Building from scratch: Mexican developer Kaxan bids for the big time
Mexico isn't yet known for having a vibrant game development community, but a few companies, like Kaxan Games, are trying to change that. Kaxan's first big title was El Chavo
, a Mexican exclusive Mario Party
-style game for the Nintendo Wii.
Mexico has been trying to up its game development presence for some time now, with titles like Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes Del Ring
from Immersion Mexico (now Larva Game Studios), and a host of indie iOS and Android developers. But right now, the talent base isn't quite there to build a large community, it seems. This is because industry has to be built up from scratch, borrowing talent from other industries.
“It’s definitely small at the moment,” Kaxan Games' business manager Martin Melendez told us. “There has been a lot of effort for that industry to grow, especially because during the ‘90s there were a lot of electronic companies like IBM. All those companies had deep roots in electronic manufacturing. And then suddenly the shift started going toward software development, so right now video games are definitely something that has sprung out of that.”
In addition to hiring from tech and manufacturing arenas, Mexican companies are recruiting aggressively from universities. “There’s also a lot of effort toward the educational system in preparing people to [work] in these areas of design and animated fields in video games,” Melendez added. “Definitely in the last couple of years there has been more of a focus toward education in those areas.”
Kaxan PR manager Florencia Leano adds that where universities fall short, game companies have to do their own training. “We have brought people from big companies in America and worldwide to show our people, especially creatives and programmers and producers and directors, how to be competitive in a worldwide environment,” she says. “So we have had people from Pixar, from DreamWorks, and other companies, and this is one of the efforts that we're making to grow the games and film industry in Mexico.”
How much training is really necessary? From what base do new hires start? From the very bottom, says Leano. “We've been training our people from scratch, I mean people that didn’t really even know how to turn on a computer are now making videogames and filming.”
While Kaxan hopes to eventually create its own cross-media IP, the company's big break came with the El Chavo
license for Wii. For those who don't know, El Chavo
is an extremely popular television show in Mexico with roots in the 1970s, though the game is based on the animated spinoff
. But why choose the Wii, in a time when the market is in a bit of a downturn?
“Mexico has a lot of people attached toward Nintendo,” says Melendez. “Nintendo was one of the few companies that really had an official presence since the early ‘90s, so people are very attached to it as a brand.”
That said, this is the last Wii product for the company. “This is the last leg of the Wii market definitely,” Melendez admits. “I mean we have Wii U just around the corner. But we aimed toward the market that we wanted, it was right for us. Definitely our next projects are not going to be released for the Wii; we are aiming for PS3, Xbox 360 Wii U, that’s going to be our focus for the next title. This allowed us to go into a market with a really big install base, but we definitely thought about this only being our first and last Wii product for the time being.”
Melendez, not surprisingly, believes in a bright future for game development in Mexico. “We've had a lot of companies that started doing small projects, doing some outsourcing,” he says, admitting the community is still small. “But we definitely see there’s passion, there’s talent, and there’s people that are starting to see that this is a really ripe business. And I think what the industry needs is setting your goals high, don’t just do small projects or try to go with the indie route. I think we have all the means to be competitive as like all the big companies around the world, and it’s just a matter of having people that are along for that ride, that have the passion, and also there’s a lot of people that are interested in investing in this type of venture.”
“I think it’s just a matter of people just trying to face the challenges,” he concludes. “I know there’s a lot of countries that started like us, have developed a very…almost like a brand. Like all those Eastern European companies -- they were small and they’re now very recognized. We are definitely trying to build the means and the people in order to achieve that.”