Opinion – Ronaldo Lemos: Hand crank video game brings lessons to Brazil

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Opinion – Ronaldo Lemos: Hand crank video game brings lessons to Brazil

Playdate is the name of a nice portable video game that fits in the palm of your hand. The device has a small crank that works as one of the controls within the games. In one of the games, when the crank is turned forward, the character travels to the future. If rotated backwards, it travels to the past.

Playdate is capable of giving a real lesson on the subject of industrialization and innovation for Brazil. The console was developed as the first hardware project by Oregon-based game company Panic (creators of the universally acclaimed “goose game”). As soon as it was released, Playdate sold 20,000 units in 20 minutes at $179 each.

This extraordinary success also brought despair. How to manufacture hundreds of thousands of units to handle the huge demand? The US has long ceased to be competitive in hardware manufacturing. The company then looked for partners in Asia capable of manufacturing the device at a good price, quality and speed.

The country chosen for this was Malaysia, more precisely the city of Sungai Petani, which has become an industrial hub. Malaysia, despite still being economically smaller than Brazil, produces around 29 billion semiconductors in silicon and gallium arsenide per year, with an annual growth of 10%. The country currently participates in around 80% of the back-end chip production globally. What factors put Malaysia in this place? Brazil should study this carefully when thinking about the theme “reindustrialization”. How did a developing country manage to occupy a strategic position of this magnitude?

But let’s go back to Playdate. Another innovation of the device is that you don’t buy the games, you subscribe to the service (in a model similar to Netflix). Every two weeks the device receives a new surprise game. It’s a way to keep customers delighted and revenue constant. In addition, the company has created an open game development kit. Any developer can create games for the device. Do you know what programming language the games are made in? Lua, the Brazilian language created in Tecgraf at PUC-Rio. In other words, Brazil also participates in the development of Playdate.

If Brazil really wants to reindustrialize, it will need to look at global cases like these. Understand how hardware and software are coming together and on which parts it can be competitive. In games and design, the country has already shown that it is good at fighting, as evidenced by the existence of a Brazilian game company like Wildlife. But, if the country wants to occupy a relevant role in the industry, it needs to project which path it wants to follow. Decide what you can do locally and what can be leveraged through global supply chains, as Playdate did.

The path Panic took to create its first video game forces us to think carefully about what the term “reindustrialization” means today. We can look at this issue from an innovative perspective, leveraging national production with global chains. Or to the past, trying to maintain a static industrial model. Turning the crank forward or backward.

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