Pakistani esports teams struggle to compete globally despite success in Tekken 

The photo posted on May 27, 2023, shows Pakistan's top esports player Arsalan Ash posing during a tournament. (Photo courtesy: @ArslanAsh95/Twitter)
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Updated 24 June 2023

Pakistani esports teams struggle to compete globally despite success in Tekken 

  • Fighting games like Tekken seem to be an exception in the South Asian country, but not the rule 
  • Pakistanis have failed to make a mark in Free Fire, PUBG arena despite campaigns by tech giants 

LAHORE: Pakistani esports teams have been struggling to compete globally, particularly in most popular games PUBG and Free Fire, as the South Asian country has so far failed to make a mark in the larger Asian region, despite Pakistan’s global success in Tekken. 

In May, the Expo Center in Lahore hosted an event called ‘Takedown,’ featuring top Tekken players and game casters from around the world. The event was broadcast worldwide and a huge success, with thousands in attendance. 

But the Free Fire and PUBG scene in the country remains dull, despite several tech giants across Asia getting together in 2019 to bring the games to Pakistan. The gaming firms have since poured immense resources in promotions, regularly featured guest appearances by sports stars, celebrities and influencers, which has resulted in millions of subscribers to their YouTube and TikTok channels. 

This has led to an exponential increase in the number of casual Free Fire and PUBG gamers in Pakistan, but the professional esports teams have not reached the bar Tekken has set. Experts attribute this to a lack of professional approach toward esports in general and fewer professional sponsors for games other than Tekken. 

“Pakistani esports is really behind in the region when compared to Nepal, Indonesia and Thailand, and the reason is that it’s not taken professionally,” Muhammad Ali ‘Dowdy’, the face of Free Fire in Pakistan and the game’s premier caster and commentator, told Arab News.

The photo posted on May 29, 2023, shows Pakistan's top esports player Arsalan Ash posing with his country's flag after winning a tournament. (Photo courtesy: @ArslanAsh95/Twitter)

Ali thinks that the community needs more professional sponsors to grow. 

“Look at the numbers of sponsors [Tekken players] have, from Red Bull to teams like FATE Esports [Jordan] and vSlash Esports [UAE],” he said. “Shooting games like Free Fire, PUBG and Valorant don’t have that.” 

However, when companies do try, and Mountain Dew has held a number of tournaments featuring PUBG and Valorant, they eventually fail to get desired results because they cast their nets too wide. 

A Dew Gamers Galaxy event was canceled this year, with the organizers citing “budgetary concerns.” 

The Free Fire and PUBG developers, which include Garena (Singapore), KRAFTON (South Korea) and Tencent Games (China), sponsor most teams and all of the tournaments in Pakistan. Garena particularly has not left any stone unturned in its promotions of Free Fire. 

The undated photo shows popular video game PUBG's poster. (Photo courtesy: pubg/website) 

“Last year we had an advertisement for the game featuring [Pakistan cricket captain] Babar Azam and [spinner] Shadab Khan,” the Free Fire caster explained. 

KRAFTON, the primary developer at PUBG, has added several local language packs such as Pashto, Sindhi and Balochi. 

But despite all these promotions, Ali feels the surge in the number of casual gamers, digital content creators and live-streamers has not translated well into professional gaming in Pakistan. 

Some players, he believes, are more interested in growing their social media platforms as live streaming, if one gets 500,000 subscribers, starts paying more than competitive gaming. 

“We lose a lot of players to that too,” he said. 

Ali, however, says while Pakistan’s youth are crazy about gaming, most of the players are around the age of 20. 

“It’s a challenge convincing parents that esports is the future, that it is lucrative,” he said. “Parents still only want their children to be a doctor or engineer.” 

He thinks the government has a role to play in promoting esports as a viable career option and to facilitate travel for tournaments in other countries, proven by the fact that the Free Fire team that won the 2022 national championship in Pakistan was denied visas to participate in the Thailand regional finals as they had to apply privately and COVID-19 measures were still in place. 

In 2021, the then Pakistani information minister, Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, announced the country would set up an esports and the video games would be recognized as a regular sport by Pakistan, complete with state backing for visas and tournaments. 

While there have been plans to do so since, the Sports Federation of Pakistan says it has still not gone through those ideas, leaving professional gamers in limbo. 

Baaz, a Pakistani startup that has been putting money into gaming and helping players procure visas, organized the globally broadcast Takedown event this May, though that success was again entirely Tekken-based. 

“There is a massive young market of digital media consumers in Pakistan,” Danyal Chishty, the Baaz CEO, told Arab News. 

“But my aim is not to be yet another organizer, another sponsor [or have ambitions beyond his means, and meet the same fate as Dew Gamers Galaxy]. My aim is to tell a story, build a brand, enter the mainstream.” 

Takedown featured 512 players, including a dozen from South Korea, the Philippines, the UK and Germany. The winner was awarded a competitive Rs2 million. 

Chishty, who is also shooting a documentary about professional fighting game players in Pakistan, says consistent money in esports can’t come from anywhere else, but only by building up players as recognizable, sellable brands. 

“I used to manage esports tournaments when I was studying in the States,” he said. “Arslan Ash was [a big deal] in 2019 [winning Tekken championships in Tokyo and Las Vegas]. That told me gaming can be huge back home.” 

Arslan ‘Ash’ Siddique ignited the Tekken fever claiming the first ever major fighting game trophy representing the country. While he won in Japan again in 2023, he did not win at Takedown. His protégé, Atif Butt, did. Butt also won the Tekken World Tour of 2022 in The Netherlands. 

Gaming in Pakistan has come a long way since the coin arcades that the country’s Tekken champions grew up practicing on. It has gone fully digital. 

Mobile technology has grown in access to over 80 percent of the population, with the median age of the country being under-20. This makes settings ripe for a competitive PUBG explosion, but Pakistan has never gone beyond Bangladesh and Nepal. 

Tanveer Hanif, one of the many PUBG managers floating around the circuit, says the trick isn’t getting young players into competitive esports, it’s keeping them there. 

Hanif manages AGONix8, the top ranked PUBG team in Pakistan, which is sponsored by one of PUBG’s lead game developers, Tencent Games. 

“After winning the PUBG spring league this year, we lost three players [from a roster of six]. Keeping these young players together is the challenge,” Hanif told Arab News. 

“The money is there, dozens of tournaments, qualification to South Asia majors and then onto the Middle East.” 

The PUBG Mobile Championship in Pakistan has awarded winners with a prize money of Rs2.8 million in each of the last two seasons, runners-up half of that. 

“But the drive isn’t, it’s difficult to keep pace with the rota of professional PUBG teams, every month there is another person in and two people out,” Hanif added. 

The Free Fire and PUBG national championships in Pakistan had a collective prize pool of roughly Rs10 million in the winter of 2022. It sounds impressive, but unlike Tekken, this money is distributed among 16 teams with 5-7 players each, in addition to the managers who coordinate the entire squad. 

“You can see that Tekken players often have multiple international sponsors, and they are individuals. Our team of six just has one,” Hanif said. 

“More sponsors, more reliable income, will make it easier to convince these talented individuals to stay in professional gaming.” 

Peshawar residents, led by PTI lawmaker, storm grid station to restore power amid heatwave

Updated 25 May 2024

Peshawar residents, led by PTI lawmaker, storm grid station to restore power amid heatwave

  • The electric supply company says the protesters ‘forcibly switched on nine high-loss feeders’ in the area
  • It mentions losses due to power-theft, non-payment of dues, lodges police complaint against the lawmaker

ISLAMABAD: Residents of Peshawar in Pakistan’s northwest, led by a provincial lawmaker from former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, stormed a grid station on Saturday and restored electricity themselves to protest prolonged power cuts amid scorching heat.
Power outages are not uncommon in Pakistan during the summer months when the demand on the national grid spikes sharply due to the widespread use of air conditioners and desert coolers. These seasonal surges often lead to prolonged power outages, which fuel public discontent, particularly during the intense heatwaves that have swept across Pakistan in recent years.
While the blackouts can sometimes be part of the official load management strategy, Pakistani authorities have also pointed to power theft in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as a significant issue, occasionally leading to complete shutdowns of electricity.
“If our electricity is cut off, everyone’s electricity will be cut off,” Pakistan’s Geo TV quoted the PTI lawmaker Fazal Elahi as saying after the incident.
The Peshawar Electric Supply Company (PESCO) said Elahi and other protesters entered the grid station and “forcibly switched on nine high-loss feeders” in the area.
“Losses due to power theft and non-payment of dues on these feeders are more than 80 percent,” it added.
Local media also reported that PESCO had filed a police complaint against the PTI lawmaker, who said protesters were only demanding their rights.

Jofra Archer stars as England beat Pakistan in second T20

Updated 25 May 2024

Jofra Archer stars as England beat Pakistan in second T20

  • Skipper Jos Buttler, who smashed 84 off 51 balls, was the star of the England batting
  • Babar Azam praises Pakistani bowlers but says that the team could not finish well

BIRMINGHAM: Jofra Archer claimed two wickets on his long-awaited return to international cricket as England beat Pakistan by 23 runs at Edgbaston to move 1-0 up in the four-match T20 series.
England captain Jos Buttler won man-of-the-match after he smashed 84 off 51 balls to set the hosts a target of 184.
But it was Archer’s return that caught the eye as he made a case for selection in next month’s T20 World Cup in the United States and West Indies no harm.
The fast bowler has been beset by elbow injuries since his starring role in helping England win the 50-over World Cup in 2019.
On his first international appearance for 14 months, and first on home soil since 2020, Archer bounced back from an expensive first over, which went for 15 runs, to finish with two for 28.
“I thought Jofra Archer was brilliant,” said Buttler. “You could see his emotion taking wickets for England again but we need to temper those expectations because he’s not going to be the same straight away.
“I’m really pleased with the whole bowling group.”
Muhammad Rizwan was removed in the first over by Moeen Ali and Reece Topley took three wickets for 41.
Buttler was the star of the England batting with three sixes and eight fours.
He was ably supported by 37 from Will Jacks and Jonny Bairstow’s 21 but England failed to build on the platform given to them by their skipper.
Five wickets fell for just 25 runs as Pakistan battled back with Shaheen Shah Afridi the pick of the bowlers, taking 3-36.
“We got them to a par score, our bowlers bowled very well and we had our moments when we were batting,” said Pakistan captain Babar Azam.
Fakhar Zaman’s 45 from 21 balls gave the Pakistan chase some impetus, but after he departed the pace of Archer, Topley and Chris Jordan ripped through the tourists’ tail with four balls to spare.
“We didn’t finish well. We had a small partnership, myself and Fakhar but we didn’t get any other 40 or 50 partnerships that England did,” added Azam.
England lead the four-match series 1-0 after the first match was washed out on Wednesday.

Pakistan’s investment body to set up six country-specific desks, including one for Saudi Arabia

Updated 25 May 2024

Pakistan’s investment body to set up six country-specific desks, including one for Saudi Arabia

  • SIFC reviews progress related to trade and investment with friendly nations in a meeting presided by PM Sharif
  • The meeting also evaluates progress on the privatization of state-owned entities, instructs timely implementation

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif instructed Pakistan’s top investment facilitation body to set up six country- and region-specific desks, including one solely focused on Saudi Arabia, while presiding over a meeting on Saturday that concentrated on progress related to economic collaboration with friendly nations.
Last year, the country established the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), a civil-military hybrid body designed to oversee foreign financing, to help overcome its prolonged economic turmoil that has forced successive administrations to seek financial assistance from global lenders and close allies.
Pakistani officials have primarily focused on Gulf countries since the inception of SIFC, briefing governments and businesses about investment opportunities available across various economic sectors in their country, including areas like agriculture, mining and information technology.
Following the announcement of a $10 billion investment from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) during Sharif’s daylong visit to Abu Dhabi on Thursday, Pakistan expects to receive substantial investments from the region.
“The prime minister has announced that the SIFC will have a China desk, a UAE desk, a Saudi desk, a Qatar desk, a European Union desk and a United States of America desk,” Federal Minister for Information Attaullah Tarar told the media after the meeting.
“The prime minister has formally announced these six desks to promote trade and investment,” he added. “It was a historic meeting whose fruits will become visible in the coming days.”
An official statement issued after the meeting said the SIFC appreciated the recent upsurge in trade and investment related engagements under government-to-government and business-to-business frameworks, directing concerned ministries for efficient follow-ups.
It instructed the participants to make every effort to transform the commitments received from friendly countries into tangible projects and economic dividends at a fast pace.
The meeting reviewed progress on the privatization of state-owned enterprises, expressing satisfaction over the ongoing process and urging the timely accomplishment of various milestones in collaboration with relevant stakeholders.

British-Pakistani opera singer receives royal honor for recording national anthem post-coronation

Updated 25 May 2024

British-Pakistani opera singer receives royal honor for recording national anthem post-coronation

  • Saira Peter says she is privileged to contribute her voice to British government’s public events, citizenship ceremonies
  • She also recorded ‘God Save the Queen’ in 2018 and received acknowledgement and gratitude of Queen Elizabeth II

ISLAMABAD: A British-Pakistani Sufi Opera singer, Saira Peter, announced in a video message circulated on Saturday she received a letter of appreciation from Buckingham Palace for recording the British national anthem, “God Save the King,” following the coronation of King Charles III.
The British king’s coronation took place last May at Westminster Abbey in London. The event brought leaders and high-profile personalities from around the world and marked his official accession to the throne after the passing of Queen Elizabeth II in September 2022.
Upon receiving the recording, performed in the soprano vocal range, the highest of the female voice types in classical singing, the king sent Peter a letter conveying his good wishes and sincere thanks for her public services.
She also received a signed photo card from him and Queen Camilla.
“I want to share with all my followers how excited I am to receive a letter and card of appreciation and gratitude from His Majesty King Charles the Third,” Peter said in the video, where she mentioned she was Pakistan’s first opera singer. “This arrived in response to my civic service of recording the British national anthem, ‘God Save the King.’”
“Being British-Pakistani, I feel so privileged to contribute my skill and voice to the British government’s public events and citizenship ceremonies,” she added.
Peter informed the British national anthem was recorded at the request of UK Government offices at Hastings Town Hall in East Sussex. The recording is now used across her adopted country for official government events.
Previously, she recorded “God Save the Queen” in 2018, making her the first Asian and the only Pakistani officially invited to undertake the task. Peter also received acknowledgment and gratitude from the late queen.
Born in Karachi, the opera singer told Arab News during her visit to Pakistan last year she used to sing in church choirs and began her Western classical journey, learning from Paul Knight, a disciple of Benjamin Britten, in London in the early 2000s after her family moved there.
Peter’s father, Zafar Francis, pioneered the Noor Jehan Arts Center in London, which was opened by British superstar Sir Cliff Richard in 1998.
She is the director of the performing arts center and teaches both Western and Pakistani classical music there.
She said her work in Britain was projecting “a positive image of Pakistan.”

Skipper Jos Buttler the bedrock as England set Pakistan 184 to win T20

Updated 25 May 2024

Skipper Jos Buttler the bedrock as England set Pakistan 184 to win T20

  • Buttler smashed 84 off 51 balls, but his team failed to build on that and lost 5 wickets for 25 runs
  • Shaheen Shah Afridi took 3-36, as Pakistan try to build on their 2-1 win against Ireland this month

BIRMINGHAM: England captain Jos Buttler smashed 84 off 51 balls as the hosts set Pakistan a target of 184 to win the second T20 international at Edgbaston on Saturday.
Buttler was ably supported by 37 from Will Jacks and Jonny Bairstow’s 21 but England failed to build on the platform given to them by their skipper.
England were 144-2 with five overs to spare before Bairstow departed.
But five wickets fell for just 25 runs as Pakistan battled back to give the tourists a chance of chasing down the target.
Shaheen Shah Afridi was the pick of the bowlers, taking 3-36.
Jofra Archer will form part of the England bowling attack in his first home international appearance since 2020.
Fast bowler Archer has been beset by elbow injuries since his starring role in helping England win the 50-over World Cup in 2019.
However, the 29-year-old’s return could be a timely boost ahead of the T20 World Cup in the United States next month.
“Excited for Jofra, long road for him but looks great and looks fit,” Buttler said before the match.
Haris Rauf and Shadab Khan have been included for Pakistan, who are looking to build on a 2-1 series win over Ireland earlier this month.
The first T20 of the four-match series was washed out on Wednesday.
England: 1 Jos Buttler (capt/wk), 2 Phil Salt, 3 Will Jacks, 4 Jonny Bairstow, 5 Harry Brook, 6 Moeen Ali, 7 Liam Livingstone, 8 Chris Jordan, 9 Jofra Archer, 10 Adil Rashid, 11 Reece Topley
Pakistan: 1 Babar Azam (capt), 2 Saim Ayub, 3 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 4 Fakhar Zaman, 5 Shadab Khan, 6 Azam Khan, 7 Iftikhar Ahmed, 8 Imad Wasim, 9 Shaheen Shah Afridi, 10 Haris Rauf, 11 Mohammad Amir