These Videos and Articles are a Great Introduction to Brazilian Gaming
Pirate Dealers, Clone Consoles, and a Generation of Hopeful Gamers
When we talk about gaming around the world, it is easy to focus on three key areas: North America, Europe, and Japan. Of course, this supposedly international view of gaming squeezes out most of the world’s people.
Brazil’s history with video games is peculiar enough to break this trend and command headlines. Many writers are fascinated by the important role clone consoles (bootleg versions of mainstream consoles) played an in the development of the Brazilian game market. Articles (such as then one) depict Brazil as a Sega wonderland because of the Sega Master System’s continued success in the country. Indeed, the Sega console that originally launched in Japan over thirty years ago still sells about 150,000 units a year in Brazil, according to the most recently available statistics.
While many English-speaking content creators have covered the Brazilian gaming industry, little effort has been made to collect these materials for a quick, convenient introduction to the country. Because I am not Brazilian, my goal in this article is to link readers to these resources with limited personal commentary. I encourage Brazilians and those with further knowledge of Brazilian gaming to comment on this article or write follow-up articles to correct, contextualize, or add additional resources to what is provided below.
“Let’s Make This Machine With Another One”
See the complete series on how clones shaped the console wars and defined a nation's industry.www.redbull.com
Most oral histories of Brazil’s gaming culture begin with the bootleg consoles of the late 80’s and early 90’s. However, Red Bull’s short documentary series does a great job of tracking Brazilian bootleg gaming all the way back to 1969 when Taito Corporation decided to circumvent the import taxes on pinball machines by making similar games in Brazil. “The play field is the same but we change the arts…Brazilians know how to do things,” Seu Zupo, Taito’s first art director, says in the documentary.
The documentary argues that this early arcade culture combined with the growing word of mouth around video games (the journalist Pablo Miyazawa even mentions that games were smuggled in from Paraguay) set the stage for the rise of video games in Brazil. “Video games landed here,” claims Miyazawa, “but they landed here in a crooked way.”
“There are no good clones anymore”
How growing up with the Phantom System instead of Nintendo inspired one Brazilian designer’s game career. “Nowadays, it…iq.intel.com
This brief article on iQ does a great job of articulating how the “unauthorized gaming experiences” Brazilians had in the late 80’s and 90’s influence their experiences with video games today. Young Brazilians played “Battletoads and Double Dragon on a rainbow of oddities, including the Phantom System.” Like the pinball machines two decades earlier, Brazilian video games were bootlegged by necessity due to exorbitant taxes.
“You have to see them,” Danilo Dias says about the bootleg consoles, “They are very good, quality stuff.”
See also: Nintendo Commercials in Brazil
“A Place Where Sega Lives Forever”
While Microsoft now enjoys the lion’s share of profits in Brazil, the Sega Master System is still a viable option in the developing country. Kim Justice does a great job in this video explaining how Sega fits in to Brazilian gaming culture and dispels common myths.
Sega worked willingly and legally with Brazilian company Tectoy to distribute consoles throughout Brazil. In a country that was used to bootleg gaming experiences, Justice argues, Sega and Tectoy profited by offering a more polished product with amenities such as a game tip hotline.
Justice walks us through some of the Sega Master System and Mega Drive experiences that, for better or worse, were exclusive to Brazil including a strange port of Duke Nukem 3D for the Mega Drive, Brazil’s version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, and a Woody Woodpecker platformer.
“Brazil is a Place of Infinite Possibility”
Brazil's game development market is underdeveloped, but Divide By Zero CEO James Portnow believes it has "infinite…www.gamasutra.com
Instead of focusing on Brazil’s past, Portnow is interested in how Brazil can become a powerful force in game development. His article is far from optimistic, and outlines how lack of funding, difficulties in distribution, and the urge young developers have to make AAA games right out of the gate could hinder Brazil’s potential in the industry.
The comments section following this article offer a lot of productive discussion and also demonstrate how important this topic is to many Brazilians. A couple of commenters who claim to be affiliated with the Brazilian game industry even drop their Hotmail addresses in the comments hoping to use the opportunity to network.