GAMING is still considered a pastime in Pakistan, something to berate children as they waste their time on their cell phones. As an industry, however, the size of the global gaming market is expected to reach $546 billion by 2028, according to Fortune Business Insights.
Pakistan has a mobile-oriented gaming market, which means that the main mode of consumption of games is through mobile phones rather than consoles, computers or virtual reality. According to Intenta Digital, mobile games are expected to generate $171.3 million in 2022.
The gaming industry in Pakistan aims to produce applications for mobile phones. “They are all cut and paste from each other,” laments game engineer Shehmir Riaz Bhatti, who works on Texas Hold’em poker for a Chinese company.
“Pakistan is growing, no doubt, but our workforce is not top notch. Hardly any big branded game company, such as Call of Duty [owned by Activision Blizzard]has a presence in Pakistan, while all of them have one or two branches in India,” he said.
Experts say venturing into Metaverse, VR could open up new avenues for local game studios
He lamented that major game studios in Pakistan assign a popular game to their team with only one mission: to change the user interface and model and incorporate so many advertisements.
Big investments are made to market the game to ensure its downloads, but no effort is made to develop a unique product, he added.
Advertising revenue from downloads accrues to the publisher. Thus, their interest is not in innovation or creativity but in cloning popular games that allow you to earn quick money.
Moreover, the lack of access to capital paralyzes promoters who want to work with passion and ingenuity.
Big budget, multiplayer, complex, strategy and battlefield games require investments of up to millions of dollars and a development period that can span several years. On the other hand, the cloned hyper-casual [short, lightweight, instantly playable] games can be created in a week at a cost of $2,000 to $4,000.
However, Mr Bhatti added that even in hyper-casual games there is a lack of creative thinking.
“Think of popular games such as Subway Surfers or Temple Run. Pakistan has not developed such a title, but all the other gambling houses are making a parking game. So why would international companies be attracted to talent in Pakistan when they are so poorly presented?” He asked.
From mobile apps to Meta
But as Pakistan focuses on hyper-casual gaming, it’s moving towards more progressive frontiers.
“Currently, we are working on an NFT or non-fungible token-based platform, Virtua, which will soon be launched into the metaverse as a complete ecosystem,” said Warda Rashid Khan, producer at Technology Studio Big Immersive based in Lahore.
“There are a lot of IPs that Virtua works with, for example, Godzilla vs Kong and Top Gun. These brands gave Virtua the exclusive rights to create NFTs and publish them on Virtua,” Ms. Khan said.
His job is to acquire the required information from the brands and evaluate what products can be created that will be integrated into the Virtua ecosystem, outside of the market. They have three types of apps: mobile apps, desktop, and virtual reality (VR) through which users will interact with NFTs.
With the integration of the Metaverse into the gaming community, Pakistan can jump from the mobile games niche to create space in the Metaverse – an opportunity several companies are already taking advantage of. Over the next five years, Pakistan will have a huge role to play in the metaverse, Ms Khan said.
The gaming industry is also facing a shortage of skilled labor, especially developers and designers.
“Pakistan produces about 20,000 computer science graduates every year, but they mostly go to work for software companies,” said Samar Hasan, co-founder of Epiphany Games.
“Since most universities do not have a proper game development curriculum or even courses, there is a shortage of skills. This has made game studios reluctant to interact for fear that their talent is poached,” says Ms. Hasan.
“Universities should be encouraging people to consider this career option rather than just pushing people into more traditional tracks,” said Ms Khan, whose career path began with a software house before she started freelancing. on Fiverr and eventually become a full-time producer.
However, she said the “mostly Lahore-based” game development industry is growing and opening up now. But such barriers prevent the sharing of vital knowledge to enable the industry to keep pace with international developments.
She felt that whenever a new technology is introduced, games are the first to experiment with it, whether it’s virtual reality, metaverse, artificial intelligence or NFTs. It is through the implementation in games that the potential of a technology is assessed.
“If an industry acts as a training ground for new technologies, why not see how important that particular industry is?” Ms. Khan wondered.
Posted in Dawn, November 6, 2022