Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Lagos Gaming Scene

I realise that I haven't really gone into what the gaming scene is like in Nigeria at all. Beyond a bit of a rant regarding prices of software over here, nothing else has been highlighted. I am going to attempt to address that in a series of posts.

Most of the gamers I know can be split up into two groups. The current-gen gamers and the last-gen gamers.

The current-gen gamers I interact with regularly own Xbox 360s. If anything, I would say that it is their console of choice for all things game related. Very few of them have ps3s and even fewer have Wiis.

Oddly enough, most of the media/general stores here stock PS3 and Wii games and very few Xbox 360 games. The playstation and Nintendo brand names are really stuck in the heads of most of the buyers for these stores, and they do not really consider the 360 relevant as such. Most of them do not even realise that the 360 can also play dvds and act as a media center. It is just in some limbo space as far as they are concerned. A strictly gaming machine with games they do not understand. The playstation has grand theft auto and pro evolution. Even though these games are also available on the 360 they do not really register this as far as being a reason to buy more 360 games. Why would anyone want to buy a 360 anyway? The PS3 is obviously better.

This makes gamers resort to a place called Alaba Market, an area in Lagos that is known as the center of Igbo traders in the state and also the HQ of anything to do with electronics.

These guys get everything, and if they haven't gotten it yet, they can get it for you. Plasma/LCD High Definition TVs at the cheapest price you are likely to get in the country as well as all sorts of gadgets, music etc. They are also the center of the pirating scene for videogames, music and movies. But, anyway, even though Alaba Market has a lot more choice for the 360 and any other system owner, it is still quite limited.

I just recently got on the current-gen train so I am still wading through all the options available to me in Lagos, but from what I gather from them, it is essentially a sort of pot luck for games, and most people simply wait until a friend of theirs, or they are travelling abroad and get their games that way.

Apart from the current-gen gamers, there are the last-gen gamers who mainly play on the ps2 and xbox. Most of their games are pirated. A pirated game for either of these consoles goes for as little as N1500 (roughly $12) if you are in the right place, and I have never heard of them passing N3000 (roughly $25). This is well within the budget of most people who are still in university or secondary school. It also makes them focus on a few games at a time in order to eke out as much as possible from it. Most of the people that are in this group almost never buy original games. In the stores here, an original Playstation 2 game goes for about N9,000 (about $75) a pop, and the choice is still quite limited. Mainly football and AAA titles like GTA, Pro Evolution, FIFA and Tomb Raider. You occasionally find non-big name titles like Rez or Panzer Dragoon Orta for relatively cheaper (N6000 which is about $50), but these are very few and far between.

Personally, I have never bought a pirated game before, and I don't think I ever will, but it is not hard to understand why most gamers in this country do buy them. There is no official distribution network for our country and no support for any of our consoles or games, so we are very easy prey for the sharks that travel to the states or the uk, pick up games at retail price (most likely bargain bins) and bring them back with their profit, flight ticket, and other expenses tacked on to them. They buy a brand new PS2 game for at worst $40 and sell it to us for $75. What can one do about that? If there was a way for them to buy the games at the dealer prices, we would have a much better deal and it would hopefully give people more of an incentive to pick up original titles. I am not going to hold my breath for that to happen though.

Another thing that struck me when I came back was how much stuff you have to get in order to support your console lifestyle. A stabiliser is a must as is a UPS if you don't want our beloved PHCN (Power Holding Company Nigeria Limited) to mess you up in the middle of a dungeon or mission. I still haven't gotten a UPS for my consoles and I feel the pinch every time I have to replay an entire section because the the 'light went'. It's made me hate games with poorly placed save- and checkpoints even more now, and I really do appreciate my DS.

Actually, this brings me to another topic, that of portable gaming. You would think that in a country with an unstable power supply, over-priced games and not much disposable income that portable gaming would have taken off dramatically. Unfortunately, this doesn;t seem to be the case, admittedly this is based purely on my own limited experience, but I rarely meet people outside the current-gen set that own portable consoles, and even when they do, it is a PSP and it is being used as a very big iPod and storage device. Odd that. I think this has to do with the perception that portable gaming isn't as good as home console/PC gaming simply because the graphics they are capable of are not that great compared to the home consoles, and they are mainly filled with 'kiddy' games like pokemon and patapon. Then again, it could also be because getting pirated games onto a PSP is a lot easier than doing the same with a DS. Hell, I once went into a game store in the complex where my office is and saw a friend of mine downloading games from the store's laptop onto his memory stick for his PSP. I do not know whether they were charging for this service or they were just giving him free games though.

I am hoping to help try and change the perception of portable gaming being limited by organising some gaming get-togethers focused around more than just home console gaming. Will update on the site once I see how that goes.

This brings me neatly to the end of this topic. Hopefully, I will be able to write about our Halo gaming days. I will also try and take some pictures of the next one (if it happens) and if we play some Halo 3, maybe even some videos!

EDIT: Made some grammatical changes and tweaks here and there.


Bee said...

I wonder if you are correct and that the preference in Naija gamers for home consoles over portable ones really is a graphics thing. How important are stellar graphics to the average Nigerian gamer?
I'm more of the opinion that your second guess is closer to the mark. I think that portable consoles are just seen as a kid thing. I don't think they believe that solid, worth the investment, non-kid oriented games come in portable sizes. I guess what I'm saying is that it's a perception thing? What do you think?

Yegwa said...

It's definitely possible. After all, a lot of Nigerians are really hung up about the whole age and perception thing. We are also quite easily pleased by the so-called mature games that we play. Anything with blood and guns/swords and a macho guy using them is fair game.

This is tangentially related, but it reminds me of people who got pissed off with Metroid once they found out that Samus was female. No lie, they actually felt annoyed.

We definitely have a lot of growing up to do.

Anonymous said...

i think what we need (i mean gamers) in this country is a dealer store for games where we can get original and a wide range of games. i really want a championship manager for my xbox 360 console but God save me if i can.
its just pes fifa gta just the popular games someone should help