernandez advises students who aim to pursue a career there to start working on projects on the side to get a real feel for what is happening in the industry, while they pick up other aspects from their formal education.
For this US entrepreneur who started out his company from a bedroom, the possibilities are limitless and choosing KL to be his creative base is giving him a powerful launch-pad.
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