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Play Austria: Coffeehouse culture reaches into the game industry

Thursday, September 14th, 2017 | Gadgets

Once there were opera houses, now digital worlds are shown: On the 15th and 16th of September the Play Austria takes place in the Semperdepot in Vienna, which according to the organizer is "the first exhibition of the Austrian game scene". In the high, elegant studio house of the Academy of Fine Arts, 50 local game designers show prototypes and finished games. "We want to offer a platform for all who play games in Austria," says Jogi Neufeld, whose club Subotron organizes the fair. However, most of the approximately 50 exhibitors are only known to the profound knowledge of the Austrian gaming industry.

There is no doubt that Austrian studios always succeed in attracting the attention of the games fans. AAA projects of the format of an Assassin's Creed or Uncharted can be found here however in vain. "Austria is currently missing a lighthouse company – just like in Germany or Switzerland", says the game developer Hannes Seifert. It is no wonder, however, that many studios are one-woman or one-man company. The Sproing company, which is by far the largest in Austria, is Austria's leading developer studio. Since 2001, the company has been employing over 100 people, of whom about half have remained after the bankruptcy last year. Sproing became known with titles like Undercover: Operation Wintersonne and blow the Raab; current projects include Panzer Tactics HD, Asterix and Friends, Quarantine and Nonstop Chuck Norris.

Apart from that, only a few studios from Play Austria can make their debut internationally. The most famous – Broken Rules from Vienna – landed an indie hit with the platformer And Yet It Moves. Later games like Chasing Aurora or Secrets of Raetikon were not quite as successful. With Old Man's Journey Broken Rules has just presented a fascinating platform game, which gets very good reviews on Steam.
In the 80s Austria's Games were more successful
Hannes Seifert remembers better times in the Austrian computer game industry. Already in 1987, Seifert programmed his first games on the C64. In 1993, he founded Neo Software together with Niki Laber and Peter Baust├Ądter, which was taken over from Take 2 in 2001 and renamed Rockstar Vienna. The success of the science fiction roll-up Whale's Voyage actually made Neo Software a lighthouse of the Austrian games industry in the mid-nineties; other well-known companies were Max Design and JoWood.
"In the late 1980s, the Austrian industry has developed very well," recalls the 45-year-old, who is now Country Manager DACH at Riot Games in Berlin. "The companies were naturally forced to become international in such a small country, there was no hot market." With Whale's Voyage, Neo software came first to the British market and later to the German market – enough to achieve a decent range.

Fortunately, the Austrian gaming industry remained faithful to the Austrian gaming industry. Rockstar Vienna still played on titles such as GTA III and Max Payne 2, but in 2006, Take 2 closed the branch; Max Design and JoWood also had to close. Since the Rockstar-Vienna-Aus, the thesis is that the studio closure was an initial spark for the Austrian indie scene. Hannes Seifert puts this into perspective: "Of course, there are a lot of successful companies of different sizes, which were created during this time, and there was a lot of talent in the Rockstar Vienna team that went their way, but ' I consider it exaggerated. "
Instead, the industry developed rather cautiously.

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