The local gaming community is comprised of a tightly-knit group of passionate console crusaders.
While video games have had us button bashing for a few decades now, only recently has the Maltese movement began to “level up”. Whether it’s a souped-up PC or an eighth-generation entertainment system, players out there are raking in the XP right now.
Sony’s PlayStation exploded onto the Maltese market in the late nineties. It’s fair to postulate that its impact broadened the gaming audience in Malta, effectively creating a snowball effect.
However, it took years until local gamers evolved from a group of leaderless enthusiasts. Previously, without official meeting points, tournaments or clubs, live gaming sessions were limited to private LAN nights and the odd multiplayer session.
Recent years have welcomed a few bright blips on the gaming radar.
Gamers.com.mt has grabbed the local community by the scruff of the neck. From humble beginnings to throwing events with over €6,000 in prizes, founder Kersten James Chircop and his loyal band of eSports organizers are giving gamers a reason to keep on winning.
Originally an online portal where gamers would congregate, Chircop’s school project blossomed into a company that produces the country’s most competitive gaming tournaments.
The first official event took place two years ago, in November 2012, and was met with resounding success.
“We realized that eSports has a great audience here in Malta and is packed with potential and talent” commented Andre, a member of the marketing team. He said that since their inception, they’ve “received amazing feedback from the community”, and their most recent three-day gaming marathon at the Malta Comics Expo (Oct 31st-November 2nd) has only added fuel to their fire.
Tournaments hosted by Gamers.com.mt feature popular gaming classics such as Counter Strike and Call of Duty, as well as FIFA, Defense of the Ancients (DotA) and League of Legends.
Besides being at the forefront of the local scene, Gamers.com.mt also aims to help Maltese players compete with the world’s elite, as well as bringing foreign competitions to our doorstep. Their focus on expanding and enriching the community is refreshing, to say the least. They’ve garnered 12,000+ likes on their Facebook page, no small achievement for a Maltese organisation.
With regards to gaming shops, we’re blessed with a varied selection, and most are stocked with all the latest products available. From controllers, consoles and old school games to second hand titles, local establishments are slowly catching up with the worldwide standard. Unfortunately, prices for gaming-related products are much steeper than oversees, so knowing which store has the best prices can save a lot of money.
The University of Malta and the Institute of Computer Education (ICE) now offer postgraduate studies and courses on gaming studies and development. The seeds are being sowed for the future, and it’s only a matter of time before we begin to infiltrate the gaming industry.
Unfortunately, piracy restricts powerhouses like Microsoft and Sony from officially releasing their hardware here.
In 2009, the Times of Malta featured an article which stated that the International Data Corporation (IDC) found local piracy rates were as high as 45%. Higher than the EU average, this number represents huge losses, in excess of €5.5 million.
Other countries enjoy mega events when a console is released, whilst the Maltese are limited to queuing outside their gaming shop of choice. Product malfunctions are unable to be dealt with by companies directly responsible, and Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network do not work in Malta officially. Furthermore, plenty of geo-locked game content is unavailable to Maltese gamers.
As our island becomes a growing hub for information technology, one can only hope that piracy numbers will dwindle within the coming years. Regardless, gaming in Malta will soon be taken to the next level.
Expect our very own professional gamers soon enough, and a rapid growth in the eSports market.