OIGC 2014 – Interview with Square Enix Latin America’s Sabrina Carmona

Square-Enix-Latin-america-

As one of the largest ‘untapped’ gaming markets in the world, Latin America is at a crossroads. With a huge potential customer base and more buying power than ever before, the gaming potential of the area is almost limitless.

Two countries at the forefront are Brazil and Mexico, where Square Enix’s new Latin America studios are based. By hiring local talent and focusing on localized mobile gaming, Square Enix is taking big steps to succeed where others have failed. Before her talk at the Ottawa International gaming conference, we had a chance to sit down with Sabrina Carmona, senior producer at Square Enix Latin America, about what the future holds for this future gaming gold mine.

Nerd Reactor: With Latin America, the age demographic is very young. How do you think that will affect future video game sales in that region?

Sabrina Carmona: It definitely affects it. I come from the principle that you have to know to who you’re developing the game for. So you have to choose your audience, you have to choose your niche target, and I believe that says a lot about the market.  Latin America has a very young population and it’s going insane after smart phones and trying out new things, so whenever going into that market, you have to take that into consideration.

NR: Now would you say that the future of gaming in that region is leaning towards more mobile gaming as opposed to console?

SC: Definitely. In Brazil there are two smartphones per person, and there are people that do not read or write. And they’re not phones, they’re SMART phones. We have a huge Android base.

A PlayStation 4 in Brazil costs two thousand American dollars. TWO THOUSAND American dollars! In the United States you buy it for four hundred dollars, so that’s how much it costs for us to have a PS4. Why would I buy a PS4 if for a hundred dollars I can get a simple phone, and it’s a smartphone and I can play with it? Of course they are reluctant in paying a dollar for an item in the game because you need to convert. For us everything in dollars is really expensive. But then again, now people are getting aware of the costs of things. This console which is super cool, awesome and big it’s so expensive. “If I buy an iPhone I can get free games and if I want to buy something in the game afterwards it’s going to be like a dollar, so okay I can do that.” So now they’re creating consciousness.

Another thing that’s important — they are localizing payment methods because not everybody has credit cards or international credit cards. You were only allowed to put games on the Brazilian Apple Store two years ago. Before that there was no game section in the Brazilian Apple store, so everything starts later. That’s due to government and age restrictions, etc. They’re localizing payment methods,  there’s a payment method called “Boleto” that only exists in Brazil which means that they print a page and go to the bank and pay, and in twenty four hours it’s approved. So now you can actually access everything. So definitely yes, mobile is going to be way bigger than consoles there. It’s already starting.

NR: In Canada we’re famous for our [gaming] tax credits. You’ve got huge players like Ubisoft, Warner Brothers, EA…

SC: Square Enix…

NR: [Laughs] Square Enix. Are we seeing anything similar to these tax breaks in Brazil or in Mexico?

SC: To be very honest with you, it’s really expensive to go to Brazil. Ubisoft tried and left. EA tried and left. Some other examples if you do your research, they left. The reason why Square Enix is not in Brazil and it’s in Mexico is exactly because of that, there’s a lot of tax there. That’s why it’s so hard for big companies to settle in. So they’re still a little bit afraid of the market. The market wants to consume, the government does not want to lower taxes so there’s this “Is it safe? Should I go there?”

Mexico is definitely way cheaper and one of the cheapest in Latin America and one of the biggest too. If there’s a way in, it’s certainly through there, even though the big spender is Brazil.

NR: In terms of the rigid rules that are set by government, what would you change?

SC: Like I said it’s very expensive. There are a lot of taxes. There are a lot of laws and regulations in Brazil. […] For instance Mexico is way cheaper and they have tax incentives with Japan and with the United States so it is way to start. Since the ones that spend most are Brazilians, and the ones that are hosting the World Cup and everybody’s talking about it! It’s a little bit richer country, so they just want to go there, but it’s too expensive.

So what I would do, I would go to other countries. Chile has tax incentives. It’s a great way to start. It’s more expensive than Mexico but nothing is more expensive than Brazil. Trust me, we did the research at Square Enix. So Chile is also a very good place to start. They have a gaming sector and they have very good people. What I would do if I was a big company is go to Chile or Mexico and hire people from different countries, from Brazil, from Argentina, from Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador.

What Square Enix is doing is also really cool because they are working with local studios only. We’re in Latin America; we only work with Latin American studios for the Latin American audience. If it works out with the project then we go global.

So it is a bet of course but it’s a very good strategy. Also you have to bear in mind it’s not going to give you a result on the first or second project. It’s like any other company. You know if you talk about the Angry Birds people, game number fifty seven worked out. If for them it was number fifty seven, why [in Latin America] does it have to be number one, number two, you understand? It’s a risky business but eventually somebody’s going to get it right, eventually. And then it’s going to be like *door opening noise* and then everybody is going to want this new thing. There’s room there. Somebody’s going to go and get it, we just need to figure out who is going to do that first. It’s the next big bet.

NR: Sabrina, thank you so much!

SC: Thank you so much it’s been a pleasure!

Source: Square Enix Latin America Facebook,

Facebook Comments

About author

Eric Escaravage
Eric Escaravage 85 posts

Born and raised in the great white north, Eric grew up playing PC games and reading more Archie comics than is humanely possible. Clark Kent look-a-like on an epic quest to play all the retro games he wasn't allowed to as a child!