In international standards, an average Bangladeshi can not be categorized as "wealthy". At the end of 2020, GDP per capita of countries like the US and Canada stood at USD 65,298 and USD 46,195 respectively whereas, Bangladesh's GDP per capita stood at just USD 2,064. Hence, it has always made more sense for the average Bangladeshi to buy pirated copies of the video games they love instead of buying those at steep rates, which is set keeping much better economies in mind. A game priced at USD 60 is affordable for an average American earning a minimum wage. However, that is not the case for an average Bangladeshi, who can not afford BDT 5000 as easily as his/her counterparts in countries in developed economies.
Without being affordable, it is tough for a game to have a local community, the cornerstone of any game's success. For one defining characteristic of being free-to-play, some games have gained more popularity in Bangladesh than the others, which require gamers to buy the game first. The original version of PUBG or PC games like Call of Duty multiplayer, which required the gamers to buy the game first, could not get popular in Bangladesh. Sami Ar Rahman, a professional competitive Valorant gamer, believes that video games would not be as big in Bangladesh as it is now if pirated games were not there. "The best part of pirated games is that you can try a game before buying it. Without piracy, I could not have continued my journey as a competitive player as I bought the pirated version of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive before buying the game later. Realizing how fun and irresistible the game was, I eventually bought it and my career followed," Sami added. This narrative is applicable to almost every budding gamer in Bangladesh.
Although the practice is not commendable, piracy plays a significant role in making video games more accessible in Bangladesh and keeping the demand alive. A huge portion of these initial consumers grows to be the buyers who pay for the games they play. Besides, ensuring affordable content is also an important aspect for hardware sellers in Bangladesh so that they can justify their consumers' purchase and upgrade of hardware. Even giants like Microsoft and Sony have started to rely on this idea with their subscription-based services. These lucrative deals ensure more players than conventional selling of games online do.
According to a game market analysis company named Newzoo, the local gaming market in Bangladesh was worth USD 62.22 million in 2017. In recent times, this has increased drastically as Bangladesh has seen a rise in video game streamers on platforms like Youtube and Facebook. This will further evolve into more vibrant communities and a more spirited esports scene in future with more sponsors and stakeholders.
When this happens, probably the piracy industry could be reluctantly thanked for its role in making video games available and letting the kids fall in love with them in the first place. And maybe gaming giants would finally see the greater benefit of the subscription model and play around with it to encourage legal, affordable gaming for all.
The Daily Star and Toggle do not encourage piracy of any sorts.
Illustration: Zarif Faiaz