While slower to get into a flow like other development hotspots, Australia is quickly transitioning into a destination for games development. Between smash hits like Massive Monster’s Cult of the Lamb, SMG Studios’ excellent Moving Out duology, and Team Cherry’s sublime Hollow Knight, the last few years in the Australian games industry have had worldwide success. This year’s PAX Rising showcase is proof that there’s no signs of this stopping anytime soon, with tons of promising local indie releases coming over the next few years.
It’s this rampant success that has caught the eyes of Virtuos – a worldwide co-development studio that has helped to deliver some massive titles over the last 20 years. From 3D renders and in-engine CGI cutscenes to full-blown game design and console ports, Virtuos has likely had a hand in some of your favourite gaming experiences in recent times. I sat down with Virtuos’ Asia-Pacific business director, Bruce Yan, to talk about Australia’s potential as a testbed for Virtuos’ blueprint for triple A game development.
Established in 2004, Virtuos has been around for almost 20 years and have worked on countless titles both big and small. From Demon’s Souls’ opening cinematic and Horizon Zero Dawn’s Thunderjaw render on the cover, to support with League of Legends and numerous mobile games, Virtuos has had a hand in many experiences over the last two decades. Bruce elaborated further on the broad range of facets that Virtuos can assist with in development.
“Virtuous is a co-development studio, so we help developers with certain parts of their projects. We started working in art primarily, but have since expanded into all kinds of disciplines that are involved with making a game. We can help a studio to scale up the team to make bigger titles if they only have a few core teams. We also work with larger sized teams to adapt their games for other platforms while they focus on a particular version, so everything can ship on the same day.” said Bruce.
Despite just announcing the opening of a Tokyo studio during TGS last month, Virtuos is already looking for more opportunities to help local scenes spring to life. Bruce cited the aggressive growth within the Australian industry as one with a lot of potential: “There’s a lot of indie developers coming forward with fantastic ideas. That coupled with a few games doing very well on Steam and Switch and a 20% increase in revenue since 2021, there’s a similar pattern of events to what happened in the leadup to Montréal becoming a landmark destination for game development.”.
Between some mammoth successes and widespread funding from numerous bodies throughout the country, it feels like things are really kicking into gear. Bruce commented that this was one of the big reasons Virtuos came out to PAX 2023: “There’s all different sizes of teams in Australia. Indie, middle-size, triple A etc. There’s studios here with over 100 developers now like Blowfish Studios and Mighty Kingdom. We feel Virtuos can help indie teams to scale up while also assisting larger studios with co-development on things we’re experienced in.”.
A large part of the reason the future is looking so bright for game development in Australia is thanks to rampant funding across numerous states. With growth, comes growing pains and new challenges for studios to face as they expand their team sizes and overall scope of their projects. Game development is immensely challenging on any scale, but Bruce shed some light on how Virtuos can help the local scene navigate through this growth and upscaling.
“As more funding becomes available, Virtuos can help studios to manage risks and advise how to setup a pipeline and manage a team in any given project. Working cultures are also unique everywhere, but we can help to make projects more manageable within that ecosystem and context. Things can be made bigger with less risk. We also have a breadth of cultural backgrounds with our worldwide studios, which means publishing elsewhere can be assisted by local Virtuos branches.”.
This kind of growth doesn’t happen overnight, though. It’s a slow steady process that Australia is well and truly in the midst of right now. When asked about what it would take for Australia to reach its full potential in the game development industry, Bruce cited government support and local talent.
“Strong government support and good talent development. The talent pool is very important. We have a very strong concept art team in Montréal, which took us some time to assemble, but a large reason it worked out is because of the talent available there. We also think the nature of Australia could attract a lot of overseas talent. Australia’s a very nice country – people love to live here, and there’s a passion for gaming in Australia – you can see it on the PAX 2023 show floor.”.
Of course, Melbourne isn’t the only state where game development is gaining real traction. Sydney is also doing quite well for itself, as is Adelaide and Western Australia with the likes of Team Cherry and recent Screenwest funding. When asked about the potential of other locations aside from Melbourne, Bruce expanded on the opportunities found in other states: “New South Wales accounts for a large chunk of the game development workforce in Australia. There’s also a good amount of government support and a lot of inherent talent in New South Wales that makes it appealing for us.”.
The other big part of growth is expanding talent pools both locally and internationally so studios have access to a wide pool of skillsets. I asked Bruce how pre-established studios can incentivize international talent to come to Australia to bolster this: “It’s important to have an inclusive working environment. International talent look for that, and also good workplace benefits. Australia is very open and welcoming to everybody, so combining these things would make Australia an attractive place to work in the industry.”.
You can learn more about Virtuos, what they do, and what they’ve worked on right here.