Videogames: From nerd activities to industry

In recent months, media around the world have discovered that there is a form of life, called “gamers”. They are humanoid beings with strange habits: they spend hours in front of the screen, they get excited if their avatar rips a dragon but, more intriguingly, they spend mountains of money on accessories and games. All Covid Free, indeed Covid Powered!

The world of video games was not born today. For anyone of the writer’s age, playing a video game is a way to pass the time like reading a book (a rather rare activity in Italy), watching a football match on TV, or binge watching (in short, shooting yourself a whole season of a TV series). The lockdown, net of allowing people to work from home, has magnified some virtual activities to pass the time. Social networks, e-commerce, Youporn and video games. On the first 3 I don’t think there is much new to say, while on the fourth topic it is worth investigating.

That’s so nerdy!

What used to be a nerdy business today is a structured industry, with billionaire budgets, double-digit growth expectations and even competitions sponsored by major international brands. Just to give two figures for 2020: it is estimated that the world of gamers will exceed 160 billion dollars in turnover. Covid has certainly given a boost but, it should be remembered, already in 2019 it was around 145 billion.

Surprisingly, a large part of the successful video games were produced in the Nordic countries, such as Sweden where the developer market and related supply chain is worth a few billion. The sector begins to have some gems also in Italy. A famous Italian is Riccardo Zacconi, who with the invention and subsequent sale of Candy Crush literally turned on the lights on Italian creativity. However, there are many realities that are emerging in our country. It helps the availability of bandwidth, the high rate of creativity of the Italians and a growing technological competence.

Developing games in Italy

However, if the collective imagination leads us to believe that “only in Milan” there can be a miracle, we are wrong. Milan is certainly the capital of Italy for many sectors: finance, fashion, design, and yet the rising cost of living combined with the “no need” to be on site allows startups in the sector to be able to operate anywhere. This is the case of Cube, a Sardinian startup that, in a few years, has grown in the niche sector of accessories for simulators.

Here you have to go down in the technical. If a mouse and keyboard are enough for a strategic video game, true gamers who are passionate about car or flight simulations need a joystick or a steering wheel. The higher the sensitivity on the peripheral, the better the feel and gaming experience. Obviously we are talking about a niche sector, in the world of gamers, however the numbers are all there.

“We started in 2016, the first year we had a turnover of just under 20,000 euros, today we should close 2020 with 2 million. Operating from Sassari allows us to keep production costs low and thanks to e-commerce we can sell anywhere “explains Fabio Sotgiu, co-founder of Cube Controls.

Mind-boggling figures? A start. Recall that the peripheral sector, in the gaming world, is an industry in continuous growth. In 2019 it is estimated to have reached about 3.9 billion dollars, with a growth forecast for 2020; control peripherals are a constant and growing presence.

If we consider that simulation games are mostly present on PC platforms and, more recently, consoles, we understand how most of the peripherals are created for PCs. “We started with racing wheels, to be used for e-sports. After establishing our presence in the niche market of e-sports champions, we are expanding to produce pedal sets and joystick for aircraft simulations ”.

Sotgiu clarifies that, albeit niche, that of peripherals, for amateurs, is a product with high demand. A question for which true enthusiasts are willing to spend a lot. In the coming months (given what we read) a vaccine or treatment will be on the way. This does not mean that the tendency to work from home will remain a working standard. This will push the demand for games, platforms (PCs, consoles) and related peripherals even higher.

It is nice to observe how, like Sweden, Italy has the skills and competence to earn a slice of the market. The fallout for the whole nation, as Sweden demonstrates, is of great interest.