A nation of 200 million people has been ushered into the Pakistan Gaming era in the past few years. Pubg was able to cross systemic barriers and is now at the precipice of the ultimate success in pakistan.
South asia has seen a meteoric rise in the popularity of Pakistan Gaming, and its acceptance into the mainstream of the everyday person. The battle royale revolution will be notched down in the history of esports as the trigger that forced both gaming and esports through the wall of culture it found itself knocking against repeatedly.
First amongst the fray to truly break into – and remain in – the limelight globally was the one that managed to move pakistanis into the space: player unknown battlegrounds, pubg.
Everyone and their mothers were playing it, sometimes quite literally. The appeal was clear, obvious and immediate: a game where you don’t need patience, you can quit as soon as you’re dead, and you can play it from your mobile. Unlike the global audience, who showed a steady shift to other titles like fortnite, the same never really came through for pakistan.
A perfect storm
Looking at it in hindsight, the game has had everything fall into place to guarantee its success.
Phone manufacturing companies have been bringing in cheaper smartphones into the country, allowing access to an economic strata that would normally have been completely deprived from the games market.
Simultaneously, 4g technology had been in the country for just long enough that coverage became incredibly widespread, and competition between telecom companies had risen enough that prices had lowered as much as they would and companies were willing to start fighting the marketing war in more unconventional avenues of data consumption: Pakistan Gaming.
The final factor was one more intuitive than data driven. Pakistan Gaming – and other south asian countries – have always been sport and competition crazy. You’d be hard pressed to find a nation as obsessed with succeeding in competition than they would, and all it took to compete was a mobile phone and a set of earphones which would normally come with it.
This was radically unlike computer games where even those with a rig would have to take a hit of several hundred dollars for a game specific monitor, and other miscellaneous equipment.
With internet and technology access being available in an unprecedented capacity, there was no surprise that pubg would bring the revolution that it did.
In the last two years, tournaments for pubg have seen a total prize pool worth over 100 lakh rupees – $63,000 – given out to participants in various tournaments.
In context, the total prize money for a game like counter-strike, which has had an actively engaged pakistani scene for over a decade wouldn’t exceed a fifth of that.
It was no real surprise – most marketing departments for major corporations were all finding ways to squeak out another quick game on their phone even during office hours. It was addictive on a scale where it bled into corporations in a way that no other game had been able to.
When marketing departments themselves were discussing who the best player amongst them was, it was obvious that they understood the influence of the wave of Pakistan Gaming coming into play.
Prize pools being so high brought many eyes – and raised many eyebrows – to the game itself.
It was now all about there being a legitimate competitive avenue to participate in, something that hadn’t been an option in the country outside of cricket. Even football, growing rapidly in popularity, and hockey, the official national sport, had long been considered a fool’s hobby with how few people would have access to compete.
Of course, there were still many voices talking about how it’s just a fad, that it won’t really go anywhere. Yet, there were others who recognized that it was time to switch in and take it to high gear.
Stars were stolen from other games, and even from other sports, as those who had experienced the harrowing nature of competing against thousands of people automatically used it to their advantage.
Some of the most prolific pubg players in pakistan have been stolen away from other fields. Three of the most best players pakistan had seen were formal competing professionals from elsewhere:
Ali “khan” khan – portal esports
Khan was originally best known for being the captain of “team envy” – a dota team whose name has been written time and time again in the annals of esports history for the country.
Known then as “k0nvict”, khan led team envy through multiple years of nearly unbroken top 2 finishes at every single dota tournament that they played at.
His switch into pubg under the banner of portal esports found him nearly immediate success as well. His teams’ documented prize pool winnings from the beginning of 2019 amount to over 2 million rupees, having secured multiple top finishes every time they made an appearance.
Rana “nyt” khizer – gaminghub
Nyt boasts a resume no less impressive than that of khan. He himself had originally been amongst the top players for critical ops – a mobile game which had a core underground circuit in the south asian scene.
While the rewards he reaped there may not be considered quite as impressive – given the scale of pubg – he was still considered one of the top players. While he was considering quitting the game initially, word reached his ears that pubg would be releasing a mobile version soon and his calling was clear.
Once the mobile version was out, a karachi based team – gaminghub – was soon to sign him to much success. He too has secured incredibly high placements – even more so internationally in the pmco circuit – than most players to bring his total earnings to over a million rupees.
Hamza “tyrant” saeed – team bablu
Bablu’s star player – tyrant – is already notorious in the asian circuit, with his team almost never placing below top 4 at any tournament they’re featured in.
The 19 year old was born and raised in saudi arabia in jeddah. His dream of playing cricket professionally brought him into the top 30 under 19 players eligible to play in a tour for the saudi arabian cricket team. Unfortunately, when the tour was cancelled – those dreams were dashed.
Upon coming to pakistan in order to pursue his university studies, tyrant was able to redirect his competitive nature and energies into creating the ultimate pubg team – and now looks to continue dominating the pubg circuit with team bablu.
Although each of these players have earnt more in prize money than many annual circuits would have to give out in other big games in pakistan, there is still a gap to be bridged between taking it from a competition, and turning it into an esport.
The esports question – viewership
Despite tournaments being run regularly, the primary source of sponsorships has come down to being from companies that are trying to use the quantity of participants and word of mouth to market their products. The actual viewership numbers do not come close to representing how big the game is in the country.
There’s a simple answer to why there are tens of thousands of participants in every tournament, but viewership would be lucky to get to a thousand: data.
The accessibility that’s made pubg popular within pakistan, is the low price of entry into the game itself.
Unfortunately, the vast amount of the pakistani population still considers it to be an indulgence to potentially purchase a data package to view tournaments itself. So far, organizers within the country have continually failed to provide a convincing enough reason that you’d spend your money to watch the game, rather than play it.
It’s a tale that has subsisted across the conversion of Pakistan Gaming into esports across the globe: why watch when you can play? Of course, the economic angle is a slightly newer version of the same question. Ultimately, it’s a step that will inevitably be taken – and whoever figures out how to do it will crack the gold mine of pakistani gamers.
The pubg community has enabled the revolution of a game to spread across the nation – now it’s up to people to use it or lose it.
This news was originally posted on redbull.com