Gaming: one of Malta’s few industries that built a local ecosystem | Marisa Xuereb

The gaming industry is one of the few local industries that has managed to build a local ecosystem around it, and one industry where Malta is an established brand that has a strong presence in international conferences and events

The gaming industry in Malta is celebrating 20 years – 20 years of success during which this industry grew steadily and now accounts for over 8% of GDP directly. Today, the gaming industry employs close to 10,000 people – that’s around 4% of employment – and provides work for hundreds of professionals who provide supporting services for the industry. Its Gross Value Added per employee is among the highest across all sectors.

The National Employment Policy 2021-2030 documents a 15.5% average annual growth rate in employment in the gaming industry between 2010 and 2019, and an average annual growth rate in Gross Value Added of 7.3% per annum in the same period.

GVA did not grow in line with employment at least partly due to enhanced compliance requirements that have impacted productivity in all financial-transaction-based industries. Yet, during the period 2010-2019, the gaming industry grew by an impressive 88.3%, reaching 8.4% of GDP in 2019. 2020 and 2021 are problematic years for statistical comparison purposes due to the curtailment of substantial sectors of the economy by COVID.

But the gaming industry performed exceptionally well during this period too. When one considers the indirect and induced effects, the gaming industry’s contribution to the Maltese economy exceeds 12% of GDP.

The development of the gaming industry in Malta was of course not without its challenges.

Over the past decade property prices and rentals increased substantially and the gaming industry – even though known for its good salaries – was among the first to draw attention to the fact that. Malta will become less attractive for foreign workers if property prices increase faster than what local industries can keep up with.

Malta was one of the first movers in gaming, but other jurisdictions have tried to emulate the Maltese regulatory framework over the years. The move to remote working, accelerated by COVID over the last couple of years, has also had significant impact on the work practices of industries such as gaming that can have employees working remotely from all over the world.

These new realities provide more opportunities for Malta-based gaming companies to recruit talent globally. But they also present challenges in terms of retaining the competitiveness of Malta as a location for living and working.

The gaming industry in Malta has had significant spill-over effects on the local tourism and entertainment industry, on real estate, on the job market particularly in the digital sector, and on banking and financial services. It has brought to Malta thousands of young, well-educated, and well-paid workers who know how to enjoy their evenings and their weekends, which certainly benefitted the local hospitality and entertainment industries, particularly in the Sliema/St Julian’s area where many residential as well as office tenants work in the gaming industry.

In terms of digital talent, Malta has benefitted from the skill-set brought in by the gaming industry but has not been able to keep up with the demand for digital workers, not just within the gaming industry but across the whole economy.

Yet the gaming industry is one of the few local industries that has managed to build a local ecosystem around it, and one industry where Malta is an established brand thar has a strong presence in international conferences and events. Malta was able to build on its first-mover advantage in this industry.

One issue that has been a challenge for the gaming industry for several years is banking. Local banks have largely shied away from the industry and the local fintech industry is only recently stepping up to provide real alternatives to traditional banking channels.

In a sense, the local gaming industry, despite all its spillovers onto other sectors of the economy, has grown within its own ecosystem, largely underrepresented in business policy fora. Here at the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, CEOs of some of the most influential businesses across all sectors of the economy sit together to share experiences, lobby for a more business-driven economic environment, and influence policy in ways that are unmatched by any other business representative body.

This can be done because of the broad representation in terms of both sector and size of business that is embodied by our circa 2,000 full members who together account for more than 75% of private sector employment and exports.

Up to now, leaders of the gaming industry has been conspicuously absent from our head table and from the heart of economic policy discussions at national level. It is high time to correct this.

This is an industry that generates over 12% of our GDP. This is an industry that is built on regulatory excellence and digital skills – areas that we continue to regard as pillars for our economic future not just in the gaming sector, but also for the development of new industries some of which are potential spinoffs of the gaming industry. This is an industry that is a local economic success story of the past 20 years. Its rightful place is therefore as a business section within the foremost business representative body in the country: the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry.

The challenges faced by many industries today are very similar, chief among them talent development, recruitment, and retention; enhancing our digital infrastructure and capabilities in all sectors including fintech; rebuilding of the country’s international reputation; operating under a new international tax regime; and balancing economic growth of the quality of life of all those who live and work here.

We can deal with these challenges much more effectively together than if different industries operate in silos. Here at the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry is where we all come together.