In the early 1990s, playing arcade games like Mustapha opened a whole new world for Bangladeshi children. Fast-forward to the modern day, and technology has accelerated the growth of a new generation of gamers in our country. Yet, 20-25 years later, our country is yet to grasp the huge reach and prospects of the global gaming industry—let alone accept the idea of providing training and building careers in gaming—which, at present, is worth almost USD 152 billion worldwide. To put this in perspective, gaming is worth more than both the movie and the music industry combined!
There are many ways game developers generate revenue—such as through the traditional sale of hard copies of video games, online distribution of video games through third-party clients like Steam, Epic Store, etc., and in-game micro-transactions with things like loot-boxes and sales of customised features (which allows free-to-play (F2P) games like Fortnite and other Battle Royale games to thrive).
In 2018 alone, the gaming industry generated almost USD 135 billion worldwide. It has marked a steady 10 percent growth for two years and is expected to reach USD 180.1 billion by 2021. However, Bangladesh's video game market is worth only USD 63 million, less than a mere 0.05 percent of the global market value. This is mostly because of negligence and the improper treatment of enthusiastic people who wish to delve into video game development. We are losing crucial animators, developers and coders to the outside market. However, there are a small number of Bangladeshi companies who are trying to change this trend.
Gaming enthusiasts and developers of Bangladesh started developing personal computer (PC) games in the early 2000s, starting with a racing game named Dhaka Racing set in the streets of Dhaka. It was the first 3D game developed by Bangladeshis. Then in 2004, a first-person shooter (FPS) game called Arunodoyer Agnishikha was developed by Trimatrik Interactive. Unfortunately, game development in Bangladesh was halted for the following eight years, until in 2012, Team 71 delivered Liberation 71.
Recently, the hype for local games reached a peak in gaming communities, as some big titles were announced for release, such as Agontuk and Annihilation. Developed by M7 Productions and Attrito, Agontuk will have an open-world setting, and Annihilation will be the first-ever FPS online competitive game developed by Dhaka-based Crisis Entertainment. While PC game developers are facing some negligence in Bangladesh, our mobile gaming industry is showing steady growth over the years, and some developers are even providing world-class games and applications. The Mascoteers have already established a dominance in the smart-phone gaming sector, as well as in television games, Gear VR (a virtual reality headset) games, and on many other platforms in Bangladesh. Now, they have over 25 games in the Google Play Store, which is no small feat for a local game development company. Tap-Tap Ants, downloaded 15 million times, is also one of the most popular games developed by the Bangladeshi company Rise Up Labs.
However, despite slow but somewhat steady progress, we are still far behind in the gaming industry. In contrast, our counterparts in India are flourishing; they are focusing more and more on their gaming sector and reaping the rewards, which is contributing to their economy as well. Currently valued at USD 890 million, the Indian gaming industry is expected to grow at an annual growth rate of 14.3 percent, with mobile gaming taking the lead with a share of 71 percent of growth. Today, the number of game-developing companies in India stands at over 100 and is growing exponentially, although in 2010, this number was only a mere 25.
Although Bangladesh still lags in the game development industry, there is a huge number of gaming enthusiasts in the country who consistently participate in various gaming events and even compete nationally. While the most likely career path in the gaming industry is as a developer, coder or animator, very few people are aware that there is also the possibility of becoming a professional gamer. However, there is still a lack of global exposure. In 2018, some of the Indian companies invested in e-sports, with prize pools of over INR 10 million. Comparatively, the Bangladeshi gaming competitions operate on a much smaller scale. AIUB Cyber Gaming Fest, AMD Gamers Fest Dhaka, Axiata Game hero, etc. are some of the gaming tournaments and e-sports events that are being held in Bangladesh.
E-sports is another factor that is contributing to the rapid growth of the video game industry and silently taking over the entertainment world. The opportunities and the scope for growth in this sector are immense, given that there are 2.6 billion video gaming enthusiasts around the world, and the numbers only keep skyrocketing. Today, a professional gaming career is a lucrative one, since numerous competitions are organised around the globe and tens of thousands to millions of dollars are given away as prize money. A few of the highest-paid and the most prestigious e-sports competitions today are Fortnite World Cup, DOTA 2 Championship, Call of Duty World League (CWL) and League of Legends World Championship.
In the global arena, the salaries of game developers can range anywhere from USD 50,000 to USD 120,000, depending on seniority and experience, which can often take between one to three years of development. In 2014, the Bangladeshi MassiveStar studio began a project to train 80,000 students as video game developers. Observing the potential of this industry, Mustafa Jabbar, the Minister of Post and Telecommunication, expressed his worry over the local gaming market being occupied by international companies. He is right to show concern; the proliferating gaming market is increasingly generating revenue as the number of gamers rise every day, and local developers need to be quick and grab this opportunity as soon as possible. In an unprecedented move, the government of Bangladesh actually did undertake the "Skills Development for Mobile Game and Application Project", worth BDT 2.82 billion. However, this project focuses primarily on mobile applications and games, and fails to explain the diverse ways in which the gaming industry can boost our economy.
Gone are the days when gaming was only considered to be an undesirable hobby for bored teenagers, and describing it as a "niche market" is a massive understatement. It is a booming industry where continuous innovation and the launching of more and more games is generating more revenue than ever thought of before, and where there is no possibility of a drop in demand anytime soon. Bangladesh needs to immediately get on the gaming bandwagon and invest in technologies and training that will allow people to pursue lucrative careers in this industry. We also need to get rid of a distrust of games and gaming as a "waste of time" and embrace careers that belong in the 21st century and can ride the waves of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
For now, we can only hope that one day, our local developers will develop AAA games (informal classification for games produced and distributed by mid-sized or major publishers with high development and marketing budgets), or that we will have an Assassin's Creed title that is set during our Liberation War and is designed and written by our local developers. With the right training and investment, there is no reason for us to be unable to reach this level, but we need to act now, before it is too late.
Ahmmed Madhurja and Soumik Siddique are students of the Department of Marketing, Jahangirnagar University.