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Russian government to support $820m games industry

Market moving away from PC games and to online, as government seeks to establish Moscow Silicon Valley

The Russia and CIS games market is growing rapidly – reaching a record value of $820 million last year, according to the Russian Association of Developers of Interactive Technology (RADIT).

Speaking in Cologne today, RADIT's Konstantin Popov noted that the country's developers were now moving away from their traditional focus on PC games. That market had declined by 40 per cent, while consoles had risen by 15 per cent, casual by 30 per cent and mobile by 10 per cent.

Online had grown by some 70 per cent, with Popov predicting revenues to rise from the current $225 million to $400 million by 2012. The casual market was expected to grow from $32m in 2009 to $42m in 2010.

However, at present retail and PC remained dominant. Brick and mortar sales accounted for $500 million of the total $820 million market value, while PC games still constitute 80 per cent of the market.

BIart Studio's Dmitry Lyust offered some thoughts on why the country had been so slow to move to console and online gaming. "Russian branches of Microsoft and Sony didn't provide any significant support for Russian game developers," he said. "Even now there are significant issues in obtaining licenses for Russian companies. Russian game publishers provided funding to PC projects only because there was no console market in Russian in those days."

The pair felt this was changing, but that casual, social and massively multi-player games would be a bigger market than either console or PC. However, the West was not necessarily paying attention.

Noting that Russia's leading social network Vkontakte enjoyed 75 million users and more than 3300 apps but Facebook in that territory had just 1 million users, Popov lamented that "the main social game companies are still not present on the Russian networks."

Online gaming in Russian constituted 3% of the global market he claimed, and had grown 66 per cent in 2009. Client-based MMOs, including World of Warcraft, had grown by 102 per cent.

Multi-platform engines and tools were helping Russian game developers to be competitive on the international playing field, argued Lyust. "The Russian game development industry has a second breath now."

The government was supporting the industry's growth, claimed Popov. RADIT was working with politicians to ensure gaming played a part in the planned Russian Silicon Valley, south-west of Moscow.

The area is intended to employ some 30,000 to 40,000 scientists and engineers investigating future technologies, and RADIT hopes to create a special game industry sector in Skolkovo. Tax relief and other incentives will be provided in order to lure international publishers and developers to it.

"Our president is very interested in investing in this field," he said. "We plan to make a real investment boom now."

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Alec Meer

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A 10-year veteran of scribbling about video games, Alec primarily writes for Rock, Paper, Shotgun, but given any opportunity he will escape his keyboard and mouse ghetto to write about any and all formats.

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