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Pakistani Games Industry: 4 Steps to Leveling Up

Jehan | Sep 02 2022
Pakistani Games Industry: 4 Steps to Leveling Up

Play-to-earn, NFTs in games, the metaverse, AI, and so much more – the Pakistani games industry is jumping over obstacles and sliding under roadblocks with a distinct panache!

We got first-hand insights from the horse’s mouth at +92Disrupt: LHR Edition. The panel titled ‘Level Up: Rise of Mobile Gaming’ walked us through more than just the future of handheld gaming, the conversation evolved to discuss Pakistani talent, publishing capabilities, and a whole lot more!

The panel in question had Babar Ahmed, Ali Ihsan, Khurram Samad, Saad Hameed, and Warda Rashid, and it was moderated by Samar Hassan, who validated the meteoric rise of game production in Pakistan by stating:

“2-3 years ago, if there was a conference on entrepreneurship, there wouldn’t be a panel on gaming”

Why Do We Need a Gaming Panel at a Tech Conference?

Babar Ahmed, CEO of Mindstorm, tackles this question head-first through two ideas:

The Video Game Industry Drives Change

Whenever there is a new technology, one that is a tectonic shift in how human beings interface with technology – in computing, internet, mobile, etc – we need to look at which industry drives that change.

Historically, it has always been gaming.

A Career in Video Games is now Taken Seriously

Those at the peak of their careers, at the age of 30-40, will be told that gaming is not a serious field to work in. That is so far from the truth. The existence of a video game panel at +92Disrupt, with the kind of names on it, is a testament to that.

Each individual on the panel can create meaningful applications and solutions but they choose to build games because it’s technically challenging and disruptive.

But optimism and promise aren’t enough. There is a lot of debate about Pakistan’s IT industry being worth between $2-3 billion. On that note, Babar Ahmed claims:

“The gaming industry can (singlehandedly) upend that, and then some, and we don’t need 10,000 people, we need 50 people in one room!”

The Pakistani Games Industry: 4 Steps to Leveling Up!

+92Disrupt: LHR Edition played host to an expert panel that answered a very pressing question in regards to the Pakistani games industry: how do we make our mark globally?

1. Keep Building Games – All Kinds of Them!

Samar Hasan posed a question that received a unanimous response. The question? “Are hyper-casual games under threat because of PUBG and COD?”

Firstly, let us explain what HCG (hyper-casual games) are: These are instantly playable, bite-size games, usually found on mobile platforms.

Having said that, mobile platforms, which were once a safe haven for HCG games, are now just a vehicle for fast-paced, competitive, and goal-oriented shooters.

However, that is no threat to HCG or any other kind of game, in fact, it may just be a blessing! Here’s why:

Gamers Know What They Want

If you play games, you know that the title you play depends on your mood. You won’t play the same game, or the same genre of game, all your life.

Hence, one day, you may be playing COD: Warzone with your friends, then find yourself rushing through Candy Crush levels as you wait for your turn at the doctors!

Warda Rashid explains this well from the other side of gaming, the designer’s perspective, saying: “The first step to creating a game is knowing whom you’re making it for; if they don’t play FPS (first-person shooters), they won’t play FPS”!

The Gaming Industry is Ever-Evolving

There will always be someone who wants to play what you’re making. For instance, hyper-casual games have been around since the days of flash gaming in the mid-to-late 2000s.

And despite the massive leaps in tech advancements at the hands of video game developers, HCG games are still around.

HCG Industry is Lucrative for the Pakistani Games Industry

Since the Pakistani game development industry has just started to find its ground, focusing on HCG is a great stepping stone.

Babar Ahmed recounted a story of one of Mindstorm’s more memorable successes: a basic game on makeup. Doesn’t sound too impressive or revolutionary, does it? Well, it made them $15 million.

And there are several more examples of these kinds of success throughout the industry! Hence, to expand on these revenue scales, Pakistani companies should focus on creating games that are:

  • Low Cost
  • High Revenue
  • Rapidly Developed

HCG Acts as an Intro to Gaming for New Audiences

Ali Ihsan became the self-proclaimed ‘numbers guy’ on the panel, giving us quantitative insights into the industry. He throws us an approximate number to paint a picture of the impact of HCG, and it’s staggering!

“Hyper casual games are how the uninitiated discover games; they have expanded the base of gamers from 500 million to 3 billion.”

How? For instance, when we get into anime, we start with an easier-to-understand show, and eventually, we start watching the more complicated ones.

The same is the case with gaming. Most newcomers will start with an 8-ball pool, Candy Crush, and Clash Royale type of game, and before they know it, they’ll be investing in a PC or Playstation.

There is a hierarchy, and gamers can be found subscribed to any one of these throughout their gaming journey:

  • Hyper casual
  • Casual
  • Mid-core
  • Core

2. Maintain Publishing Power

The only threat to Pakistan’s HCG market is international publishers. They hire Pakistani talent to help build prototypes, which they publish as games and make money, bemoaned Saad Hameed.

Publishing is essentially the route to making money with games. Publishers take a massive cut; so for instance, if a game makes $10 million, $7 million will end up going to the publisher.

Therefore, since Pakistani game developers are doing everything but publishing, there is a massive chunk of revenue we are missing out on.

Why Don’t we Publish?

Lets take the IT industry as an example. From the 80’s to the 2000’s, Pakistan was never a product-oriented technology industry.

Instead, we would outsource labor, leading to success stories like:

  • Netsol
  • Systems Ltd
  • Techlogics

What we Learned

Eventually, these companies wanted to build products. They learned that they cannot scale by simply providing services.

in the past, this may have been a problem in Pakistan because of a lack of presence of VCs, angel investors, and other sources of funding – this has now changed!

How do we Take Control of our Publishing Capabilities?

Investment is the need of the hour, and how developers use this investment is even more important.

Having the funds and the guts to publish will not only deter Pakistani talent from plying their trade abroad, it will inspire new blood to enter the industry.

Babar Ahmed was cautiously optimistic but full of hope as he claimed, to applause:

“We need investment and gaming can lead all of IT in Pakistan”

3. Fight for More Freedom with Financial Spending

There are banking and regulatory roadblocks that keep the Pakistani game development companies from spending money in other countries, mostly in the form of customer acquisition and marketing costs.

This hesitance from financial institutions persists, despite local developers showing their successes off the back of advertising abroad.

Ali Ihsan goes on to highlight this cycle: “If we advertise abroad, we’ll achieve more prominent gaming success stories, but for that, we need to start publishing in-house.”

4. Gamify all Industries!

“Gamification is the way forward; khan academy did it” – Khurram Zafar

There is a learning curve to anything we start, and the easiest format for this curve would be through gamification. Numerous edtechs, such as Khan Academy and Wondertree, have gone down the same route with much success.

Therefore, like banking, education, or even hiring, a gamified process makes learning anything easier. The metaverse is a great example of this.

The panelists agree to calling it a ‘speculative investment space’; however, its first viable experiences came from games. Therefore, the best way to describe the metaverse would be as an RPG (Role-playing game)!

However, the key redeeming factor of gamification will always be that it makes everything boring, easier to learn, and that includes things like compliance, road safety, behavior change for interfaith harmony – the possibilities are boundless!

Good Game, Well Played!

The panel at +92Disrupt recalibrated our thoughts on the Pakistani games industry and attempted to get all aspirants on the same page, and to those present, it did just that.


Read about what we learned in +92Disrupt: LHR Edition’s panel on toxic work cultures, click here. To find out more about +92Disrupt: KHI Edition, click here!