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Belgian games industry had a good year – but it’s ‘a fragile ecosystem’

Top image: Outcast 2 by Appeal Studios

According to the latest survey report by the Flemish Games Association (Flega) the Belgian games industry had a good year in 2020, with a 17% rise in turnover compared to the year before to €82 million. For next year, 60% of the companies expect to further grow their turnover and almost half of the companies expect to hire more people. 

In order to get easier comparable results with other European countries, the survey changed the way they count active and registered game companies, leaving out game departments at non-gaming companies, research programs and educational institutions. It explains why the company count went down from 95 to 84. The majority of Belgian video game companies are based in Flanders (71%), the rest are located below the language border: Wallonia (20%) and Brussels (9%). 825 people are working in de games industry.

Thanks to Baldur’s Gate 

So €82 million sounds pretty good for a relatively small industry, but closer inspection reveals a great imbalance. According to the survey ‘a large chunk’ of that turnover came from 1 company, Larian Studios through the early access success of Baldur’s Gate 3. Larian is the only big company in Belgium (+250 employees). But the lion share of companies (72 out of 84) are micro (2-10 employees) or solo developers. 

Unstable and fragile

Flega General Manager David Verbruggen acknowledges the situation in the Belgian industry: “We have had this unstable and fragile ecosystem for years now. What we need is to professionalise the sector and help the smaller companies to grow to midsize and large companies.” The solution lies in additional money, either from the government in the form of tax incentives or obtaining more (foreign) investments. Preferably both according to Verbruggen: “A growing number of game companies are really pushing for a tax shelter to sustain future projects.” 

Find a niche

But for an industry to be sustainable it needs to be able to make its own money. Verbruggen knows this and his ideas for growth sound realistic: “Our studios need to find a niche and really excel there. Like we do in VR where we see some Belgian successes with Space Pirate Trainer, HyperDash and Cubism. Overall we need to produce more hit games that really make profits. Maybe look at other sectors and apply gaming tech in media or healthcare. And there is always NFT and blockchain.” 

2022 hold plenty promise with key releases like Baldur’s Gate 3 (unconfirmed, but likely), Outcast 2, Shredders and You Suck at Parking bound to release somewhere in 2022. It might just be the biggest year ever for the Belgian Games Industry. It will be interesting to see if that success rubs off on everyone. 

Eric Bartelson
Eric Bartelson
Editor-in-Chief of PreMortem.Games. Veteran game journalist for over 20 years. Started out in 1999 for game magazines (yes the ones made of paper) such as PC Zone Benelux, PlayNation and GameQuest, before co-founding Dutch industry paper Control Magazine.

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