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Pakistan’s video game industry struggles to earn foreign currency and create jobs for developers

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s video game industry has gained international recognition by developing award-winning products, although it has not found it easy to generate foreign exchange or create jobs for young developers in the absence of government support and international payment gateways like PayPal, as it admits. leading industry players this week.

The country’s game studios contributed $171.3 million to the national economy last year, reflecting their minuscule share of the more than $300 billion global market.

Pakistan’s video game industry employs nearly 8,500 people who help local companies create products for different platforms, including mobile phones, desktop computers, Mac devices and consoles such as PlayStation and Xbox.

Speaking to Arab News, Pakistan IT Industry Association President Muhammad Zohaib Khan said the country could employ 3,000 more developers annually to achieve 30 percent year-on-year growth in the industry’s outward remittances. , as long as it was invested in human resources. and skills development programs.

“We need to invest in the game development and animation skills of our young people to get a fair share in the global gaming industry,” he said. “Our designers and professionals will have to be trained to compete internationally by developing quality products.”

A video game designer draws character sketches on a digital tablet at weRplay, a game development company based in Islamabad, Pakistan, on September 14, 2023 (AN Photo).

Fawad Asghar, CTO of weRplay, an award-winning game development company based in Islamabad, agreed with him.

“Pakistan does not have even one percent (share of the global gaming industry),” he said, mentioning the lack of game development training opportunities in Pakistani universities along with the absence of government support for the industry.

Asghar’s company was founded in 2010 and employs almost 250 people. He has created around 40 games in all these years, including “Lost Twins 2”, which won international awards thanks to its demo released for iOS, Android, PC, Mac and Nintendo, etc.

The organization plans to release the game on all platforms in the coming months.

“We hope it’s a big win for us,” he said, adding that it took developers at his company about four years to develop the game. “I guess it will be the biggest game yet for weRplay.”

A video game developer from weRplay, a game development company based in Islamabad, Pakistan, develops animations for video games on September 14, 2023 (AN Photo).

Responding to a question about the company’s revenue stream and target audience, Asghar said around 90 percent of the revenue was earned through downloads and ads, with much of it coming from the United States.

Another game produced by the company, “Run Sheeda Run”, had one million downloads in Pakistan, although it said it was very difficult to generate revenue here.

Explaining the reasons behind the low gaming revenue in Pakistan, co-founder of tecHouse Games in Lahore, Sanwal Nawaz, said the cost per ad impression rate in the country for 1,000 was only Rs 30 to Rs 40 (between 0.1 and 0.13 dollars), while it was 15 to 40 rupees (from 0.1 to 0.13 dollars). $20 in US and European markets.

“We don’t have a good economy,” he told Arab News. “Therefore, those who play in Pakistan do not make in-app purchases, which keeps our revenue negligible.”

Nawaz noted that developers in Pakistan lacked capital to market and promote their games online to capture a larger market in Western countries as they would have to pay a minimum of $300 per day for this purpose after the game is launched.

“If you don’t invest in marketing, it means your game won’t do well in terms of revenue,” he continued, adding that the industry was becoming difficult for those with minimal capital since Google had recently changed its algorithm to promote only paid ones. . advertisements.

Furthermore, Nawaz noted that Pakistani universities did not offer degrees in animation and games unlike the developed world, making it difficult for developers to compete internationally with only certificate courses in game development.

“There are no shortcuts in this industry,” he said. “Your product will only be sold if it meets international standards.”

Screenshot taken on September 14, 2023 from a video game shows the splash screen of the game ‘Explottens’. (A picture)

Discussing the impediments to the growth of the industry, Khizar Javed, head of business operations at weRplay, said it was not easy to pay employees working for the company in other countries.

“We have to go through the hassle of withdrawing money before depositing it into (employees’) accounts through other channels which are not so cheap,” he said, adding that authorities should introduce payment gateways like PayPal and Stripe in Pakistan as that they were “pretty good.” convenient and cost-effective for money transfers.”

Despite all odds, he noted that weRplay had produced award-winning games.

Huda Mahmood Khan, who worked on “Lost Twins 2” and “Explottens” for the company, described Hayao Miyazaki, a Japanese animator and filmmaker, as her inspiration.

“If you look at them, they have a very immersive but slightly unreal world that we’ve created,” he said.

Khan specifically mentioned “Explottens,” saying that it was selected among the top 30 games worldwide and subsequently did very well.

He said it was an action arcade game that revolved around “cats that fly on planes and have their own world.”

“We built that world and the entire game around (that concept),” he added.

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