Let the games begin! | #cybersecurity | #cyberattack


PUBLISHED
July 10, 2022


KARACHI:

If we talk about the fast-growing industry in Pakistan, without a doubt, one will name Information Technology (IT). This is mainly because of the recent boom in digital services and people starting to use computers and mobile phones with the availability of the internet. These computers and mobile phones have not only helped different sectors to go digital but have given a boost to a sector which can be identified as the fastest-growing and revenue generation sector in the world and Pakistan – Game Development.

It won’t be wrong to say that game development is one sector that has the potential to take Pakistan out of debt. The industry that is gaining interest in Pakistan and currently making $ 40-50 million per annum has the potential or generate $ 1 billion if there are enough developers to work in the gaming studios operating in Pakistan. Currently, approximately 30,000 game developers are working in Pakistan, and the sector still needs 10,000 game developers in a year. These developers are not only paid well but have a fast-growing careers.

There are around 300 gaming studios that develop games mainly for the international market and some for the local too. Of these, only 50 are considered tier 1 gaming studios generating decent revenue for the Pakistani market, but the pace of scaling up is low.

This highlights the need for training camps, game jams, and boot camps, where the IT graduates and small gaming studios are trained to make better games and how generate more revenue by tweaking the company’s operations and giving them a new direction.

Pakistani game developers

 

If we look back to the history of Pakistani game developers, we see them developing different types of games from the 1990s, but that was more in PC and console games. The world has shifted to mobile games, where most gamers focus on playing games on their mobile phones rather than on PCs or consoles.

The developers shifted towards mobile games in 2005 to 2006 when smartphones entered the Pakistani market. “As the mobile games were popular outside Pakistan, the Pakistani developers started making games for the international market. The developers grew over the years but in a limited space. The mobile games were not that popular in Pakistan, but it was the starting,” said CEO of FRAG Games Ali Ihsan.

Soon the industry and the number of developers started to grow. According to Ihsan, by 2012 the game development industry started gaining momentum, and since then, it has been in continuous growth. “The major boom came when the Pakistani gaming community started to play PUBG Mobile during the COVID times. In the last five years, we have seen rapid growth. Resources grew over five times while the revenue increased by six times,” he said.

Ihsan highlighted that this rapid growth was due to the created ECO system. “First, the graduates joined the gaming studios already working for international clients. After working with them for some time, they learned how to deal with the international market, so they started their own studios. This not only helped them make decent earnings, but it also grew the gaming industry, created jobs and increased revenue generation,” he said.

Comparing the market size, the gaming industry in the world is worth 180 billion USD and is expected to reach 220B USD this year. “If we compare Pakistan game industry with the world, it is of only approximately 40-50 million USD. Although it is a small emerging market that has the potential to become one of the leading markets,” said Nosherwan Malik, CEO of Apex Logics.

He added that the shift to mobile games is universal, and in Pakistan, people have shifted from PC to Mobile. “Mobile games have acquired more new users in Pakistan as well. Currently, Pakistan has 269 million mobile game players. Most of the games are for mobiles as we are a self-publishing mobile games studio, and we have developed over 50 games for mobiles and five for other platforms.”

Sharing details of the Pakistani market, Vice President of Data.ai, Junde Yu, informed that the game developers are getting more mobile game downloads globally. “From 2018 to 2021, downloads of the games made by Pakistani developers grew by 358 per cent. Games from Hazel mobile, The Knights Inc, and Finz have contributed the most,” said Junde.

He added that Pakistan games have generated the most revenue from North America and Europe. “During the time frame of 2018-2021, the revenue has increased to 125 per cent. “An explosive growth has been seen in Pakistan gamers engagement from global gamers, a growth of 4,800 per cent during 2018-2021,” he said.

According to Google Managing Director of App Development Paula Wang, there are nearly three billion gamers worldwide, and 50 per cent of gaming is on mobile. “The emerging market will drive 85 per cent of the market. By 2024, the emerging market will snowball, including Pakistan,” she said.

Game Engine and Games

 

There are many game development engines, but two types of game engines are primarily used in the world, Unity by Unity Technologies and Unreal by EPIC Games. Most games are made on Unity as it is an easy platform and of the low spectrum.

In Pakistan, the case is the same. Both Unity and Unreal are used, but more developers are focused on the games developed on the Unity game engine. ­There are four gameplays and genres; Hyper-casual, Causal, Mid-Core and Core. In Pakistan, the developers focus on hyper-casual and causal games, while some work in mid-core, whereas core games are the least observant.

The hyper-casual games include Nail Saloon, Base Attack, Blob Runner, Catch and Shoot, Giant Rush, etc. They are the easiest to make, and the revenue is based on advertisement. “These are the simple games to play and have the largest play group of two billion players in this category. The developers in Pakistan start with this, and once they gain the experience, they move on to the next level of gameplay,” said Ihsan. “The Pakistani developers work with international publishers, and they advertise and pay on the game’s success.”

The Causal games include popular games like Candy Crush by King, Temple Run by Imangi, Subway Surfer and others in puzzle games, hidden object games, adventure games, strategy games, arcade and action games, word and trivia games, and Card and board games. These games are free to download and generate revenue from ads and in-app purchases.

Then comes the mid-core and core games. These are most difficult to develop and are made on Unreal. The Unreal engine supports high-quality games with better graphics. These are the type of games that are most played in Pakistan. These include PUBG, Fortnite, Clash of Clans, and other PC and console games made on this engine. These games gained more popularity and momentum during the pandemic surge.

Junde shared that although open-world and simulation games are well received by Pakistani gamers. But hyper-casual game genres like action, puzzle, and simulation are top subgenres in the world and have room for growth. “PvE shooting games by Pakistani developers have huge penetration, but downloads are low, so this area can be targeted,” he said, adding that if Pakistani developers work more on driving simulation games, they have a big market in Spain, South Korea, and Turkey.

 

“Arcade games have more market in Indonesia. Simulation games are well-liked in US and UK markets, and more monetization can be done. Casual games like Connect Tiles games are easy to create and have the market in US and Japan, and these types of games are less complex to develop,” he added.

Ishan added that Pakistani game developers are not working in core games because of the developing skill set and the resources. “Right now, Pakistanis are playing core mobile games more, but they are not being developed much in Pakistan. Firstly, because we don’t have that skill set, and secondly, the resources are also not present per the industry’s requirement,” he said.

Talking about the mobile games and PC games, he said that the first game Cricket Revolution was developed on PC, and after that, different games were developed but still not much work was done on these games after mobile games got popular. He added that FRAG games are the only studio with Sony and Nintendo licenses to develop console games. “You have to access the special hardware that these companies give to the studio to develop console games. Right now, FRAG Games is the only company with the access,” he explained.

Gaming Platforms

When developing a game on Unity, the developer keeps in mind all the platforms will be targeted once launched on the app stores. In mobile games, the two types are android and IOS based. “Almost all the games made on Unity are for cross platforms, and they are available for Android and IOS, but as there are more users on Android, the prime focus is on Android,” said Nosherwan.

According to 2019 stats by Statista, globally, smartphones based on Android hold 87 per cent of the market while IOS users are just 13 per cent. “Only six per cent of Pakistani users have iPhone, and 93% are Android users. So out of 269 million users, only 16 million are iPhone users, and over 250 million are Android users,” added Nosherwan.

The Pakistani developers are also working on developing games for the platforms like Netflix and TikTok. TikTok is one platform that has the potential to reach a larger audience. With the home to one billion monthly active users globally, the TikTok games have the potential to reach a larger audience and generate more revenue.

According to Reuters, TikTok, owned by China’s ByteDance, also plans to roll out gaming more widely in Southeast Asia. It said that the company has tested bringing HTML5 games, a common form of minigame, to its app through tie-ups with third-party game developers and studios such as Zynga Inc (ZNGA.O). While the company will start with minigames, which tend to have simple gameplay mechanisms and a short playing time, its gaming ambitions extend beyond that, it added. TikTok’s games will likely carry advertisements from the start, with revenue split between ByteDance and game developers.

Ihsan said that the Pakistani developers have the skill set to develop games for TikTok. They will have to ensure that the platform is available and not banned again by the regulators. “This has a huge potential not just in Pakistan but globally. The public in Pakistan is using this platform too much, and just like PUBG gave the boost to the Pakistani gaming industry, TikTok can be the next big thing to scale up the industry,” he said, adding that the developers have to keep on scaling themselves up but trying out new opportunities.

Google helping Pakistani Developers

The year 2022 has been a good year for Pakistani developers as Google realized the potential of the Pakistan gaming market and launched the first Gaming Growth Lab in Pakistan to help accelerate Pakistan’s digital gaming industry. The Lab was a five-week virtual programme designed to help emerging mobile-gaming enterprises expand their offerings and grow their businesses.

Farhan Qureshi, Regional Director, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, Google, said that Google saw a huge opportunity to support emerging local developers and help them expand their offerings to an international audience. “Through the Gaming Growth Lab, we offered access to our products and platforms, like Cloud, Ads, AdMob and Play, as well as provide mentoring sessions and workshops to help nurture and grow these enterprises.”

They helped the developers by giving them insights on the gaming ecosystem and global growth opportunities, access to Google’s cloud solutions and technology to build user-friendly apps, education on growth and monetization models, including user acquisition strategies and then provided knowledge on data and measurement through tools like Google Ads and Firebase to help companies achieve data-driven growth.

Nosherwan, while talking about how Google helped him and his company grow, said, “Google has a major role in our success. They keep on educating us about the related latest market trends. They reviewed our current process, provided suggestions, and when we implemented it, we got excellent results,” he said.

“Google is playing a vital role in uplifting Pakistan gaming industry. Google provides development, publishing, monetization and advertising support to Pakistani developers. They shared the best practices required for the successful game launch in Pakistan. There are many success stories in Pakistan which were achieved with Google support,” he added.

Around 57 gaming studios were selected out of 250 participating in a 5-week education first phase of Gaming Growth Lab. In the second phase, they received 1:1 support and mentorship from Google experts to help them build on the learnings from the program’s first phase and take their businesses to the next level. They also joined coaching sessions led by Google experts on topics such as Google Play, Google Cloud, and measurement and export, where they can acquire more learnings on game creation and growth.

Farhan said that Google aims to make Pakistan a global gaming powerhouse and put Pakistan’s gaming industry on the world map. “Whether we’re talking about gaming developers looking to create, grow, or monetize games, Google is committed to supporting all of them on their growth journey. I’m excited to see the progress made by Gaming Growth Lab.”

Besides working with the emerging gaming studios and developers, Google also hosted Pakistan’s first thought leadership and knowledge-sharing event for game developers think Games Pakistan’. The two–day event was attended by 1,600 developers and game experts and aimed to create an environment for Google leaders and local gaming experts to share insights, tools, and best practices to help developers build, grow and scale world-class games.

Google also holds Gaming Growth Lab (GGL), an 11-week acceleration program designed to help emerging mobile game studios in Pakistan reach their full potential by addressing their business challenges and expanding their offerings. The participants went through training workshops and deep-dive consultations where they had access to a wide range of experts from Google and the gaming industry. This year a total of 54 mobile gaming studios graduated.

 

One of the GGL graduates was MicZon, a mobile gaming publishing company founded by Nouman Sharif in 2018. “The company’s key learnings from the GGL include strategies on user acquisition and games monetization. Since joining the program in March 2022, MicZon has seen a 35% increase in app downloads and revenue and is forecasting a 20% year-on-year growth in downloads and revenue for 2022,” said Ehtisham Malik, Head of Marketing at MicZon

“The GGL program is an important initiative that will take Pakistan’s gaming industry to the next level. All the information we learned at GGL has been beneficial and relevant to our business,” he added.

Farhan further talked about Google’s initiatives sharing that Google has trained 400 teachers in 13 cities so they could make the coding process more fun and easy for young tech explorers. “We have a Google developer group that targets college students, and we reached over 100,000 people last year in this process. We started our gaming journey in 2019 with ‘Game Launcher’ and took Pakistani game developers to Singapore and trained them on the development and provided them with the opportunity to interact with different game developers who were present there from other countries,” he said.

“This year, we have focused more on gaming. We launched a newsletter, ‘Google for games’ on gaming and then started the gaming growth lab. We will launch an apps academy learning lab with small videos to explain the promotion process. Our mission is to put the Pakistan gaming industry on the world map,” he added.

Abdus Samad, Director and co-founder of Finz Games, said, “We work in fighting, basketball and soccer simulation games. For youngsters, I would advise using the data-driven approach and knowing both your audience & opponent. Launching a game takes an experiment; you learn from it and apply the necessary change. When a good idea is pitched to us by team members, launch it for a 30 pc audience and learn from the results. Google development workshop taught a lot, including that foundation is a key point for growth. You need proper insight and build a team that is focused.”

Local Training and Scope of the Pakistan Gaming Industry

Many gaming studios are working with the training institutes like Game Train, an industry-led initiative; top studios are their patrons, and they hire students from them. “We have Game District, GenITeam, FRAG Games and 30 other companies that recruit from us,” told Masoom Zeeshan, the founder of Game Train to The Express Tribune.

“We upscale science and art graduates in a two to three months training camp and then inject them back into the top studios and help them create better games for Pakistan. We did a Junior Unity Developer program with Unity Technologies in San Francisco. We got more than 1000 applications, and 160 graduates from that program have 95% placements in top studios. They were part of the global curriculum and state-of-the-art global-level training. In this tier two, universities were targeted to solve resource shortage problem,” she said.

Ihsan, also the Chairman of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) Pakistan chapter, said that Pakistan has a lot of potentials to become one of the top markets in the world. He said that the Pakistani developer industry has the potential to generate more than one billion USD per annum.

“The main issue is of the resource. The Pakistani gaming studios and industry have the potential to accommodate 10,000 developers a year, and if we can make 20,000 developers, we can generate two billion USD in a year,” he said.

Talking about the scope of the gaming industry, he informed that every year the Pakistani IT universities graduate 25000 students, and out of these, 5,000 are employable. “We work on the next 10,000. The top 5,000 will get jobs at the gaming studios, but the next 10,000 who are from tier 2 and 3 universities and train them to become employable at the top gaming studios in Pakistan,” he said.

He added that the parents need to understand the future of jobs. “If anyone asks me, I would undoubtedly suggest graduating in Computer Science. When a computer science graduate is trained for some months and then joins a gaming studio, his first salary is between Rs50,000 to 90,000 per month. Salary accelerations range from 20 to 30 per cent per year. A three-year graduate can easily make 300,000 to 400,000 per month. This is such a big market and the future too. Right now, Pakistan requires developers,” he said.

The need

Talking about the level of high schools, Ihsan said that our education is not up to the mark in high schools, so when these students are enrolled on universities, their level of understanding is deficient. “They need to scale up so that when a student graduates from university, he can do basic game developing and with the help of boot camps and Game Jams where students come and go after developing a game would do wonders,” said Ihsan.

Ihsan, also a member of the Board of Directors at PASHA Game’s committee, said that the previous government took some excellent steps to boost its industry, but things are different with the new government.

Games and Textiles were exempted from tax but now have been included in the Final Tax Regime (FTR). “We don’t mind paying tax, but we request the authorities not to exploit it. If we are making money, we don’t have an issue paying tax, but we should be able to operate without any hassle,” he said.

He concluded by saying that more and more students should enter this industry and take Pakistan to the level when it becomes the top market for mobile games and top-level PC games.



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