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video_games news

Poker to Call of Duty: Latin America's Insatiable Appetite for Gaming

Posted by Harry Hughes on Tuesday, June 6, 2017

There’s a certain assumption in 2017 that everybody plays games – not just sat in front of the computer monitor or on the sofa with a gamepad in their lap, but in the park, on the bus, or in bed on an evening; after all, that’s what smartphones were made for. In some countries around the world though, especially in  Africa, South America, and the Middle East, the sale of games and consoles is a relatively new industry.  

Brazil and Mexico

According to Newzoo, the biggest gaming country in the world isn’t a Western one, despite the fact that games consoles at least have their origins in Nashua, New Hampshire, in the basement of Magnavox Odyssey creator, Sanders Associates. By overall revenues, China is the biggest consumer of video games, spending $27.5bn a year to the United States’ $25bn. Remarkably, Japan, a country with just 126m people, comes third with $12.5bn spent.

With the exception of South Korea and Canada at 6th and 8th, the remainder of Newzoo’s top ten consists of European countries like the UK, Italy, and Spain. Beyond the confines of the continent though, way down in South America, things start to get interesting: Latin America is one of the fastest growing video game markets in the world, with the likes of Brazil, Mexico, Chile, and Argentina spending a combined $4.1bn on games in 2016.

A Rival for Soccer

Brazil in particular is a growing force in entertainment. Ignoring the fact that the country contributes $1.3bn to worldwide video games sales, the region is hedging its bets on gambling companies, football betting, and poker to raise around $16.8bn a year in bets. With taxes levied on gaming profits, Brazil would be able to ease some of its budget deficit, which reached $22.7bn in 2016, a record-breaking number for the country.

According to a recent article from 888poker, Brazil is already enamored with the table game but there’s a race against time to fully legalize the pastime before players take their money to neighboring Paraguay and Montevideo. One of the biggest proponents of the game in Brazil is former international soccer star Ronaldo, who claims that the game “is still growing” with the potential to join soccer as the nation’s favorite hobby.

The Future…

As far as more conventional gaming in Brazil is concerned though, there’s still an obstacle to be overcome in unfavorable banking regulations and high import duties added to games and games hardware. Japanese developer Nintendo famously abandoned the Brazilian market in 2015 due to an “unsustainable distribution model” and difficulties running a digital store in the country. It still hasn’t been back.

It could be argued that high taxes are part of schemes designed to push developers to set up stores and factories in Brazil but, in Nintendo’s case, lawmakers’ plans backfired and consumers ultimately paid the price. To borrow an example from Sony, the PS4 in Brazil costs $1,500 with import and other taxes responsible for 63% of the price tag; in comparison, the same console entered the US market at one cent shy of $400.

Latin America has had its issues getting gaming of all kinds off the ground but the region has an appetite for the pastime that isn't going away.

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