Friday, August 18, 2017

Pakistani Mobile Game Company Opens Shop in San Francisco

Caramel Tech Studios, a Lahore-based mobile games company founded by three Pakistani brothers, is starting a new San Francisco startup, Fizz, that promises to do real-time translation for text chat in mobile games, according to a report by Dean Takahashi in VentureBeat.  Mobile games market represents a huge and rapidly growing lucrative opportunity for Pakistani game developers and publishers.

Caramel Tech Studio's Blades of Battle
The Zaeem brothers, Saad, Ammar and Shayan, got their lucky break when Halfbrick Studios, the Australian game company that makes Fruit Ninja, hired them to build a version of Fruit Ninja for the Nokia Symbian phone platform, according to VentureBeat.

The Halfbrick contract helped the brothers get more work with Kabam, a mobile game company that made hits such as Kingdoms of Camelot. Andrew Sheppard, then head of studios for Kabam, put Caramel Tech Studios to work on a mobile card strategy game, Order of Elements. The studio then worked for Animoca, a Hong Kong company, to build an Astro Boy mobile game.

Caramel Tech Studio attracted Apple's attention when the company decided to build its own title "Blades of Battle" that has been featured by the iPhone giant in 137 countries.

The idea of building real-time translation software company emerged when the brothers saw how important chat could be when they added it to one of their existing games. It cost them about $40,000 in development costs, but it enabled the players to be far more social. That snowballed into bigger download numbers and revenues, Ammar said. And once they built chat, they realized they could do it as a platform, according to VentureBeat.

The rapid growth of smartphones has helped Pakistani game companies to focus and find success in the mobile segment of the game market. One such Pakistani company is Mindstorm Studios, which was initially focused on the PC gaming sector, soon saw a bigger opportunity in mobile space. This new market holds tremendous potential as quality games can be built on smaller budgets.

In 2010, Mindstorm Studios released Whacksy Taxi, jumped to the top position in Apple’s App Store in over 25 countries, and was also featured in a review by CNET. Other popular titles include Mafia Farm and Kingdom of Heroes. These successes have helped Mindstorm Studios to increase cash flow, hire more developers, and focus on strengthening their position, according to Tech in Asia.

Following the success of Mindstorm, several other Pakistani companies, including Tintash, Caramel Tech, Gamestorm, and Gen ITeam have been quick to jump in and focus on building mobile games with global appeal.

Newzoo's Global Games Market Report estimates that 2.2 billion gamers across the globe will generate $108.9 billion in game revenues in 2017. This represents an increase of $7.8 billion, or 7.8%, from the year before. Digital game revenues will account for $94.4 billion or 87% of the global market.

Mobile is the most lucrative segment, with smartphone and tablet gaming growing 19% year on year to $46.1 billion, claiming 42% of the market. In 2020, mobile gaming will grow to more than half of the total games market, according to Newzoo.

Mobile games market represents a huge and rapidly growing lucrative opportunity for Pakistani game developers and publishers like Caramel, Mindstorm, Tintash, Gamestorm and Gen ITeam.

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Riaz Haq said...

State of play: Is videogame development on the rise in Pakistan?
With a target market of 2.3 billion gamers worldwide, new opportunities within game development have opened up locally.

Videogames stand as one of the most influential and largest consumed mediums present — with an approximate target market of over 2.3 billion gamers worldwide. It accounted for a global revenue of over $137.9 billion in 2018, up by 13.3% from the previous year.

According to unpublished IGDA Pakistan (International Game Developers Association) estimates, upto $25 million in revenue is earned locally across the industry each year; with more than 8,000 professionals associated with videogame development.

Yet, videogames, and in particular videogame development in the country, has always flown under the radar. But somewhere within these numbers lies Pakistan's modest gaming industry. This story is about that.

Coming of age: From consumers to developers
The journey of videogame development in Pakistan started sometime around the 2000s — when teenagers who had played and experienced games from what is formally known as the 3rd and 4th generation of videogame development internationally, started to become young adults.

This generation, that had grown up on early PCs, NES, Sega, Atari and Commodores, soon found that it wasn't satisfied with being a mere consumer. It was clear to many of them that a new medium was rising, one where pixels and gameplay were telling a story, replacing the simple and unadorned use of moving images or words.

Initially, the concept of videogame development started off with 'modding' existing games.

Games like Counter-Strike and Unreal Tournament were being actively played in LAN (local area network) cafes, with easily accessible 'world editors' that one could use to modify and tinker levels and features. So it didn’t take long for the pioneering generation to get its hands on some of these modifying features, resulting in the occasional use of custom game maps based on familiar localities on old LANs, which were built by internet service provides or by private individuals.

The first few studios that popped up around the same time were Trango Interactive and Fork Particle in Islamabad, along with Wireframe Interactive in Lahore, that solely focused on small mobile games and indie PC titles.

The early bird catches the worm
Since the target market segmentation for indie gaming was not mature and crystalised enough — and videogame development studios located internationally were creating content of a much higher production value than the local development scene —the early birds found life tough.

To sustain themselves, they had to diversify their revenue streams and enter the world of the outsourcing servicing business model.

This led to some of the big AAA/AA publishers and mobile developers, such as Sega, THQ, Zynga, Pocket Gems, Disney Interactive, Eidos Interactive, etc. to send their outsourced projects, asset and content work to some of these studios; providing finances that allowed Pakistani studios to work on their own projects on the side as well.

Read: Gaming industry breaks cultural barriers

Tomb Raider: Legend, Zynga Poker, Death Jr.2: Root of Evil and Afterburner: Black Falcon, all have hints of a Pakistani soul running through them.

Finances from outsourced projects helped Pakistani studios work on their own projects on the side.— Source: Mindstorm Studios
Moreover, it was during this time that Mindstorm studios were able to sign a contract with Codemasters, an internationally acclaimed game publisher and developer, that kickstarted development on Cricket Revolution, the first-ever videogame developed by Pakistan to land on Steam, an infrastructure for distributing and managing the installation and use of games.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan rises as a powerhouse in #videogames after EVO (Evolution) #Japan competition. Before his championship win, no one in industry had heard of the 23-year-old Arsalan from #Lahore nor was Pakistan known as a video game powerhouse. The Asahi Shimbun

LAHORE, Pakistan--Arslan Ash caused quite a stir in Fukuoka in February.

Hardly anyone in the gaming industry had heard of the 23-year-old. And his home country of Pakistan was not exactly known as a video game powerhouse.

But his victory in the Evolution Championship Series tournament against the world’s top “Tekken 7” players made everyone take notice. And his words afterward sent chills down the spines of established players.

“There are many other strong players like me in Pakistan waiting for an opportunity to compete internationally--and their numbers are growing,” he said.


In pursuit of the truth to Arslan’s statement, I traveled to his hometown of Lahore, a city of more than 10 million in northeastern Pakistan.

“There is a game center I often visit in the city,” Arslan said. “Let’s meet up there.”

After wandering through dust whipped up by two-seater motorbikes zipping along the sandy streets, I entered a commercial area where students and entrepreneurs often gather.

The game center, which is like a “dojo” training hall for gamers, is located on the first floor of a multitenant building along a major road. A motorcycle repair shop, which emanated the smell of engine oil, and a grocery store were also on the first floor.

As I walked inside the center, the sounds of game machines increased.

The name of the center is Maniax.

The owner, Zamin Abbas, 34, appeared and said: “Did you come from Japan? What an honor this is.”

Maniax has a floor space equivalent to around 20 tatami mats and 10 game machines. Zamin said it is the largest game center in Lahore.

Around sunset, around 20 young regulars had shown up, clearly confident in their skills. They had such nicknames as, “Strong Heart in Lahore,” “Combo Magician” and “God Child in Blue Shirt.”

This is a strict training place where young players polish their skills. Religious leaders and middle-age people often visit the center to watch the young gamers, acting as their guardians.


Arslan arrived at the game center by motorcycle and apologized for his tardiness. He flashed a friendly smile and extended his hand for a handshake.

He was a polite young man who recently had his hair cut short for a pilgrimage to Mecca, the holy site of Islam.

On a sofa at the center, he explained how he became the champion in faraway Fukuoka.

Arslan entered the fighting game world around 2008, when he was 12 years old. At that time, Pakistan-made animation did not even exist, and he was immediately drawn by the vividness of the computer images at the game center.

Arslan quickly learned how to control the movements of his three-dimensional character, and through his early battles, he realized that he had quicker reflexes than his opponents.

He said he started to think his reflexes for gaming might be his “gift.”

With no game console or computer at home, he could only practice at game centers, including Maniax. After school, he played at the centers for five hours a day.

The fee for one game is 10 rupees (about 8 yen or 7 cents). The first player who wins three fights takes the match. And the loser generally pays for the game. As Arslan grew stronger, he found that he was not spending that much money at the center.

Before a tournament, he trained for eight hours or so a day.

His first victory at a national competition came in 2012. By 2018, he had reached the podium about 40 times, including in local competitions.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistani game developers denied #US visa for #GDC #SanFrancisco make a game about it. Goal is to draw attention to issues faced by those attempting to travel into United States from #Muslim countries. Rejections way up during #Trump admin via @Polygon

Two game developers from Pakistan who were denied U.S. visas to attend the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco have made a game about their experience. The stated goal is to draw attention to issues faced by those attempting to travel into the United States from Muslim countries. Restrictions have been on the rise since the election of President Donald Trump in 2016.

Trying to Fly was created as part of the Global Game Jam, which took place Jan. 31 to Feb. 2, by Bisma Zia, Anam Sajid, and Ali Hamza. Both Zia and Sajid had previously been awarded scholarships by the Independent Game Developers Association (IGDA) to attend GDC. But, when they applied for visas to enter the U.S. for GDC in March, they were denied. Similar stories have played out over the past few years, impacting residents of Iran, Syria, and other predominantly Muslim countries.

“They wanted to make a game that would highlight their (and others) experience at the Visa interview process,” reads the game description, “and how such measures can directly have an effect on their future careers and lives. The bird represents the applicants dreams and aspirations for the future.”

The IGDA has made great strides in the past decade to support fledgling game developers around the world. Pakistan represents an emerging new territory for gaming, due in part to its surging middle class and the adoption of mobile technology. It’s also home to the Pixelart Games Academy, Pakistan’s first games academy.

The same weekend that the Global Game Jam kicked off, the Trump administration announced it would expand its travel restrictions in 2020. Myanmar, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania will all have new restrictions put in place regarding access to visas.