Made in Bangladesh: How the local video games industry levels up
In the global entertainment business landscape, the video games industry has not just grown; it has exploded, eclipsing even the combined revenues of the film and music industries. It is poised to achieve a revenue of US$622.80 million in 2023, with an anticipated annual growth rate (CAGR 2023-2027) of 11.57%, propelling the market volume to an estimated US$965.10 million by 2027, according to Statista Market Forecast.
In contrast, Bangladesh's game development market, although smaller, shows promise. In 2021, the market was valued at $62.22 million and is part of a broader $0.37 billion gaming industry in the country. Projections indicate that this market could double by 2026.
Esports is also a growing sector within the gaming industry in Bangladesh. Popular titles include Counter-Strike 1.6, DOTA, FIFA, Rainbow Six Siege, and Call of Duty. Bangladeshi esports players have collectively earned $216,681.51 USD from 99 tournaments so far.
High-stake events like Discovery One's BESL Episode V and IGE Community Series Valorant 2023, Discovery One Cup Season 2, along with the GPxAOV Community Cup 2023 offering a BDT 3 lac prize pool, indicate a burgeoning esports scene that's constantly on the growing path.
Given the industry's consistent profitability, one might expect Bangladesh, which graduates over 20,000 software engineers yearly, to have a thriving game development market catering to its vast consumer base and fresh graduates. However, despite early optimism about gaming in Bangladesh, marked by the launch of a local game 'Hatirjheel: Dream Begins' nine years ago, the industry has struggled to gain traction. Video games are often seen as non-essential, leading many talented individuals to seek opportunities abroad, and draining the nation's pool of expertise.
MD Musabbir Hosain, Managing Director at NapTech Labs, a Dhaka-based game development company, points out that the initial challenge is an insufficient workforce, which necessitates extensive training for new recruits. "The initial challenge revolves around insufficient workforce. Upon recruiting new team members, the necessity to provide them with training emerges as a significant obstacle for the times ahead," he says.
The industry is also plagued by a lack of robust investment. While the anticipation for groundbreaking Bangladeshi games is fervent, extended-release delays like 'Agontuk' disappoint fans. Social media pages for games like the first-person shooter 'Project Judgement' lie dormant for years. Even the few games that hit the market often offer subpar gameplay. It's crucial to recognise that despite their dedication, developers struggle with tight budgets and modest pay.
The perceived absence of profitability has led to hesitancy among investors, causing many promising projects to be shelved prematurely. This reluctance has a ripple effect, discouraging students from specialising in game development and exacerbating the already significant skills gap.
Arif Mohammad, CEO of TechnoMagic, a local animation and game development company, underscores the importance of educational institutions in bridging these gaps. A more straightforward educational pathway to game development could significantly ease many of the industry's current challenges.
"To date, what we suffered from is the lack of resources. If the educational institutions enabled a much easier pathway to game development for graduates, that would make things much easier," he says.
Nonetheless, notable companies in Bangladesh's game development sector like Riseup Labs, Ulka Games, and Azmi Studios continue to hold up the torch. Ulka Games' 'Ludo Club' has achieved significant success, surpassing 100 million downloads.
Additionally, indie games like 'Zero Hour' by Attrito M7 Productions have shown that there is a market for quality, locally-produced content.
The game development industry in Bangladesh stands at a critical juncture. With the right investment, educational focus, and strategic planning, it could well become a significant player in the global gaming arena. The industry offers more than just financial gains; it serves as a platform for creative expression, skill development, and even national pride.
As Bangladesh navigates this complex landscape, the time is ripe for a multi-pronged approach that involves educational institutions, the investment community, and governmental support to catalyse the industry's evolution.