Can Pakistan's gaming industry move on from 'copy-paste'?

GAMING is still viewed as a pastime in Pakistan, something to chide kids about as they fritter away their time on their mobile phones. As an industry, however, the global gaming market size is expected to reach $546 billion by 2028, according to Fortune Business Insights.

Pakistan has a mobile-first gaming market - meaning the main mode of consumption of games is cell phones rather than consoles, computers or virtual reality. According to Intenta Digital, mobile games are expected to generate $171.3 million in 2022.

Pakistan's gaming industry is aimed at producing apps for cell phones. 'It is all copy paste from one another,' laments game engineer Shehmir Riaz Bhatti who is working on Texas hold 'em poker for a Chinese company.

'Pakistan is growing, no doubt, but our workforce is not top calibre. Hardly any big brand name gaming firm, such as Call of Duty [owned by Activision Blizzard], has their presence in Pakistan, whereas all of them have a branch or two in India,' he said.

Experts say ventures into Metaverse, VR could open new avenues for local gaming studios

He bemoaned that big gaming studios in Pakistan assign a popular game to their team with one assignment: change the user interface and model and incorporate as many advertisements.

Heavy investments are made to market the game to ensure its downloads, but no effort is made to develop a unique product, he added.

The advertisement revenue from downloads accrues to the publisher. Thus, their interest is not in innovation or creativity but in cloning popular games that allow for a quick buck.

Furthermore, the lack of access to capital cripples developers that want to work with passion and ingenuity.

Big ticket, multi-player, complex, strategy and battlefield games require investments that can go up to millions of dollars and a development period that can stretch into years. On the other hand, cloned hyper-casual [short, lightweight, instantly playable] games can be made 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 any such title, but every other gaming house is making a parking game. So why would international firms be attracted to talent in Pakistan when it is showcased so poorly?' he asked.

From mobile apps to Meta

But while Pakistan focuses on hyper-casual games, it is moving towards more progressive...

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