La Palma fights to get rid of the lava and its stagnant economy, heavily dependent on bananas, and looks, albeit timidly, to the technology sector as a way out. The last of the projects that seeks to grow on the beautiful island is that of cocobay, an upcoming free-to-play video game created by Draco Blocks, an island-based startup that will base its operations on the metaverse. The project of the startupbased in Santa Cruz de La Palma, has been developing for seven months at Lanzadera, the Valencian accelerator owned by the president of Mercadona, Juan Roig.
The proposal of cocobay goes through the creation of a video game based on the creation of a metaverse (that is, a virtual world in which you can interact with other people or with the environment) accessible to all, as explained in a telephone conversation from Valencia by its promoter, the mathematician Palmero (although born in Tenerife) Javier González Ferrer, 27 years old. “Our metaverse can be seen as a cross between Minecraft and a social network”, he relates, “although our proposal is more about co-creation with user communities”. Not in vain, for Ferrer “the most important thing is the community”, given that with it “the project can be monetized before having the product itself”.
The business model of startup It is fundamentally based on the sale of virtual objects within the created universe itself (clothes, avatars, for example), as well as the possibility of carrying out campaigns with brands that they want to advertise. “We intend to create a metaverse that is a benchmark in the Canary Islands and that allows us to take advantage of the amount of wasted talent,” he says. Ferrer claims to know the product well. “I’ve been a player since I was 12 years old,” he explains. “I’ve spent hours and hours in the metaverses old-school. With the development of blockchain and cryptocurrencies, and now with the popularization of NFTs (tokens non-expendable, in its acronym in English) it has been proven that you can make money, which led me to launch and set up this project”.
Cocobay, highlights the president of the Canarian Special Zone, Pablo Hernández, is part of one of the three projects approved so far this year by the direction of the low taxation mechanism and special tax regime for companies. The other two projects that are being developed on the island are those of a computer company from Germany that carries out artificial intelligence developments for consumers (with clients such as the South Summit entrepreneurial event, points out the ZEC) and a high-tech company . Together, these two companies have ensured the creation of 22 jobs and an investment of 3.2 million euros.
La Palma is an eminently agricultural economy (more than 11% of its GDP depends directly on the cultivation and export of bananas, and the indirect impact easily reaches 30%) and with tourism as a second point of support. After the eruption of the volcano, practically all political leaders have argued at one time or another the need to diversify the island’s economy. “The recovery in La Palma can come from the hand of the technological sectors, easy to implement and with a lot of added value”, bets Hernández. According to ISTAC (the Canarian statistical institute), Hernández points out, the technological sector of La Palma employed 169 people in 2019, which became 195 in 2020. The year 2021 closed with 209, with the logical brake imposed by the eruption of the volcano. “But the conditions are there, and La Palma can capture technological employment with remote workers.”
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subscribeCharacter from the video game Cocobay, created by the company Draco BlocksDraco Blocks
The Canary Islands public administrations have focused in the last year on capturing and developing the video game industry, “a sector that complements that of animation and the special effects industry, in which the islands are becoming strong”, Hernandez explains. The archipelago, as revealed by the White Paper on Spanish Video Game Development, is considered the third autonomous community that most supports studies, only surpassed by Catalonia and the Community of Madrid, which account for just over 60% of the total number of companies (the Canary Islands have 2.5% of the Spanish total, according to the document edited by Desarrollo de Videojuegos, the Spanish employers association of the sector). Hernández, in this sense, highlights that this industry “did not exist just two years ago” on the islands and recalls that, among its strengths, is the fact that the Canary Islands is the only area that offers tax refunds of 45% of what was invested. in video game development.
According to the ZEC, videogames can constitute one of the main bets to reduce youth unemployment and create new jobs in high-paying sectors that do not require a long learning process or university courses. The same happens with the animation sector, which is advancing with some advantage. This second industry did not exist in 2016 and currently employs more than 1,000 people, with an annual growth rate of 99.8% since that year. Productions such as League of Legendsa series that at the end of 2020 inherited from The Squid Game the position of the most watched series on Netflix during the three weeks in which its chapters have been distributed. Tara Duncanfor its part, has been the first series entirely produced in the Canary Islands to share space with the Beatles and starwars on the Disney + platform.
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