Across three days of the Level Up KL conference in Malaysia, the most convincing case for the bright future of the South East Asian games industry was made by Alexander Fernandez – an American entrepreneur who, until 2010, had operated his company out of Amsterdam.
For almost an hour, Fernandez spoke eloquently, without pause, and (most impressively) without notes on just how far Malaysia’s games industry has come since Streamline Studios relocated to its capital in 2010; a bold move that put him on what he later described to GamesIndustry.biz as”the front lines” of the Malaysian government’s multi-decade drive to turn the country into a knowledge economy, with digital industries like games at its centre.
“Malaysia has peaked to a point where people finally know that something is here,” he said, when I visited Streamline’s offices after his talk. “They’re starting to understand it now, and what its role [in South East Asia] can be. All of my understanding of where Malaysia has been trying to get, and being a part of that, is what empowers my ability to talk about it – it’s having lived it.
“We were on life support… All we had was a brand, our contacts and relationships, and a willingness to move forward”
“What I’ve seen in the past eight years is that [the Malaysian government] knew what was coming, but they knew it would be associated with a generation. You can’t hit fast forward on people. And it’s almost as though the generation caught up all at once. The moment that the government felt and saw that, they put it on blast. In the past 24 to 36 months – no more than that – they’ve really turned up the heat.”