Interview With Gwen Foster & Gabby Dizon: How Philippines Shapes its Indie Game Dev Scene and Community

By Febrianto Nur Anwari

Like other Southeast Asia countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore, indie game dev scene in the Philippines is also growing. Here’s some insight about that!

Like other Southeast Asia countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore, game development scene in the Philippines is also growing. Here’s some insight from Gabby Dizon (Altitude Games) and Gwendelyn Foster (Reality Squared Games) about indie game dev scene in the Philippines!

There is no doubt that Southeast Asia is one of the booming markets in the game industry. It’s all thanks to countries in that region such as Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines. Not only it is a big market, Southeast Asia also has so many great talents to create games either on their own or as a service for other AAA game companies.

When we talk about indie game developer scene and community, the Philippines is one of the countries that have rapid growth. Started in the mid-2000s, now the Philippines has many indie game developers that have created some big titles. Some of them gained their success in game competitions such as Independent Game Festival, International Mobile Gaming Awards, and SEA Game Awards.

Gameprime.org had a chance to talk with two top indie game developers from the Philippines Gabby Dizon from Altitude Games and Gwendelyn Foster from Reality Squared Games. Both of them will walk us through the indie game dev scene in the Philippines from when it started ’till now. Let’s take a look!

indie game dev scene in the Philippines

Can you tell us a little bit about Indie Gamedev scene and community in the Philippines? When did it all start?

The independent game developers scene in the Philippines is slowly but surely growing. It started in the mid2000s when both hobbyists and experienced game developers set out to create their games which resulted to Anino’s Anito.

At the time, the mobile platform was the most accessible which explains why most of the games were released on either Google or Apple. Then during the 2010s, a couple of local studios found funding through Kickstarter which gave the fuel needed. The most successful being The Letter, a visual novel released on Steam by Yangyang mobile.

Right now, the Philippines has a lot of anticipated indie games in production, such as Shots Fired by Chryse, Garrison Archangel by Indigo Entertainment, and Tabletop RPGs being developed by Tobie Abad. The indie board game scene is also getting a foothold locally.

Who is the first Indie Game developer in the Philippines?

I want to say it’s Paolo Jalbuena of Fandom Inc who is an active member of the Game Developers Association of the Philippines, and my fellow board member (our Vice Chair) at the International Game Developers Association – Manila Chapter.

Based on your experience, what is the main strength of indie game dev in the Philippines? And also what is your weakness?

Our strength lies in our high game literacy, and art sensibility. There are a lot of talented game artists who can transition through different styles flawlessly.

As for our weakness, we have very few technical game programmers who aren’t dependent on visual editors of existing game engines. Fewer are game designers, although a lot of people want to. We, as a community, have very little access to international game publishers, and it really takes a lot of hard work and determination to connect to the network.

indie game dev scene in the Philippines

Do your indie game dev community have a routine activity/event? What is that and when?

We have Indie Arena in ESGS which is once a year. And IGDA normally hosts a monthly meet up every 3rd Saturday of the month

How big is the community impact for your indie game dev scene?

The local community is very giving and helpful. It’s both amusing and rare to see supposed competitors helping each other out. But since it’s too early to be cutthroat, most of the indie teams and studios count on each other to get the word out.

There is also this culture of acceptance where some studio owners know that their team members will eventually go and make their own game studios. But for the industry to really grow, this is necessary. Most people get their connections through each other, and casual Facebook introductions.

Do your government have some initiative to help the indie game dev scene’s growth? What is that?

The Game Developers Association of the Philippines (GDAP) is spearheading most of these initiatives. The government funded a couple of Trade Shows for the indie game studios to game conventions such as GDC San Francisco, Tokyo Game Show, and GSTAR to name a few.

indie game dev scene in the Philippines

What is the best achievement that your community (or a single developer from your country) has ever gotten?

I would still have to say it would be Anino Entertainments’ Anito: Defend a Land Enraged that won IGF back in 2004 which really started the community. Most of the independent studios came from this batch of developers who took the risk and made their games.

How many indie game developers are in the Philippines right now? Please mention some of the most popular Indie game studios in the Philippines and their creation.

There are some of the most popular indie game studio and their creation now, such as:

  1. A Single Moment by Tobie Abad
  2. Academia: School Simulator by Squeaky Wheel Studios
  3. Dream Defense by Altitude Games
  4. Flippy Bottle Extreme by Most Played Games
  5. Garrison Archangel by Indigo Entertainment
  6. Mayari by Ingenuity Games
  7. Nightfall: Escape by Zeenoh Games
  8. Pets Race by Kooapps
  9. Project Xandata by Secret 6
  10. Shots Fired by Chryse
  11. The Letter by Yang Yang Mobile
What is their main business? Is it service, IP or both?

Companies like Altitude Games, Indigo Entertainment and The Studio of Secret 6 do both service and original IP, with Altitude working mostly with publishers rather than clients. The Studio of Secret 6 is an international art outsourcing firm that works with AAA game studios.

All the others do original content either on Steam or mobile with Kooapps as one of the oldest independent mobile game studios that do all original content.

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Are there any local publishers who only publish a game from the Philippines developers?

There is currently no local video game publisher focused on publishing Philippine made games. Most of the developers are self-published or work with international publishers.

That’s all, thanks, Gabby and Gwen for your time!

Edited by Devi




About Writer

Febrianto is the Senior Editor of Duniaku.net and the Lead Editor of Gameprime.org. He started his career in game industry as a game journalist since 2008, and was one of the initial members of Duniaku.net since 2011. His biggest interest is local game developer scene. Currently, his mission is to spread the news about Indonesia’s game industry to both local and international game and creative industry’s enthusiast.