Mexican game developer Kaxan is the first tenant of Guadalajara's Creative Digital City, a high-tech development intended to attract investment and boost Mexico's profile in the communication and entertainment industries.
Local digital media firm Kaxan Media Group became the first company to move into Guadalajara’s Creative Digital City (CCD by its initials in Spanish) in mid-January.
Two years after the ambitious project was announced, construction of the CCD is only just beginning, but Kaxan, which primarily produces videogames and animated movies, was eager to support the initiative by becoming the first firm to relocate to the 380-hectare (940 acre) area where the high-tech complex will be located.
Creative Digital City: Reviving Historic City Center
“The goal of this project is to create a world-class hub of digital media development. CCD will span the creative industries from TV, cinema and advertising to videogames, digital animation, interactive multimedia and e-learning,” states the official CCD website.
Guadalajara is now set to join a list of major cities that have been designated “digital cities,” including San Francisco, Singapore Toronto, Paris, Prague, Dublin and Wellington. The birthplace of mariachi music, tequila and Mexican rodeo, Guadalajara is known as “Mexico’s Silicon Valley” and has a strong tradition of artistic innovation.
“Guadalajara is already a creative city. It has been for years. We’ve produced great stars like Guillermo del Toro, Carlos Santana and Maná,” Kaxan President Ricardo Gomez Quiñones told Global Delivery Report at his company’s new offices in the heart of downtown Guadalajara.
The most immediate impact of the project, Gomez said, will be the regeneration of the more run-down areas in the historic city center. The CCD site will be centered around Parque Morelos, a leafy park just a few blocks from the city’s iconic Metropolitan Cathedral. The park is currently home to craft markets by day, but at night it becomes a seedy marketplace for local prostitutes.
Yet it will soon be another showcase for the more positive aspects of the area. “I think the city’s historic center is really rich in terms of music, culture and art. You can find art museums, theaters, mariachi musicians, major newspaper offices, the State Congress, parks, plazas and historic buildings all right next to one another. These all combine to make it the ideal setting for a creative city,” Gomez said.
Kaxan Media Group: In Expansion Mode
A local success story founded in 2008, Kaxan is best known as the producer of Taco Master, a simple but addictive game in which users learn how to prepare increasingly complex orders of authentic Mexican tacos within an ever-reducing timeframe. The winner of best mobile game at the MTV 2012 Game Awards, it has been downloaded more than two million times in over 180 countries.
Moving into the CCD has enabled Kaxan to double the office space it previously held at Guadalajara’s Centro de Software complex, thus affording the company the room it needs to grow its workforce from around 100 to up to 200 by the end of the year. Kaxan will also have space to train new staff in Guadalajara for the first time, having used training facilities in Puerto Vallarta and the Chapala Media Park up until now.
One of the main advantages of settling into the area early is in attracting talent, Gomez said. “The University of Guadalajara arts campus is just 10 feet away right across the street. There are hundreds of art students right there so we have the chance to attract talent from there,” he explained.
“I think there are several companies that have plans to come here soon and others that are interested in moving here,” Gomez added. These include one major international corporation and two or three other companies to be confirmed within the next few weeks, it was recently revealed by CCD project coordinator, Mauricio Navarro Garate.
Gomez described the CCD as heralding “an important, positive change” in downtown Guadalajara. It will encourage people to reclaim public spaces and “discover new museums and restaurants that may have been here for years but you never knew they existed,” he said.
Kaxan’s decision to relocate was welcomed by Jalisco Gov. Aristoteles Sandoval. “This business’ move is a reflection of their faith in the results that this project is bringing for the city and the state in terms of fortifying the social fabric and generating employment, innovation and investment,” Sandoval said.
Phases of Development
Sandoval also took the opportunity to announce the inauguration of the CCD’s Supercomputer Center, which will store data, manage telecommunications services and provide users with access to tools for accelerating audiovisual production. It will serve some 3,000 users and cost 40 million pesos (US $2.9 million), with the state government and the National Council for Science and Technology splitting the costs fifty-fifty.
“Operations in the Supercomputer Center have now begun. This will serve as the operational nucleus of the Creative Digital City and will provide services to the ecosystem of businesses, educational institutions and research centers,” Sandoval said.
Construction of the Innovation Center for Economic Development Acceleration (CIADE), another of the focal points of the CCD, is set to begin in June, Sandoval recently revealed. Due for completion within 12 to 18 months at a cost of 455 million pesos (US $33.9 million), the CIADE will house an incubator, a business accelerator and at least 20 Mexican small or medium enterprises in the digital animation, videogame and film development industries.
The entire first phase of development includes the construction of the Creative Digital Complex, which is comprised of the CIADE; a new software center; anchor business facilities and parking lots; and infrastructural work such as the construction of bridges, walkways and renovation of the run-down Parque Morelos.
Different areas of the CCD will open in phases. The planners hope that within 10 to 15 years it will have consolidated its position as the Spanish-speaking world’s primary creative digital media hub. The aim is to attract US $10 billion of investment in the next decade and create over 30,700 jobs, including 19,100 direct jobs in the creative digital media industry. By 2023, the CCD will account for 14 percent of Mexican productions in the sector, the planners estimate.
Through initiatives such as the CCD, Mexico aims to tap further into the global communication and entertainment industry, which is worth US $1.5 trillion annually. In Mexico the sector has grown by 7.2 percent from 2008 to 2013. It is worth an estimated $17.4 billion and contributes 6.7 percent of Mexico’s GDP, according to Guadalajara newspaper El Informador.
Duncan Tucker is a freelance journalist from the UK. He speaks fluent Spanish and has lived in Guadalajara, Mexico for over three years. A former staff writer at the Guadalajara Reporter, Duncan is now associate editor of Nearshore Americas and also writes regularly for Al Jazeera and the Huffington Post. Much of his work can be found on his blog The Tequila Files. Follow Duncan on Twitter @DuncanTucker.