Vietnam is poised to strengthen its position in the global AAA game production value chain by investing in human capital and adopting cutting-edge technologies from overseas, according to representatives from Virtuos.AAA games, also known as triple-A games, is the industry term for high quality games produced by prestigious studios, known for their superior graphics, captivating narratives, and substancial production and marketing budget. The scale and investment required for such projects are comparable to those of major film productions. For instance, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, released in late 2023 and featured contributions from Vietnamese 3D art teams and had a budget of over $300 million, as reported by Forbes Magazine.

Some AAA games contributed by Vietnamese teams 

According to Mr. Nguyen Hoai Nam, General Manager of Glass Egg studio in Ho Chi Minh City, AAA games, with their stunning visuals and captivating storylines, have always been a magnet for the gaming community. Some successful AAA titles have even shaped the development trends of the entire game industry. Vietnamese teams have made significant contributions to many renowned AAA games, particularly in art production and special effects.”Despite these contributions, this genre is rarely highlighted in stories about the Vietnamese game industry,” Nam observed. “This is largely because AAA games are not as popular as other genres in the country, compounded by a shortage of high-quality human resources.”

The limited popularity of AAA games in Vietnam is largely due to their relatively high price tags, often ranging from hundreds of thousands to over a million VND per game. Players also often have to invest in expensive devices to fully enjoy the experience. One can compare AAA gamers to moviegoers at the cinemas – those who are willing to pay a substantial amount to immerse themselves in interesting stories with eye-catching imagery. According to data from research firm Adjust, Vietnamese gamers have shown a strong preference for mobile games, with a staggering 2.3 billion downloads in 2022. As a result, AAA games now face a formidable challenge in capturing the attention of the casual gaming majority in Vietnam.

Another significant factor is that the domestic gaming market is lack of synchronization. Most local game studios operate on a small scale, employing fewer than 30 individuals, and struggle to establish connections that could mobilize social resources to create a sustainable human capital supply. A survey conducted last year by LacBird, a game development and user research company, revealed that over 70% of game studios encountered recruitment challenges. In contrast, AAA game production not only relies on cutting-edge technology but also demands highly skilled talent across various specializations, including design, graphics, and programming.

Mr. Samuel Stevenin, Managing Director of the Art Department at Virtuos, highlighted the challenges faced by developers in Vietnam. Many of them have been self-taught or have undergone in-house training within game studios due to the recent emergence of specialized game development programs. “We see the opportunity to help them quickly enhance their expertise by working on a variety of AAA game projects from Virtuos’ partners across the globe. Along with that, we also have an internal training system among the network of studio members,” Stevenin stated.

After completing the acquisition of two long-established domestic art studios, Sparx* (opened in 1995) and Glass Egg (opened in 1999), Virtuos is nowone of the largest AAA game content creators in the region. With over 1,000 employees in the country, the company has succesfully brought multiple blockbuster AAA game IPs worldwide to Vietnam, such as Call of Duty, Final Fantasy, and Forza Horizon.

Virtuos recognizes its pivotal role in raising public awareness of AAA games and the genre’s potential for advancing the industry as a whole. Over the years, the company has actively engaged in branding initiatives, career guidance, and knowledge-sharing activities. These efforts aim to convince the game developers community with the possibility of making AAA games right in Vietnam.

“While the Vietnamese game development community may not currently focus extensively on the AAA game segment, I firmly believe that this genre will always serve as a perpetual source of inspiration and motivation for all game developers,” Stevenin emphasized.

According to Stevenin, ongoing technological advancements have enhanced processing power and graphics quality on mobile devices and bridged the gap between mobile games and AAA titles. Vietnam possesses a wealth of experienced mobile game developers who are experts in optimization. By collaborating with Virtuos, they can create larger games that feature more appealing graphics to reach a broader audience of players.

A workshop on AAA game art for mobile titles organized by Glass Egg studio

In response to the formidable standards in AAA games, local training institutions and universities have been stepping up their efforts to prepare aspiring game developers. Recognizing the need to bridge the gap between theory and practice, institutions like MAAC Vietnam and Arena Multimedia have forged partnerships with game production companies.

Since 2022, these academies have joined forces with Sparx* studio in Ho Chi Minh City to offer ProClass* courses to nearly 100 students passionate about a career in the game industry. The program is desgined to equip students with practical knowledge and hands-on experience, ensuring they are well-prepared for the competitive market upon graduation.

Under the guidance of industry experts directly involved in AAA game projects at Sparx*, learners delve into the intricacies of the game production process right within the studio. This immersive approach allows them to apply theoretical concepts in a real-world context.Mr. Dinh Tri Dung, General Manager of MAAC and Arena Multimedia Academies, lauds the collaboration. By the end of 2023, approximately 30 students had secured positions within the company after completing these specialized courses.

“The mutual trust and unwavering commitment by both the academy and the studio have helped pave the way for a curriculum that offers practical values to our students and takes advantage of each other’s strengths and resources,” Mr. Dung assessed.

A graduation ceremony of a training course on AAA game production

Participating in the global AAA game production value chain through companies like Virtuos offers Vietnamese teams the opportunities to import game development technologies from industry leaders. This knowledge transfer serves as a cornerstone for developing the future local game workforce with global competencies and approaches, and unlocks broader potentials for the entire industry.