Piracy is Synonymous with gaming in Pakistan. Think of it as a necessary evil in a country with average national income of just over $1,000 and inadequate recreational facilities. While the availability of cheap games has been the core factor behind the commercial success and viability of gaming in Pakistan, there are always 2 sides to a coin. PG’s very own 08lly and radd discuss the issue at hand.
In Pakistan, whenever you set out to buy an Xbox 360 game, you don’t leave the house Rs 3000 or 4000 (unless you’re a PS3 loser ). You go to your local cd-wala and hand over Rs 100-200 and walk out with a brand new Xbox 360 game to play. If you’re an avid gamer, this scenario can occur multiple times in a week, not limited by available funds. But how does this dependence on piracy affect us as gamers?
Because pirated discs originate from the likes of Malaysia, most commonly, new games do tend to take a while to reach Pakistan. This delay may be a few days, but could stretch to up to weeks on end, maybe even months (Guitar Hero 3 still hasn’t come out pirated ). Much wanted games such as PES and FIFA Street 3 came out very late in Pakistani stores. Gamers may be forced to go through the hell of downloading games, given the dismal situation of internet in Pakistan. The quoted time of release from shop-walas is extremely unreliable (eg: a shopkeeper told me daily for two weeks on end that FIFA Street 3 was going to come out the next day).
Sameer has brought up some interesting points, gaming in Pakistan is a whole different dynamic. The cheap software and pricey hardware is almost opposite of the situation present in the west. Since the amount of monetary investment in a game is lower, it can be argued that so is the emotional value and utility.
The gaming store clerks are the butt of the jokes in the U.S. infamous for blurting out the most hilarious and ludicrous stuff. That said, they are nothing compared to the Aristotles we have here! Some of the most deluded people on the planet! I never miss a chance to strike up a conversation with one of them.
The delay regarding game releases isn’t that big, when you’re getting games this cheap you can afford to wait a week or two. Some would now say, look who’s talking?, I personally went to rainbow 5 times in 7 days in hope of Halo3 but hey, games like that don’t come around often . The number of games that have been delayed for more than a month is low and you have awesome folks like shayansheraz (formerly), manigamer and vryus on pg who burn games for you on request. (free advertisement dudes!)
Perhaps the most important affect is how piracy affects our online play. Not a week passes without post or thread on PG asking whether playing with a flashed console on Xbox LIVE will get you banned or not. The answer, simply, is yes. With most 360’s in Pakistan being flashed to play pirated games, the Xbox LIVE population is limited to those few who are willing to go through the hassle of playing original games instead of or in addition to the pirated games. The situation is made worse by the fact that non-pirated games are simply not available at your average game shop. This forces people to resort to piracy and thus, lose the chance to experience the joy of Xbox LIVE.
Live is like a drug, once you connect you can never leave. It just takes the experience to a whole new level! Missing out on live is reason enough to start buying original games and in this regard Microsoft has been very clever. This is the best way to counter piracy, give people stuff that they cant live without rather that spend R & D money on copy-protection softwares and stupid DRM.
The good news is that the frequency of banning from live has decreased substantially. Popular theory is that Microsoft decided banning pirated players from live is not worth it since they bought live subscriptions and provided revenue. If assumed to be correct, this is also a good move since most people in third world countries would rather not go on live at all or buy a new console rather than buying multiple original games.
Another argument that gets more attention than it deserves is the fact that Live costs money and PSN on the PS3 is free. This comparison couldn’t be more wrong. Monthly subscription fee for live works out to Rs. 250 per month which is very affordable by ANY standard. Furthermore, The money you would spend on one original PS3 will net you 16 months of live!
However, piracy does not only affect us in these ways. It also affects how we are gamers (difficult to explain what that means). For example, if you are like me and buy a new game every week, then you tend to lose interest in the previously bought games much faster. Unlike in places where people play originals, there is little concentration on bettering your skills in a particular game. The tendency to lose concentration seriously affects our gaming ability, we are not so ‘hardcore’ anymore. In addition, the lack of internet play affects our gaming ability as the best way to become better at a game is to play it against better opponents, and who is better, computer or other humans? The skill level isn’t really tested when you fight mindless alien hordes that do the SAME thing OVER AND OVER.
Another great point raised by 08lly, remember when you were a kid and could only buy one game a month/week etc. Back then games were valued. You would hang around even if you didn’t find the game that good at first since you wanted your money’s worth out it. The sense of discovery in playing games that you didn’t like at first or weren’t the genre you usually play was amazing. People used to give games a bit more time to make a first impression. This is something which is missing from today’s gamers. Cheap games have devalued the importance of games. Nowadays if a game doesn’t interest me in the first 30 mintues, I don’t play it for a long while, If ever. The situation isn’t as bad as it used to be a few years ago, achievements have slowly crept into our gaming sub-conscious and have added tremendous value to games.
Piracy in Pakistan isn’t really all doom and gloom though. Its such a bonus that one tends to forget the disadvantages. The obvious advantage that we can afford to play more games. In the end, we are left less skilled gamers, albeit with a kick-ass game collection.
While some might say piracy is a crime, and they are probably right, the hard facts are that it was the way we were introduced to games and its one of the reason why we have been actively gaming for so long. Eradicating piracy will only benefit Pakistan in the longer term but its not possible to accomplish this task without incentives. Something like Microsoft initiative in India is required. I’m sure a sizable number of our gaming populous would go crazy over original games for under Rs. 1000.
Rather than dealing with the problem head-on, those concerned should start by building their image in the country. Inform them the advantages of having original games and make them affordable enough that a substantial number can buy them. Companies should concentrate on offering premium quality services to owners of original games to force the pirate games to rethink rather that cut down the supply of pirated games and send the niche market that exist to oblivion.
An average Paki gamer does not possess the rocket science of video gaming, nor he/she is exposed to the gaming world through marketing. People buy pirated game in Pakistan without feeling any remorse but they can’t be blamed for not having a utopian buying power. A Rs. 999 proposal in India is a step in right direction to abolish piracy and something similar could be implemented in Pakistan but the international gaming industry has to dedicate a lot of capital for a country with a limited knowledge of gaming like Pakistan where less than 5% of populace is actually a gaming community, which is in stark contrast with our colossal neighbor. Moreover our government are not going to discourage piracy anytime soon in Pakistan, which implies that Paki gamers are on their OWN.
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