Brazil’s Video Game Gray Markets

Brazil’s Video Game Gray Markets

DREW VO: Cloth Map came to Brazil with one
goal in mind: to understand the country’s parallel video game universe. Numerous political and economic conditions
over the decades have resulted in a unique and often challenging environment for those
who make and enjoy video games. To help unravel this complex web, we started
in what is perhaps the best physical expression of Brazil’s game industry: a so-called “gray
market,” in the middle of São Paulo. André Campos and the crew from Jogabilidade,
a video game website based in São Paulo, led us through the hectic streets of Santa
Ifigênia Market, your one-stop shop for hacked cable TV boxes, bootleg copies of CorelDRAW,
and other electronic odds and ends. I love that there’s cell phones and batteries
over here, and then, immediately, croissants and coffee. It’s got everything you need! DREW VO: Electronics cost a lot in Brazil, but if you’re
willing to forego things like warranties, you can find lower prices at a place like
this. ANDRÉ: Yeah, lower here than if you buy at
what would be a Best Buy or something similar. But still pretty high. The PlayStation 4 produced in Brazil cost
4000 reais. DREW: Produced in Brazil?
ANDRÉ: Produced in Brazil. DREW: Not even importing it.
ANDRÉ: Not even. That was 100% legal. Drew: Wow. So, 4000, market retail. What about at a place like this? ANDRÉ: At a place like this, they would import
it and sell… Like I said, they buy a lot of them, take
them out of the cases, the boxes, so they can fit as much as possible in a container or
truck or something like that. Bring them over, and you will be able to buy
them for 2000 reais or 3000, so that’s how I bought mine in early 2014. The Xbox One and the PS4 are still here,
but Nintendo got out like two years ago. They were saying the market wasn’t good and
they simply abandoned Brazil pretty much. DREW: So would you find a Nintendo Switch
at a gray market like this? ANDRÉ: Yes, you would find it like around 1700 reais or something like that. It’s a pretty expensive hobby to have here
in Brazil. Because of that, the PS2 is still pretty strong. The PS3 and Xbox 360, especially the Xbox
360, because it was easier to pirate. It was leagues ahead of the PS3 in sales because
of the pirated games. DREW: Wow, so the prevalence of piracy drove
hardware sales. ANDRÉ: Absolutely. Since the beginning, since the NES days–since
the Atari, even–we had a lot of clones of the Atari, a lot of clones of the NES. That’s how video games became popular here
in the first place. Not by importing the real, legal ones but
with the pirated clones and so on. DREW VO: Brazil’s game-hardware landscape
is a patchwork quilt of clones and officially-licensed hardware that, due to Brazilian
law, had to be manufactured in Brazil. This resulted in official, but totally different,
consoles than I was used to. Telling the difference between licensed and
unlicensed hardware, however, is something I left to André. ANDRÉ: A Brazilian Odyssey, manufactured
by Philips, with Brazilian games, Brazilian versions of the games. So, this would be a Pac-Man clone, it came
here like Come-Come, which means Eat-Eat. And, for a long while in pop culture, we referred
to Pac-Man as Come-Come. A Master System clone down there, which is
probably a DynaVision. Turbo Game, around here. An NES clone that runs only on the smaller
Japanese Famicom cartridge. If you needed to play an American cartridge,
you would need to buy an adapter. There was a lot of confusion back then. You would buy a magazine that said “Nintendo
games,” but your console didn’t say anything about Nintendo. People were very confused
so they started putting “Compatible with Nintendo.” DREW VO: For more on Brazil’s game hardware anomalies, we chatted with Gus Lanzetta, who, among many other things, helps run the SHVB,
a game preservation project dedicated to Brazilian games.
DREW: So what is this? GUS: This is actually our first locally
produced game console. DREW: Okay.
GUS: This is a Telejogo. So this is a Pong machine. You have Game or Practice. This is what channel it’s going to transmit over,
because it’s RF. Channel three or channel four. DREW: You’ve got your nice RF cable here. GUS: Oh yeah, let me show you that. It’s PAL-M, which is our video standard. During the dictatorship they didn’t want people
importing stuff. They wanted the industry here to thrive. So they would go “you can’t import US equipment
for your TV station because it’s going to be the wrong color standard.” So manufacturers had to import the stuff,
adapt it, and then sell it. So we have the Telejogo II. DREW: In what year were these two produced? GUS: The first one is, like, late 70s. And I think this one is still late 70s. But they did this well through the 80s. Oh and this is multi-voltage. DREW: Hey look at that. GUS: Because we have different voltages in different
regions of the country here. So this is prepared for any region. But then we move ahead in time to the Atari
2600. DREW: Light years. GUS: Which was licensed by a company called
Milmar here, and they did the Dactar. Which is this. DREW: They officially licensed it from Atari? To produce it in Brazil? GUS: Yes. See this? “Atari is a trademark of Atari Incorporated.” DREW: Why wouldn’t Atari just sell it in Brazil? Sell the Atari in Brazil? GUS: Since we were going through a time, it
was a military dictatorship, it was a very protectionist economy, you know, they wanted
the industry here to thrive. I guess it was similar to what Korea went
through, where you couldn’t really sell imported electronics. You needed to have a local representative,
so you had JVC and other companies like that manufacturing the Saturn in Korea in the 90s. So I think it’s kind of like that. DREW: They licensed it to another company.
GUS: Yeah, to a Brazilian company. DREW: Gave them the technology, basically,
to then produce in Brazil and be able to sell it. GUS: And sometimes they would import the boards,
completely ready, just done, and they would make the carcasses and stuff like that. That still happens now. The PS4 kind of started out that way, and
I think it still is that way. But yeah, it helps you get around some tax
stuff. Just assembling it here was already– DREW: So you can say “Made in Brazil.”
GUS: Made in Brazil, yeah. GUS: This was our Atari joystick. DREW: It looks more like a flight stick, which
is way cooler. GUS: It’s way more… it fits your hand
better. It’s kinda like a copy of the VCS. DREW: It looks very similar. And because it’s licensed Atari hardware,
Atari games will work on this? GUS: Yeah. We have, like I showed you, a cartridge right
here. DREW: Yeah, this is amazing. GUS: This was a regular box. You can find a lot of Atari games with this
logo. DREW: Just in case there was any confusion. GUS: It’s a “cartridge with advanced technology.” DREW: Oh! That’s cool. GUS: And you see. DREW: That’s very advanced. GUS: That is very advanced, because you have
four games. So like this you have game one, then game
two is like this, and then game three is this, and game four is like that. DREW: Got it. Are these again, officially licensed? And sold by Dactar? GUS: Yeah.
DREW: Okay. GUS: They were. Because, since Atari didn’t publish all of these
games, they didn’t care. And even stuff like Gradiente, which would
later license the NES to bring it over, they had their own NES clones and they would bring
over games without licensing them. So it was a lot of shady stuff happening back
then, just to get games here. Tectoy, which is the company that brings over
Sega stuff to this day—old Sega stuff, not like 360 games—they were formed by people
that Gradiente had made a division to go research games, see if we can bring games
over here. So they traveled, they made contacts, they
figured out the industry and they were like, “we can make a lot more money if we just
make our own company.” So they left Gradiente and opened up Tectoy
and then they were like “we have a company now, you should license stuff to us.” So they brought Sega over and then people
were trying to bring over Nintendo and that took a while. I think Nintendo was harder to convince to
“oh, let us make cartridges here, let us assemble NESs and SNESs here.” They’re a more protective company I guess
than Sega was, and that probably made them take a while to come here. DREW VO: Back at Santa Ifigênia, Sega’s
head start was clearly visible in the sheer volume of games on shelves. Another contributing factor was the effort
Tectoy made to appeal to its Brazilian audience. As with this game, that stars a cartoon character
popular in Brazil. ANDRÉ: Chapolim vs. Dracula. It’s based on a game called “Ghost House,”
so it’s a re-skin of the Ghost House game. RAFAEL: That’s the reason why Chapolim is
fighting Dracula. ANDRÉ: Okay. Makes a lot of sense. They probably had a lot of sprites for monsters. RAFAEL: On the back, it’s in red text: “Text
in Portuguese.” This is a very, very rare thing in the past. ANDRÉ: Yes, a nice selling point to have. DREW VO: Some games were even downconverted for compatibility on the more prevalent older
consoles. ANDRÉ: So you probably guessed that Mortal
Kombat and Street Fighter were only for the SNES, Genesis. Here’s a cartridge for both of them for the
NES, which is pretty special. Produced in and sold only around here. So, they are pretty rare items. DREW VO: Many other, less official games
flourished here too. RAFAEL: It’s a mod of Speedy Gonzales, for
Super Nintendo. DREW: Wow. RAFAEL: And you save Mario. ANDRÉ: Terrible game, but really funny. DREW VO: But, as Gus explained, gray areas
were just part of business as usual. GUS: If you went to Santa Ifigênia, I can
tell you a lot about that, because when I was a teenager I started out working for the
Chinese-mafia-owned places that sell pirated games. We used to do a lot of shady things. We knew when the cops were going to raid the
place. They would tip us off. It was usually on Mondays. DREW: Who would tip you off? GUS: Someone would tip off our bosses,
our bosses would tell us. DREW: Through the grapevine. GUS: Yes. So what would happen is… pirated disks are
cheap, it was just DVD-Rs, but consoles are not. Usually raids would happen on Monday, so Sunday
night we would pack backpacks full of PS2s—this was like in ’04—and pack them full and go
to cars in the parking garage and just hide them in the trunk. Because when you have a search and apprehension
warrant for a mall, it covers all stores, it doesn’t cover cars in a parking garage. DREW: That’s news you can use from Cloth Map. DREW VO: But that’s the kind of, shall we
say, ingenuity to be expected with a population of die-hard video game fans. Like this guy, who runs a store called Super
Anos 80, and was very eager to show off his substantial collection. ANDRÉ: You would plug this into an Atari and
download games via the telephone. DREW: What?! In the 80s? ANDRÉ: In the 80s. DREW VO: The store is a celebration of game
nostalgia, right down to this room which recreates the “demo area” of your average rental
store. Back at Gus’ place, I got some hands-on
time with another nostalgia bomb: a Master System with dozens of built-in games. DREW: Oh yeah. SNES Classic, eat your heart out. GUS: Yeah, well, don’t, because… DREW: [laughing] Maybe not.
GUS: Maybe not, yeah. DREW: So no cartridge slot, because it’s got
all the games you need. GUS: Yes. They started doing that with the Genesis eventually. This is one of the first models that didn’t
have a cartridge port. Because it was just an expensive
piece and most people weren’t buying cartridges anyway. And so this is the next-to-last cartridge they ever produced. So this is our version of “Who Wants to be
a Millionaire”. DREW: Do you know what year? GUS: This was probably 2001. DREW: 2001 they made a Mega Drive cartridge?! GUS: You’re gonna like this. This has Need For Speed: Pro Street, Genesis
version. This is way later. This is ’09, I think. DREW: And when you say “versions” of those
games are those… are they hacks? Are they unofficial ports? GUS: No, they’re official, licensed by EA
and from what I can gather—there’s not a lot of information—but from what I’ve played
of it, it looks like just ports of mobile versions. DREW: And those games in theory, if made on
a cartridge would run on a Genesis, or a Mega Drive? GUS: Yes. They would. The main game on that wouldn’t, because it
uses an extra sound chip, because it’s a Guitar Hero for Genesis and it has actual vocals
on it. DREW VO: Oh yes. [All Star by Smash Mouth plays] DREW: What’s “cheers?” GUS: “Saúde.” PEDRO: It means “health.” ALL: Saúde! DREW VO: Brazil’s game situation is complex, and we had barely scratched the surface. But you don’t have to understand it all
to enjoy wandering through a place like this. This is only the first of Cloth Map’s Brazil
features. Stay tuned over the coming weeks for a look
at game fandom in Brazil, what it’s like to make games here, and a journey into what
some consider one of the most dangerous places in South America. If you liked this video, you can thank these
folks, who support Cloth Map on Patreon. Their contributions help pay for flights,
accommodation, transport, guides, translators, camera operators, editors, music licensing,
and more. If you think stories like this deserve to
be told, and would like to see more videos like this, consider joining us over at Patreon. You’ll also get early access to videos,
behind-the-scenes notes and documents, extended cuts, live stream chat, and the ability to
vote on where Cloth Map goes next. [My Heart Will Go On on saxophone] JOEY: What a funny song for that duo to learn together. DREW: I know!

35 thoughts on “Brazil’s Video Game Gray Markets”

  1. I used to buy 3 PS1 games for R$5, those were good times. I was a kid, there was no way I could afford non-pirated games.

  2. Well, even as a brazilian, I've learnt a lot from this video, most of these were played by my parents/uncles at their childhoods. I would NEVER guess that there is still a market for them

  3. Im a Brazilian as well and I only buy things on the gray market due to our high tax, it's kinda difficulty to buy a legal product out in Brazil, lol

  4. Here in Brazil playing games is expensive, but it's fucking great, we maybe will have the taxes cut to zero for consoles and games made in Brazil in the near future too

  5. Unfortunately , we still pay "hhhhiiiiighhhhh" taxes our here! it would be great to have American prices! in the USA a brand new game costs 60dollars, in brazil the same costs 92dollars…..?!?!!? damn…

  6. BTW i still think older consoles are meant to be played on a regular TV, not a HD. Straight out the box on an HDTV often you end up getting some input delay, and you won't be able to beat mike tyson in punch out.

  7. The Dactar was never licenced by the real american Atari. The real Atari licenced here was called only Atari, produced by Gradiente, using the mark "Polyvox". All others is only clones. About the "clone of master system", well, its only a Master System 3, by tectoy, a SEGA partner in Brasil, who licenced the Master System and the SEGA Genesis latter, what we called here "SEGA mega drive". I'm sorry about my poor english, but really think that this informations need to be corrected.

  8. the part that says piracy move the market in Brazil is really true…ps1 was hacked to work pirated games so it was more famous the any other console…ps2 the same…then xbox 360 was the one…and now the ps4 is the one…a good strategy for this companies would be like sony did i think…You can hack the system, but you will take some months (where the big part of game sales are) to do it…So everyone that have a hacked system wont be alble to play the newer games, having to wait soe months…

  9. Im trying to find out the name of a cd based 32bit games console made in brazil.
    Anyone know?

  10. Quem licenciou o Atari aqui no Brasil foi a Polyvox, braço da Gradiente. Não foi a Milmar. O Dactar era um clone como muitos outros.

  11. Why are they still selling 80's video games console ? Here that kind of vintage stuff is collectors edition .

  12. A lot of Brazilian people learnt English from playing pirated video games and using a Portuguese-English dictionary to understand it.

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